Chapter One: Before History

Chapter One: Before History

Over the years, there has been a significant increase in the understanding of the evolution of human beings. These advancements help shed more light on the connection between human beings and other animal species such as apes. Chapter one notes that discoveries in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania provide useful insights that can be used in understanding the evolution theory (Bentley et al. 13). The Australopithecus species is presented as having flourished in East Africa and was a hominid as opposed to being an ape. Human beings and other species with human-like traits belong to the Hominidae family.

In later years, there was the emergence of Homo erectus which had a greater brain capacity as compared to the earlier species. Just like human beings, they had an upright posture and had a brain capacity of 1000 cc. Not only did they learn how to make fire, but they were also intelligent and could communicate complex ideas (Bentley et al. 15).  However, the arrival of Homo sapiens saw the decline of Homo erectus. Homo sapiens species are commonly referred to as a conscious man and had unique features to adapt to the environment. The species is cited as having arrived in Australia sixty thousand years ago.

Other groups used the land bridge between Alaska and Siberia to move to North America. The unique features of Homo sapiens are in the ability to understand the possibilities and problems of their environment. Sophisticated tools by the species further indicate that Homosapiens were better organized and intelligent as compared to earlier species.  The Old Stone Age/Palaeolithic era is defined by historians as being the mostextended portion of the human experience. During this period, humans scavenged for food from other speciesbefore later becoming hunters and gatherers.


Chapter Two: Early Societies in Southwest Asia and the Indo-European Migrations

Historical records indicate that the fourth millennium was marked by an increase in the human population level. The demographic changes corresponded withsimilar developments in the Neolithic villages such as Mesopotamia (Bentley et al, 36). Mesopotamia is regarded as being the center of civilization and the central point in the spread of agriculture.  The region is located between River Tigris and Euphratesthusmaking it ideal for farming and irrigation. The Sumer method of irrigation was used to increase food production capacitiesthus meeting the needs of the rising human population.  Towards the sixth millennium, the land was inhabited by Sumerians. Some of the cities that dominated Mesopotamia include Kish, Nippur, Lagash, and Ur. Both internal and external pressure prompted the cities to form leadership structures.

With the new organizations, the Mesopotamians were willing to venture beyond their societies. The events were followed by clashes among leaders who sought to increase the size of their territories. The growth of more cities saw the economic and the social composition of Mesopotamia become diverse (Bentley et al, 42). The trend further meant that people were willing to engage in other activities as opposed to just being restricted to agriculture. The events led to the development of the wheel, shipbuilding, and trading activities. In later years, the society became highly stratified with social classes and religious groups. Likewise, the role of women and men became well defined during the second millennium.



Chapter Three: Early African Societies and the Bantu Migration

Chapter three indicates that Nubian, Egyptian and Southwest Asia communities took part in both exchanges and interactions. The long-distance trading, spreading of cultural traditions and the diffusion of technology is credited for the formation of the Mesopotamiasocieties (Bentley et al. 67). These factors also contributed to the migration of both Indo-European people and Semitic groups. However, the most significant development in the Sub-Saharandesert is cited as being the migration of the Bantu communities and the corresponding creation of agricultural societies. The new Bantu communities settled in Southernregions of Cameroon and Niger and engaged in the cultivation of palm oil and yams. Most of the early Bantumigrants settled along rivers as they mainly relied on agriculture.

While the early motifs formigrating remain shrouded, there are arguments that population pressure may havepropelled the need to look for new settlementareas. They migrated using Canoes in major rivers such as River Congo. The population might have caused pressure and scarcity on the available food hence the need to migrate as well as engage in agriculture (Bentley et al. 73). The chapter notes that Africanherding and agriculturefirst took place in Sudan. As time progressed, domesticated animals and new plant species from South EastAsia were introduced in the Nile Valley. Agriculturetransformed theNile River Valley and saw increased interactions of differentsocieties. Most of the dramatic changes were recorded in Egypt.

Chapter Four: Early Societies in South Asia

Chapter Four begins by referring to the HarappaSociety which is defined as having been one of the major cities during the Indus Valley Civilization (Bentley et al. 90). River Indus provided the needed water for agriculturalactivities in the valley and led to an increase in population growth and the emergence of cities. However, there are scant details on the society as silt in the valley makes it inaccessible for further studies. The society had organized structures of government and trade. There is an explanation that the city depended on agriculture and trade with neighboringsocieties.

Society worshiped different gods such as the god of fertility. However, ecological degradation in the 1900 B.C.E led to a decline in the city. The decline of the Harappan society saw other societies move into the Indus valley and other lands. An example is the Early Aryans who moved to India after the decline of the Heparan society. They engaged in both pastoral and trading activities with counterparts in central Asia. However, the lack of a central governmentmeant that the societymembers had much infighting (Bentley et al. 105).

There is the indication that the conflicts were later resolved by the blending of both the Dravidian and the Aryan traditions thus creating a unique and stable Indiansociety. Likewise, there was the creation of kinship asbeing the central form of government and allowed for the creation of regional states. On the other hand, there was also the introduction of the caste system as a way of providing identity to Indiansocieties. These developmentswere followed by the creation of distinctive religious beliefs that sought to guide the activities and interactions with other communities.

Chapter Five: Early Society in Mainland East Asia

Both the Yangzi and Yellow Rivers contributed to the flourishing of agriculture during the early Chinese civilization. Some of the dynasties that benefited from agriculture include the Zhou, Xia and the Shang dynasties. However, just like the Indus River, the Yellow River is unpredictable and prone to environmental changes (Bentley et al. 119).  Nonetheless, it supported agriculturalactivities in China and contributed to the emergence of many Neolithic communities.  Unlike the previous settings, the chapter notes that high food production led to a surge in the population level and thus the need to relocate to other areas.

In later years, the Xia dynasty was outgrown by the Shang dynasty as it was regarded as being oppressive and failed to address the needs of the subjects.  Just like the Xia dynasty, the Shang dynasty also depended on agriculture to fund the political and social initiatives. The subjects mainly lived in six major cities that were located along river banks such as Yin which served as the capital of Shang.  However, the Shang administration was later succeeded by the Zhou Dynasty which applieddecrees and proclamation in the administrationprocesses.

The Zhou dynasty mainly lived along the banks of the Wei River and engaged in agricultural activities.  In ancient China, some structures oversaw both administration and division of labour (Bentley et al. 127). Since the Xia Dynasty, the noble families in Chain occupied the honored positions in society. The ruling elites depended on agriculture, and their subjects collected all the taxes. In the case of specialized labor, there was a small group of craftsmen and artisans who engaged in trading activities. The ancientsocieties had a great connection with ancestors and venerated the dead and worshiped different gods of fertility.

Chapter Six: Early Societies in the Americas and Oceania

The chapter explains that there is scant information on the population of earlysocieties in the Americas. The first wave of migration was from Siberia to Alaska and occurred during 13, 000 B.C.E. However, there is the indication that smaller groups have crossed the Bering Bridge in earlieryears. Through drifting with the currents and sailing, there is also the possibility that some migrants may have reached the Western Hemisphere. The chapter defined Olmec as being an elaborate group during this period and was influenced by way of life in Mesopotamia (Bentley et al, 135).

EarlyMesopotamia people are defined as having had high regardfor both agriculture and civilization. These events saw the creation of many urban centers and ceremonial centers in Mesopotamia. The Olmec are widely regarded as being the rubber people and took an active role in both agriculture and tradingactivities.  After the disappearance of the Olmec, the Mayas are cited as been the heir and saw the renewal of the Olmec heartland. The initial location is currently known as Honduras, Mexico, and Belize.  Between 300 and 900 B.C.E, they built many ceremonial centers in the lowland. Anexample is Tikal which is regarded as being the most important political centerfor the Maya.

The Temple of the Giant Jaguar is also cited as being an importantcentrefor the group.  Towards the 800 B.C.E, there was a sharp decline in the population of the Maya as most of the residents began leaving the cities. Historians argue that invasion from other groups in Mexico and climatic changes may have led to the decline of the Maya. Other than the Maya ceremonial centres, the City of Teotihuacan is cited as being an important historical point. It is defined as having been one of the most important agricultural villages in 500 B.C.E.


Work Cited

Bentley, Jerry H., et al. “Traditions & encounters: a global perspective on the past.” (2006).


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