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one important similarity between stonehenge and the gates is that ________.

The Humanities Culture, Continuity & Change

Henry M. Sayre





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The Humanities: Culture, Continuity & Change, Volume I: Prehistory to 1600, Second Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Sayre, Henry M.

The humanities : culture, continuity & change / Henry M. Sayre. — 2nd ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN-13: 978-0-205-78215-4 (alk. paper) ISBN-10: 0-205-78215-9 (alk. paper) 1. Civilization–History–Textbooks. 2. Humanities–History–Textbooks. I. Title. CB69.S29 2010 909–dc22


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The Humanities: Culture, Continuity & Change, Volume I: Prehistory to 1600, Second Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc.


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The Humanities: Culture, Continuity & Change, Volume I: Prehistory to 1600, Second Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc.

The history of human beings on this planet is, geologi-cally speaking, very short. The history of their coming together in groups for their common good iseven shorter, covering a span of perhaps 25,000 to 50,000 years on a planet that scientists estimate to be between 4 and 5 billion years old. We call these groups, as they become more and more sophisticated, civilizations. A civilization is a

social, economic, and political entity distinguished by the ability to express itself through images and written language. Civilizations develop when the environment of a region can support a large and productive population. It is no accident that the first civilizations arose in fertile river valleys, where agriculture could take hold: the Tigris and the Euphrates in Mesopotamia, the Nile in Egypt, the Indus on the Indian


The Ancient World and the Classical Past P R E H I S T O RY T O 2 0 0 C E

Detail from Nebamun Hunting Birds, from the tomb of Nebamun, Thebes. ca. 1400 BCE (see Fig 3.2).


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The Humanities: Culture, Continuity & Change, Volume I: Prehistory to 1600, Second Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc.

subcontinent, and the Yellow in China. Civilizations require technologies capable of supporting the principal economy. In the ancient world, agriculture was supported by the tech- nologies related to irrigation.

With the rise of agriculture, and with irrigation, human na- ture began to assert itself over and against nature as a whole. People increasingly thought of themselves as masters of their own destiny. At the same time, different and dispersed popu- lations began to come into contact with one another as trade developed from the need for raw materials not native to a par- ticular region. Organizing this level of trade and production also required an administrative elite to form and establish cul- tural priorities. The existence of such an elite is another char- acteristic of civilization. Finally, as the history of cultures around the world makes abundantly clear, one of the major ways in which societies have acquired the goods they want and simultaneously organized themselves is by means of war.

If a civilization is a system of organization, a culture is the set of common values—religious, social, and/or political— that govern that system. Out of such cultures arise scientific and artistic achievements by which we characterize different cultures. Before the invention of writing sometime around the fourth millennium BCE, these cultures created myths and leg- ends that explained their origins and relation to the world. As we do today, ancient peoples experienced the great uncon- trollable, and sometimes violent forces of nature—floods, droughts, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Prehistoric cultures understood these forces as the work of the invisible gods, who could not be approached directly but only through the medi- ating agency of shamans and priests, or kings and heroes. As cultures became increasingly self-assertive, in the islands be- tween mainland Greece and Asia Minor, in Egypt, in China, on the Indian subcontinent, and on the Greek mainland, these gods seemed increasingly knowable. The gods could still intervene in human affairs, but now they did so in ways that were recognizable. It was suddenly possible to believe that if people could come to understand themselves, they might also understand the gods. The study of the natural world might well shed light on the unknown, on the truth of things.

It is to this moment—it was a long “moment,” extending for centuries—that the beginnings of scientific inquiry can be traced. Humanism, the study of the human mind and its moral and ethical dimensions, was born. In China, the formalities of social interaction—moderation, personal integrity, self- control, loyalty, altruism, and justice—were codified in the writings of Confucius. In Mesopotamia and Greece, the pre- sentation of a human character working things out (or not) in the face of adversity was the subject of epic and dramatic literature. In Greece, it was also the subject of philosophy— literally, “love of wisdom”—the practice of reasoning that fol- lowed from the Greek philosopher Socrates’s famous dictum, “Know thyself.” Visual artists strove to discover the perfec- tions of human form and thought. By the time of the rise of the Roman Empire, at the end of the first millennium BCE, these traditions were carried on in more practical ways, as the Romans attempted to engineer a society embodying the val- ues they had inherited from the Greeks.


30,000 BCE Art created in caves at Chauvet

LEARN MORE Explore an interactive timeline on www.myartslab.com

10,000–8000 BCE Emergence of agricultural civilizations in Mesopotamia, India, Egypt, China

1792–1750 BCE Hammurabi’s Law Code

1500–322 BCE Vedic period in India; origins of Hinduism

3200–2000 BCE Development of pictographic writing systems in Mesopotamia, India, Egypt, China

2500 BCE Pyramids in Egypt

1200 BCE Mesopotamia: Epic of Gilgamesh

1200 BCE Earliest use of Phoenician phonetic alphabet

1300 BCE Emergence of Olmec culture in Mesoamerica

800–600 BCE Etruria: Origins of Roman culture

563–483 BCE Lifetime of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) in India

551–479 BCE Lifetime of Confucius in Zhou dynasty China

469–399 BCE Lifetime of Socrates, Greek philosopher

461–429 BCE Pericles, Socrates, Sophocles Parthenon on Athens Acropolis

1000 BCE King David reigns in Israel

800 BCE Acropolis (citadel) and agora (market) Homeric epics: Iliad and Odyssey

27 BCE Octavian becomes Emperor Augustus


20 BCE Augustus of Primaporta


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The Humanities: Culture, Continuity & Change, Volume I: Prehistory to 1600, Second Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc.


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The Humanities: Culture, Continuity & Change, Volume I: Prehistory to 1600, Second Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc.



What features characterize the beginnings of human culture?

What characteristics distinguish the Neolithic from the Paleolithic?

What is a megalith?

How can we understand the role of myth in prehistoric culture?

On a cold December afternoon in 1994, Jean-MarieChauvet and two friends were exploring the cavesin the steep cliffs along the Ardèche River gorge in southern France. After descending into a series of narrow passages, they entered a large chamber. There, beams from their headlamps lit up a group of drawings that would as- tonish the three explorers—and the world (Fig. 1.1).

Since the late nineteenth century, we have known that prehistoric peoples, peoples who lived before the time of writing and so of recorded history, drew on the walls of caves. Twenty-seven such caves had already been discov- ered in the cliffs along the 17 miles of the Ardèche gorge (Map 1.1). But the cave found by Chauvet [shoh-veh] and his friends transformed our thinking about prehistoric peo- ples. Where previously discovered cave paintings had ap- peared to modern eyes as childlike, this cave contained drawings comparable to those a contemporary artist might have done. We can only speculate that other comparable artworks were produced in prehistoric times but have not survived, perhaps because they were made of wood or other perishable materials. It is even possible that art may have been made earlier than 30,000 years ago, perhaps as people began to inhabit the Near East, between 90,000 and 100,000 years ago.

Fig. 1.1 Wall painting with horses, Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, Ardèche gorge, France. ca. 30,000 BCE. Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication. Direction Regionale des Affaires Culturelles de Rhone-Alpes. Service Regional de l’Archeologie. Paint on limestone, approx. height 6’. In the center of this wall are four horses, each behind the other in a startlingly realistic space. Below them, two rhinoceroses fight.

HEAR MORE Listen to an audio file of your chapter at www.myartslab.com

At first, during the Paleolithic [PAY-lee-uh-LITH-ik] era, or “Old Stone Age,” from the Greek palaios, “old,” and lithos, “stone,” the cultures of the world sustained them- selves on game and wild plants. The cultures themselves were small, scattered, and nomadic, though evidence sug- gests some interaction among the various groups. We begin

The Rise of Culture From Forest to Farm

100 miles

100 km

4 miles

4 km


Niaux Réseau Clastres




Ebbou Le Colombier

Tête-du-Lion Les deux-Ouvertures

Chabot Le FiguierOulen

Le Portel


Altamira Les Trois Freres`



Rouffignac Lascaux

La Mouthe Pech Merle Cougnac

La Baume-Latrone



Ardeche `




Major Paleolithic caves in France and Spain


Bordeaux Isle








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Map 1.1 Major Paleolithic caves in France and Spain.

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The Humanities: Culture, Continuity & Change, Volume I: Prehistory to 1600, Second Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc.

4 BOOK ONE The Ancient World and the Classical Past

this book, then, with the cultures of prehistoric times, evi- dence of which survives in wall paintings in caves and small sculptures dating back more than 25,000 years.

THE BEGINNINGS OF CULTURE IN THE PALEOLITHIC ERA A culture encompasses the values and behaviors shared by a group of people, developed over time, and passed down from one generation to the next. Culture manifests itself in the laws, customs, ritual behavior, and artistic production common to the group. The cave paintings at Chauvet suggest that, as early as 30,000 years ago, the Ardèche gorge was a center of culture, a focal point of group living in which the values of a community find expression. There were others like it. In northern Spain, the first decorated cave was dis- covered in 1879 at Altamira [al-tuh-MIR-uh]. In the Dordogne [dor-DOHN] region of southern France to the west of the Ardèche, schoolchildren discovered the famous Lascaux Cave in 1940 when their dog disappeared down a hole. And in 1991, along the French Mediterranean coast, a diver discovered the entrance to the beautifully decorated Cosquer [kos-KAIR] Cave below the waterline near Marseille [mar-SAY].

Agency and Ritual: Cave Art Ever since cave paintings were first discovered, scholars have been marveling at the skill of the people who pro- duced them, but we have been equally fascinated by their very existence. Why were these paintings made? Most scholars believe that they possessed some sort of agency— that is, they were created to exert some power or authority

over the world of those who came into contact with them. Until recently, it was generally accepted that such works were associated with the hunt. Perhaps the hunter, seeking game in times of scarcity, hoped to conjure it up by depict- ing it on cave walls. Or perhaps such drawings were magic charms meant to ensure a successful hunt. But at Chauvet, fully 60 percent of the animals painted on its walls were never, or rarely, hunted—such animals as lions, rhinocer- oses, bears, panthers, and woolly mammoths. One drawing depicts two rhinoceroses fighting horn-to-horn beneath four horses that appear to be looking on (see Fig. 1.1).

What role, then, did these drawings play in the daily lives of the people who created them? The caves may have served as some sort of ritual space. A ritual is a rite or ceremony habitually practiced by a group, often in religious or quasi- religious context. The caves, for instance, might be under- stood as gateways to the underworld and death, as symbols of the womb and birth, or as pathways to the world of dreams experienced in the dark of night, and rites connected with such passage might have been conducted in them. The gen- eral arrangement of the animals in the paintings by species or gender, often in distinct chambers of the caves, suggests to some that the paintings may have served as lunar calendars for predicting the seasonal migration of the animals. What- ever the case, surviving human footprints indicate that these caves were ritual gathering places and in some way were intended to serve the common good.

At Chauvet, the use of color suggests that the paintings served some sacred or symbolic function. For instance, al- most all of the paintings near the entrance to the cave are painted with natural red pigments derived from ores rich in iron oxide. Deeper in the cave, in areas more difficult to reach, the vast majority of the animals are painted in black

Fig. 1.2 Wall painting with bird-headed man, bison, and rhinoceros, Lascaux Cave, Dordogne, France. ca. 15,000–13,000 BCE. Paint on limestone, length approx. 9 . In 1963, Lascaux was closed to the public so that conservators could fight a fungus attacking the paintings. Most likely, the fungus was caused by carbon dioxide exhaled by visitors. An exact replica called Lascaux II was built and can be visited.



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The Humanities: Culture, Continuity & Change, Volume I: Prehistory to 1600, Second Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc.

CHAPTER 1 The Rise of Culture 5

pigments derived from ores rich in manganese dioxide. This shift in color appears to be intentional, but we can only guess at its meaning.

The skillfully drawn images at Chauvet raise even more important questions. The artists seem to have understood and practiced a kind of perspectival drawing—that is, they were able to convey a sense of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. In the painting reproduced on the opening page of this chapter, several horses appear to stand one behind the other (see Fig. 1.1). The head of the top horse overlaps a black line, as if peering over a branch or the back of another animal. In no other cave yet discov- ered do drawings show the use of shading, or modeling, so that the horses’ heads seem to have volume and dimension. And yet these cave paintings, rendered over 30,000 years ago, predate other cave paintings by at least 10,000 years, and in some cases by as much as 20,000 years.

One of the few cave paintings that depicts a human figure is found at Lascaux, in the Dordogne region of southwestern France. What appears to be a male wearing a bird’s-head mask lies in front of a disemboweled bison (Fig. 1.2). Below him is a bird-headed spear thrower, a device that enabled hunters to throw a spear farther and with greater force. (Sev- eral examples of spear throwers have survived.) In the Las- caux painting, the hunter’s spear has pierced the bison’s hindquarters, and a rhinoceros charges off to the left. We have no way of knowing whether this was an actual event or an imagined scene. One of the painting’s most interesting and inexplicable features is the discrepancy between the rel- atively naturalistic representation of the animals and the highly stylized, almost abstract realization of the human fig- ure. Was the sticklike man added later by a different, less tal- ented artist? Or does this image suggest that man and beast are different orders of being?

Before the discovery of Chauvet, historians divided the history of cave painting into a series of successive styles, each progressively more realistic. But Chauvet’s paintings, by far the oldest known, are also the most advanced in their realism, suggesting the artists’ conscious quest for visual naturalism, that is, for representations that imitate the ac- tual appearance of the animals. Not only were both red and black animals outlined, their shapes were also modeled by spreading paint, either with the hand or a tool, in gradual gradations of color. Such modeling is extremely rare or un- known elsewhere. In addition, the artists further defined many of the animals’ contours by scraping the wall behind so that the beasts seem to stand out against a deeper white ground. Three handprints in the cave were evidently made by spitting paint at a hand placed on the cave wall, result- ing in a stenciled image.

Art, the Chauvet drawings suggest, does not necessarily evolve in a linear progression from awkward beginnings to more sophisticated representations. On the contrary, al- ready in the earliest artworks, people obtained a very high

degree of sophistication. Apparently, even from the earliest times, human beings could choose to represent the world naturalistically or not, and the choice not to represent the world in naturalistic terms should not necessarily be attrib- uted to lack of skill or sophistication but to other, more cul- turally driven factors.

Paleolithic Culture and Its Artifacts Footprints discovered in South Africa in 2000 and fossilized remains uncovered in the forest of Ethiopia in 2001 suggest that, about 5.7 million years ago, the earliest upright hu- mans, or hominins (as distinct from the larger classification of hominids, which includes great apes and chimpanzees as well as humans), roamed the continent of Africa. Ethiopian excavations further indicate that sometime around 2.5 or 2.6 million years ago, hominid populations began to make rudimentary stone tools, though long before, between 14 mil- lion and 19 million years ago, the Kenyapithecus [ken-yuh- PITH-i-kus] (“Kenyan ape”), a hominin, made stone tools in east central Africa. Nevertheless, the earliest evidence of a culture coming into being are the stone artifacts of Homo sapi- ens [ho-moh SAY-pee-uhnz] (Latin for “one who knows”). Homo sapiens evolved about 100,000–120,000 years ago and can be distinguished from earlier hominids by the lighter build of their skeletal structure and larger brain. A 2009 study of genetic diversity among Africans found the San people of Zimbabwe to be the most diverse, suggesting that they are the most likely origin of modern humans from which others grad- ually spread out of Africa, across Asia, into Europe, and finally to Australia and the Americas.

Homo sapiens were hunter-gatherers, whose survival de- pended on the animals they could kill and the foods they could gather, primarily nuts, berries, roots, and other edible plants. The tools they developed were far more sophisti- cated than those of their ancestors. They included cleavers, chisels, grinders, hand axes, and arrow- and spearheads made of flint, a material that also provided the spark to cre- ate an equally important tool—fire. In 2004, Israeli arche- ologists working at a site on the banks of the Jordan River reported the earliest evidence yet found of controlled fire created by hominids—cracked and blackened flint chips, presumably used to light a fire, and bits of charcoal dating from 790,000 years ago. Also at the campsite were the bones of elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, and small species, demonstrating that these early hominids cut their meat with flint tools and ate steaks and marrow. Homo sapiens cooked with fire, wore animal skins as clothing, and used tools as a matter of course. They buried their dead in ritual ceremonies, often laying them to rest accompanied by stone tools and weapons.

The Paleolithic era is the period of Homo sapiens’ ascen- dancy. These Upper Paleolithic people carved stone tools and weapons that helped them survive in an inhospitable

HEAR MORE Listen to an account of the discovery of Chauvet Cave at www.myartslab.com


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The Humanities: Culture, Continuity & Change, Volume I: Prehistory to 1600, Second Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc.

6 BOOK ONE The Ancient World and the Classical Past

climate. They carved small sculptural objects as well, which, along with the cave paintings we have already seen, appear to be the first instances of what we have come to call “art” (see Materials & Techniques, page 7). Among the most remarkable of these sculptural artifacts are a large number of female figures, found at various archeological sites across Europe. The most famous of these is the lime- stone statuette of a woman found at Willendorf [VIL-un- dorf], in modern Austria (Fig. 1.3), dating from about 22,000 to 21,000 BCE and often called the Willendorf Venus. Markings on Woman and other similar figures indicate that they were originally colored, but what these small sculp- tures meant and what they were used for remains unclear. Most are 4 to 5 inches high and fit neatly into a person’s hand. This suggests that they may have had a ritual pur- pose. Their exaggerated breasts and bellies and their clearly delineated genitals support a connection to fertility and childbearing. We know, too, that Woman from Willendorf was originally painted in red ochre, suggestive of menses. And, her navel is not carved; rather, it is a natural in- dentation in the stone. Whoever carved her seems to have recognized, in the raw stone, a connection to the origins of life. But such figures may have served other purposes as well. Perhaps they were dolls, guardian figures, or images of beauty in a cold, hostile world where having body fat might have made the difference between survival and death.

Female figurines vastly outnumber representations of males in the Paleolithic era, which suggests that women played a central role in Paleolithic culture. Most likely, they had considerable religious and spiritual influence, and their preponderance in the imagery of the era suggests that Pale- olithic culture may have been matrilineal (in which descent is determined through the female line) and matrilocal (in which residence is in the female’s tribe or household). Such traditions exist in many primal societies today.

The peoples of the Upper Paleolithic period followed herds northward in summer, though temperatures during the Ice Age rarely exceeded 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 de- grees centigrade). Then, as winter approached, they re- treated southward into the cave regions of northern Spain and southern France. But caves were not their only shelter. At about the same latitude as the Ardèche gorge but east- ward, in present-day Ukraine, north of the Black Sea, archeologists have discovered a village with houses built from mammoth bone, dating from 16,000 to 10,000 BCE (Fig. 1.4). Using long curving tusks as roof supports, con- structing walls with pelvis bones, shoulder blades, jaw- bones, tusks, and skulls, and probably covering the structure with hides, the Paleolithic peoples of the region built houses that ranged from 13 to 26 feet in diameter, with the largest measuring 24 by 33 feet. The total of bones incorporated in the structure belonged to approxi- mately ninety-five different mammoths. Here we see one of the earliest examples of architecture—the construction of living space with at least some artistic intent. The remains

Fig. 1.3 Woman (Venus of Willendorf), found at Willendorf, Austria. ca. 25,000–20,000 BCE. Limestone, height 4 . Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna. For many years, modern scholars called this small statue the Venus of Willendorf. They assumed that its carvers attributed to it an ideal of female beauty comparable to the Roman ideal of beauty implied by the name Venus.

of these structures suggest that those who built them gath- ered together in a village of like dwellings, the fact that most underscores their common culture. They must have shared resources, cooperated in daily tasks, intermarried, and raised their children by teaching them the techniques necessary for survival in the harsh climate of the Ukraine.


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The Humanities: Culture, Continuity & Change, Volume I: Prehistory to 1600, Second Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc.

CHAPTER 1 The Rise of Culture 7

Fig. 1.4 Reconstruction of a mammoth-bone house, Mezhirich, Ukraine. ca. 16,000–10,000 BCE. Kiev Museum of Paleontology, Mezhirich, Ukraine. Mammoth jawbones are inserted upside down into one another to form the base of the house. About three dozen huge, curving mammoth tusks were used as arching supports for the roof.

Methods of Carving

Materials & Techniques

Carving is the act of cutting or incising stone, bone, wood, or another material into a desired form. Surviving artifacts of the Pale- olithic era were carved from stone or bone. The artist proba- bly held a sharp instrument, such as a stone knife or a chisel, in one hand and drove it into the stone or bone with another stone held in the other hand to remove excess material and realize the figure. Finer details could be scratched into the material with a pointed stone instrument. Artists can carve into any material softer than the instrument they are using. Harder varieties of stone can cut into softer stone as well as bone. The work was probably painstakingly slow.

There are basically two types of sculpture: sculpture in the round and relief sculpture. Sculpture in the round is fully three- dimensional; it occupies 360 degrees of space. The Willendorf statuette (see Fig. 1.3) was carved from stone and is an example of sculpture in the round. Relief sculpture is carved out of a flat background surface; it has a dis- tinct front and no back. Not all relief sculptures are

alike. In high relief sculpture, the figure extends more than 180 de- grees from the background surface. Woman Holding an Animal

Horn, found at Laussel, in the Dordogne region of France, is carved in high relief and is one of the earliest re-

lief sculptures known. This sculpture was origi- nally part of a great stone block that stood in front of a Paleolithic rock shelter. In low or bas relief, the figure extends less than 180 de-

grees from the surface. In sunken relief, the image is carved, or incised, into the sur- face, so that the image recedes below it. When a light falls on relief sculptures at an angle, the relief casts a shadow. The higher the relief, the larger the shadows and the greater the sense of the figure’s three-dimensionality.

EXPLORE MORE To see a studio video about carving, go to www.myartslab.com

Woman Holding an Animal Horn, Laussel (Dordogne), France. ca. 30,000–15,000 BCE.

Limestone, height Musée des Antiquites Nationales, St. Germain-en-Laye, France.

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The Humanities: Culture, Continuity & Change, Volume I: Prehistory to 1600, Second Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc.

8 BOOK ONE The Ancient World and the Classical Past

THE RISE OF AGRICULTURE IN THE NEOLITHIC ERA As the ice covering the Northern Hemisphere began to re- cede around 10,000 BCE, the seas rose, covering, for in- stance, the cave entrance at Cosquer in southern France (see Map 1.1), filling what is now the North Sea and English Channel with water, and inundating the land bridge that had connected Asia and North America. Agri- culture began to replace hunting and gathering, and with it, a nomadic lifestyle gave way to a more sedentary way of life. The consequences of this shift were enormous, and ushered in the Neolithic [nee-uh-LITH-ik] era, or “New Stone Age.”

For 2,000 years, from 10,000 to 8000 BCE, the ice covering the Northern Hemisphere receded farther and farther north- ward. As temperatures warmed, life gradually changed. Dur- ing this period of transition, areas once covered by vast regions of ice and snow developed into grassy plains and abundant forests. Hunters developed the bow and arrow, which were easier to use at longer range on the open plains. They fashioned dugout boats out of logs to facilitate fishing, which became a major food source. They domesticated dogs to help with the hunt as early as 11,000 BCE, and soon other animals as well—goats and cattle particularly. Perhaps most important, people began to cultivate the more edible grasses. Along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, they har- vested wheat; in Asia, they cultivated millet and rice; and in the Americas, they grew squash, beans, and corn. Gradually, farming replaced hunting as the primary means of sustaining

life. A culture of the fields developed—an agri-culture, from the Latin ager, “farm,” “field,” or “productive land.”

Agricultural production seems to have originated about 10,000 BCE in the Fertile Crescent, an area arching from southwest Iran, across the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in southeastern Turkey, then southward into Lebanon. By about 8000 BCE, Neolithic agricultural societies began to concentrate in the great river valleys of the Middle East and Asia (Map 1.2). Here, distinct centers of people in- volved in a common pursuit began to form. A civilization is a social, economic, and political entity distinguished by the ability to express itself through images and written language. Civilizations develop when the environment of a region can support a large and productive population. An increasing population requires increased production of food and other goods, not only to support itself, but to trade for other commodities. Organizing this level of trade and pro- duction also requires an administrative elite to form and to establish priorities. The existence of such an elite is another characteristic of civilization. Finally, as the history of cul- tures around the world makes abundantly clear, one of the major ways that societies have acquired the goods they want and simultaneously organized themselves is by means of war.

Gradually, as the climate warmed, Neolithic culture spread across Europe. By about 5000 BCE, the valleys of Spain and southern France supported agriculture, but not until about 4000 BCE is there evidence of farming in the northern reaches of the European continent and England. The Neolithic era does not end in these colder climates until about 2000 BCE,

Map 1.2 The great river valley civilizations. ca. 2000 BCE. Agriculture thrived in the great river valleys throughout the Neolithic era, but by the end of the period, urban life had developed there as well, and civilization as we know it had emerged.

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