Knowledge Encyclopedia History!: The Past as You’ve Never Seen it Before
Timeline of the ancient world
Early humans lived in small groups, moving from place to place to find new sources of food. But with the development of farming, many groups began to settle down in fertile areas, forming larger communities.
The earliest towns and cities were built in Mesopotamia (in modern-day Iraq) and along the Nile in Egypt, more than 5,000 years ago. Centuries later, the cultures of the Greeks, Phoenicians, and Romans developed around the edges of the Mediterranean Sea. In Asia, civilizations sprang up on the shores of the Persian Gulf, around the Indus River in modern-day Pakistan, and along the Yangtze River in China. Ancient regions traded with each other, but they also competed for land and resources, leading to war, and the creation of the world’s first empires
Modern humans are the only survivors of a family of apes that walked upright. These apes are called hominins, and they first appeared in Africa around seven million years ago.
Hominins diverged from other primates that would later evolve into human’s closest living relative, the chimpanzee. There were many species of hominins, but only some are the ancestors of modern humans. Over millions of years, they began to walk on two legs, evolved increasingly larger brains, started to make tools, and learned to control fire. These adaptations, as well as many others, were passed on to modern humans.
Out of Africa
The first humans evolved in Africa 300,000 years ago. When the climate in the previously impassable Sahara Desert briefly turned wetter 100,000 years later, they started to explore elsewhere. When humans migrated out of Africa, they shared the planet with several different kinds of human-like species called hominins. The most common were the Neanderthals in Europe and western Asia and the Denisovans in East Asia. All early humans were hunter-gatherers. They moved from place to place as they searched for fresh sources of food. This lifestyle meant early humans were great travellers. Humans’ ability to travel and adapt to changing environments meant they survived while all other hominins went extinct by about 40,000 years ago. Over many generations, early humans gradually travelled further and further. By 15,000 years ago, humans had spread into every continent (except Antarctica).
Earth was undergoing an Ice Age between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago. Early humans living in Europe and northern Asia at that time experienced a cold and dry climate, and much of Europe and Asia were covered with steppes (treeless grasslands).
Early humans lived in small groups of between 25 and 50 people. They kept on the move and lived in temporary shelters. There were no leaders, and men and women were equally important. While men hunted large animals, women gathered plant foods and cared for children. Early humans made a wide range of tools, including bone needles for sewing and harpoons for fishing. Because they travelled from place to place, early humans came into contact with a range of foods and as a result they had a varied diet. They were also very adaptable to changes in the climate.
The first farmers
By around 9000 bce, the way humans lived had begun to change. Instead of constantly being on the move, hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants, humans started to produce their own sources of food by farming. People started to plant seeds in fertile soils and to grow crops. They also learned to domesticate (tame and raise) animals, such as sheep and goats, for food or to help them tend to crops. This was the beginning of farming. Farming could produce much more food than hunting and gathering, so many humans started to settle down in permanent villages to be close to their crops. If farmers produced more food than they needed at the time, they stored it to be eaten when food was hard to come by. This meant that farming produced more reliable supplies of food than hunting and gathering.
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