Technology and Change in the Stone Ages

  1. Archaic Humans

    1. First member of genus Homo appears c. 2,200,000 before present (BP) - Homo habilis

      1. Olduwan technology- simple stone tools, primarily sharp flakes, primitive hand axes

      2. Toolkit suggest primarily gathering and carrion feeding

      3. Significantly larger brain than australopithecines

      4. Fades out by 1.6 million BP

    2. Homo erectus - first hunter gatherers?

      1. Appears around 1,900,000 BP

      2. Migrate out of Africa into Asia and later Europe

      3. Acheulian technology - much more sophisticated tool kit, largely indistinguishable from early Homo sapiens

      4. Evidence of fire use at 800, 000 BP

      5. Tool kit suggests moving from being prey for large predators to becoming true hunters

      6. Existence of other identified Homo species complicates picture

    3. Homo neandethalis

      1. Dating controversial - earliest forms perhaps c.200,000, but wide margin of error

      2. Dominate Europe and Middle East through most of Paleolithic - adapted to cold weather of Ice Age Europe

      3. prior to c.40,000 BP, largely indistinguishable toolkit from Homo sapiens

      4. late Neanderthals buried dead, as did Homo sapiens in same time period

      5. Some evidence of jewelry use, possibly art, and possibly music

      6. Disappear c.35,000 BP, though new claims suggest survival till 33,000 or perhaps 25,000 BP

    4. Homo sapiens

      1. Appears c. 200,000 BP, perhaps earlier

      2. Oldest known fossils dated at 195,000 BP

      3. Genetics suggest most recent common ancestor at 150,000 BP. somewhere in East Africa

      4. Genetic evidence also points to migrations out of Africa between 80,000 and 65,000 BP

      5. Migrations reach Australia by 65,000 BP; Northern Asia somewhat later, Europe no earlier than 40,000 BP

  2. The Paleolithic Toolkit

    1. Humans and their immediate relatives only species known to make tools to fashion other tools

    2. Remarkably stable, with gradually increasing sophistication until dramatic change with Late (or Upper) Paleolithic, c. 40,000 BP

    3. Primarily shaped flakes, choppers, scrapers and hand axes

  3. Late/Upper Paleolithic Technology and Culture (c. 40,000BP-12,000BP)

    1. Toolkit becomes dramatically more sophisticated

      1. Microliths, polished tools, needles, harpoons, and more.

      2. Widespread use of non-stone materials

      3. Composite tools, such as spears and axes with wood handles

      4. Rope, torches, harpoons, spear throwers, bow and arrows and other new technologies

    2. Geared around the subsistence and communal lifestyle of hunter-gatherers

    3. Lack of fixed location or storage technology meant little social stratification based on wealth accumulation

    4. Megalithic temples indicate fairly high levels of organization

      1. Standing stones and stone circles begin to appear

      2. Göbekli Tepe - At least one example of sophisticated temple building, right at the transition to the Neolithic

    5. Paleolithic Science?

      1. Clearly had agricultural knowledge, but no sophisticated horticulture or husbandry

      2. Probably had complex taxonomies

      3. Sophisticated tools and knowledge of plants and animals not the same thing as an abstract theory of nature

    6. Appearance of sophisticated art

      1. Cave paintings, rock art, small scale sculpture

      2. Some evidence that Neanderthals had some limited art, but very modest compared to H. sapiens.

    7. A largely stable toolkit and culture across 30,000 years

    8. Change and continuity

      1. Open question as to why this new toolkit appears c. 40,000 BP

      2. Possible emergence of sophisticated language

      3. Development of art points to development of symbolic thought and expressive thought - related to language

      4. Great migration that began c. 80,000-65,000 may also have been the product of language development

  4. The Neolithic/Agricultural Revolution (12,000 BP-5,000 BP)

    1. A dramatic shift begins to take place c. 12,0000 BP towards agriculture, pastoralism, village life

      1. Not obviously better - involved more work, and village life with animals increased disease - so why?

      2. Climatic changes could be cause - end of ice age changes ecology everywhere, dries many regions, forces humans to develop new strategies

      3. Extinction of many large bodied animals demanded new food gathering strategies

      4. Earth may also have reached "carrying capacity" for hunter-gatherers

        1. Population density by c. 12,000 BP was probably around one person/square mile

        2. Nomadic bands would have dealt with "overpopulation" by budding off small groups that searched for new, empty territory

        3. Insufficient empty territory in some areas may have forced change in strategy

        4. Agriculture and pastoralism allow for larger populations in a smaller area

    2. Horticulture (gardening) and husbandry develop independently in several places

      1. Appears sudden in archeological record but was probably gradual

      2. Two paths, determined by geography

        1. In dry grasslands without rivers or lakes, in tundra regions, nomadic pastoralism develops. Leads to cultures like Mongols and Bedouin

        2. Where there is available water, horticulture and village life develops - leads to urban civilization such as Egypt and Mesopotamia

    3. Concurrent with numerous new technologies and resources

      1. Agriculture necessitates plows, hoes, digging sticks

      2. Animals provide mobile food that doesn't spoil, a variety of new foods (such as dairy products), as well as skins, horns, etc.

      3. Animals also provide power, for plowing, transportation, pulling heavy objects

    4. First wave of new technologies breeds second wave of more sophisticated ones, which lead to more....

      1. Textiles and baskets develop from agriculture, leads to looms, dyeing, more sophisticated art

      2. Pottery develops from need for storage, leads to kilns and metalworking

      3. Experience with new materials leads to better construction techniques and more solid dwellings

  5. A  new living environment and culture

    1. Decentralized villages of 1-2 dozen homes become common place

      1. By 5000 BP, Middle East covered with them, no more than a days walk apart

      2. Catal Huyuk in Turkey one of the best preserved

      3. Jericho has a brick defensive wall and tower by 7350 BC (9350BP), population of 2000

      4. Higher population density means families coalesce into clans and tribes

      5. Village life means changes in concepts of privacy

      6. Agriculture and pottery allowed for more access to fermentation and hallucinogens

      7. Children have increased economic value, which encourages more population growth in a feedback loop

      8. Settled life and storage technology allows for wealth accumulation, greater social stratification

      9. Large population, but shorter lifespans due to increased prevalence of disease

    2. Science?

      1. Evidence scanty

      2. However, unbroken record of astronomical observation from 40,000 BP to present

        1. Records of waxing and waning of moon found in numerous places

        2. Art, sculpture often has astronomical themes

        3. Megalithic monuments like Stonehenge (built in stages 3100 BC-1600 BC) often oriented to astronomical phenomenon

        4. But is this science, or only knowledge?