Human history is the most complex one due to the mysterious facts surrounding it. Since the beginning of early human culture, several researches and studies made on the evolution of mankind tried to explore this mystery. However, they are still silent on some points, which are yet to be answered. It is believed that the earliest civilization was developed in the world about two million years ago. That civilization was formed in parts of Asia, Europe and North Africa. It was known as Paleolithic culture or Old Stone Age. The Paleolithic era is believed to end around 8,000 years ago.
The development of culture during the Paleolithic period was greatly influenced by the environment factors. The period lasted for hundreds of thousands of years. Excavations carried out in the modern history shows the traces of culture and way of living of Paleolithic people. The paintings, crafts, utensils and other materials discovered during the excavations, give us a broad idea about the history and culture of Paleolithic community (Bentley and Herb).
Men in Paleolithic period were nomads. They used to travel from one place to another depending on the availability of natural resources for survival. Hunting was a part of their livelihood and they depended heavily on it. They developed sharp weapons of stone for hunting purpose. They survived on hunting wild animals and birds, fishing and collecting fruits and nuts.
Structure of Paleolithic Communities:
The Paleolithic period was divided into three parts – Lower Paleolithic, Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic.
The lower Paleolithic people have been identified as ‘Homo habilis’. They were the people who developed the earliest stone tools. Those stone tools were known as choppers. Some historians call that period as ‘Chopper’ period. They manufactured those stone tools by using pebbles or pieces of rocks. Such tools were found in the Jordan River Valley and in some areas of Jerusalem and Palestine (Schick).
The lower Paleolithic people survived on wild plants, fruits and collected meats. Burned rocks discovered during the excavations suggest that people in that period learned the use of fire at a later stage. Circles of stones, which may have served as seats, spaced around the fire suggest that the glowing embers provided a center for family gatherings (Schick). The earliest evidence of the people of the lower Paleolithic communities was found in Europe.
The Middle Paleolithic period began about 200,000 years ago. People in that period are known as called as Neanderthals. They used improved version of stone tools for hunting and self-defense purpose. The traces of these people were first discovered in France. There were some evidences of rituals among the Neanderthals. They nursed their ailing elders and practiced rituals during burials (Sanders et al.).
The Upper Paleolithic period extended from about 35,000 to between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago. The Upper Paleolithic people lived in parts of Asia, Europe and Africa. They were more advanced than the people in the previous eras. They had knowledge about the art and infrastructure. It became clear from the discoveries that they used to construct temporary dwellings using branches and animal skin. The creative skills of the people in that period are proven from the discovery of metal tools, pendants, necklaces and bracelets of shells, bone and ivory. They expressed their love for the nature through body art and painting on the rocks. They worshipped mother goddess and believed in rituals (Sanders et al.).
Differences between Paleolithic and Neolithic Communities:
The Neolithic period is known as the New Stone Age. The Neolithic culture started around 8000 BC in the Middle East and spread to the Mediterranean, South Asia, China and other parts. The major difference between Paleolithic and Neolithic was the option they had chosen for their survival. While Paleolithic people were completely dependent on hunting and collecting plants and fruits, Neolithic men resorted to agriculture and farming. They did not depend on natural resources for food. They indulged in growing plants and using them as the source of their food (Bentley and Herb).
Paleolithic communities were nomads and they traveled from one place to another in search of food and other materials. They never believed in staying in one place for long. However, Neolithic people believed in permanent settlement. They developed their agricultural skills and were actively involved in farming. While Paleolithic people chose caves and temporary dwellings for shelters, Neolithic people constructed their permanent shelters using branches of trees, stones and timbers. They used rock painting to express their feelings and love for the nature.
Differences of both Paleolithic and Neolithic to the Civilizations emerged in the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates River Valleys:
Three great civilizations were developed in the river valleys of the Nile, the Tigris-Euphrates and the Indus. The people in those civilizations were more advanced and skillful than Paleolithic and Neolithic men. Unlike the previous communities, people in the river valley civilizations formed a unified economic system. They also practiced irrigation agriculture, which was not part of the earlier communities (Schick).
Paleolithic people used the caves as their shelters. At a later stage, they built some temporary dwellings using branches of the trees. However, Neolithic people built houses with woods and stones. The river valley people went steps ahead and built their houses with bricks. Not only they built houses, but also they built planned cities and other establishments. Paleolithic people expressed their feelings by body art and rock paintings, while Neolithic people used both the rock paintings and wall paintings. They also used utensils in household and painted them with color. People in the Niles and the Tigris-Euphrates civilizations showed their expertise in art and architecture by building monuments and sculptures. Written scripts were developed for the first time during the river valley civilizations.
The evolution of human history is very complex and full of surprises. Though the historians and researchers have made their conclusions based on the discoveries and excavations, the complete truth about the human history still remains a mystery.
Bentley, Jerry, and Herb Ziegler. Traditions & Encounters, a Global Perspective on the Past, Volume I. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2005.
Sanders, Thomas, Samuel Nelson, Stephen Morillo, and Nancy W Ellenberger. Encounters in World History: Sources and Themes from the Global Past, Volume I. McGraw Hill, 2005.
Schick, Kathy D. Making Silent Stones Speak: Human Evolution and the Dawn of Technology. New York: Touchstone, 1994.
Article Written By:
Sagar Kumar Satapathy
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