History: The Neolithic Age
A major change, described by the great
prehistorian Gordon Childe as a "revolution", occurred
around the 9th millennium BC with the adoption of agriculture. Although
research has tended to concentrate on the Fertile Crescent area of
the Middle East, archaeology in the Americas, East Asia and Southeast
Asia indicates that agricultural systems using different crops and
animals may well have developed at similarly early dates. As might
be expected, agriculture was particularly important in areas which
became the cradles of early civilisations, such as the Yellow River
valley in China, the Nile in Egypt, and the Indus Valley. Some peoples,
such as Aborigines of Australia and the Bushmen of southern Africa,
did not use agriculture until relatively modern times. Recent findings
of considerable quantities of grains in the Ohalo II paleolithic
site in modern Israel seem to suggest that cereals had been intentionally
sown (without the agriculture-associated additional caretaking activities
like fertilization, land clearance, etc) since 21000BC (PNAS 101
Agriculture led to several major changes. It allowed far larger
population densities. It also created, and allowed for, the storage
of food surpluses that could support people not directly involved
in food production. The development of agriculture allowed the
creation of the first cities. The development of cities has led
to what has been called civilisation; first in the Sumerian civilisation
of lower Mesopotamia (3500 BC), then in Egypt along the Nile (3000
BC) and Harappa in the Indus Valley (2500 BC). There is evidence
of elaborate cities with high levels of social and economic complexity.
However, these civilisations were so different from one another
that they must almost certainly have been independent in origin.
At this time developments such as writing, currency, and extensive
trade were introduced.
The 2nd millennium BC saw the emergence of complex state societies
in Crete, mainland Greece and central Turkey. In China, proto-urban
societies may have developed by 2500 BC, but the first dynasty
to be identified by archaeology is that of the Shang. In the Americas,
civilisations such as the Maya, the Moche and Nazca emerged in
Mesoamerica and Peru at the end of the 1st millennium BC.
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