The fossil record in Africa clearly establishes that a human lineage diverged there from African apes sometime between eight to six million years ago. Beginning as far back as eight million years ago, various species of hominids (the ancestors of modern humans or Homo sapiens) began to walk upright. This bipedalism would allow these hominids to use their hands to develop, craft, and use tools. Bipedalism would also eventually contribute to a move out of forests into the savanna and turn hominids into big game hunters and gatherers. Paleoanthropologists once theorized that hominids became bipedal to adapt to life in the grasslands. However, the fact that fossils of bipedal hominids were found alongside fossil remains of wood, seeds, and other forest dwellers has cast some doubt on that theory. In fact, bipedal hominids may have lived in the forest for some time. While some bipedal hominids may have stayed in the forest, climate changes did drive others to move into new areas within Africa and beyond it.
Peopling the New World
North and South America were the last continents to be settled by humans. Most scholars think that the Americas were populated from Beringia over land. Around 12,000 years ago, mammoth hunting became more common and supported larger populations on both the Asian and American sides of Beringia, a landmass (now divided by the Bering Strait) which at that time connected North America and Asia. On the Asian side, outlines of houses with stone-lined hearths have been found, remnants indicating permanent settlement that didn’t necessarily have colonization as an end goal. But colonize they did, one group pushing southward between 10,000 and 3,000 years ago and establishing settlements that would become the origins of modern Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Inuit populations. Another group migrated southeastward through Alaska, their descendants making it as far as Chile and Argentina.
While we know about when American colonization began, the pace and means of colonization are still debated. Complicating the discussion of timing is the fact that the Late Wisconsin Ice sheet blocked the overland route from about 30,000 years ago, when two sheets merged, up until about 12,000 years ago, when they opened after a thaw. At this point in time, only a handful of sites support possible pre-10,000 BCE occupation: Monte Verde in Chile, Meadowcraft near Pittsburgh, and Page-Ladson in Florida. As recently as 2015, excavations at Monte Verde and Chinchihuapi have strengthened the “possibility of an earlier human presence on the continent” to as far back as 17,000 BCE. This date has continued to move back in time as archeologists consider evidence of more mobile humans who did not leave large artifact clusters because of their ephemeral nature, but nonetheless may have been present before more sedentary groups.
For now, however, the clearest evidence for when the Americas were widely populated comes through the Clovis point, a specific arrowhead shape that was unique in its ubiquity and sophistication. The Clovis point was also found in mammoths that had grown extinct by 10,500 years ago, this discovery meaning that humans were common in North America by then. From Beringia, humans moved at a rate of roughly 10 miles a year until they reached Tierra del Fuego and fully populated the Americas (with the exception of some tropical areas mentioned above).
The term civilization often elicits mostly idealized images of ancient empires, monumental architecture, and the luxurious lives of ruling classes. Civilization, however, is a tricky term. In the United States, students of history studied Western Civilization, almost exclusively, through the 1950s. In their studies, civilizations were advanced societies with urban centers, rooted in European or Middle Eastern culture. America’s origins in these Western civilizations was used to explain our own high level of development. However, more recent scholars have definitely broadened the geographical focus by recognizing that worldwide from 3500 to 1000 BCE at least seven independent civilizations emerged in different regions. These recent scholars also continue to debate the definition of civilization, and the current compromise amongst World Historians is to recognize characteristics that civilizations tended to share. Common characteristics of civilizations included food surpluses, higher population densities, social stratification, systems of taxation, labor specialization, regular trade, and accumulated learning (or knowledge passed down from generation to generation). The list here is not all-inclusive by any means, but it indicates the complexity of the societies that scholars have labeled civilizations.
In addition to heated debates about its exact definition, civilization is a loaded term, meaning that it can contain a value judgment. If we use the term carelessly, it seems to indicate that some societies are deemed civilized and worthy of inclusion, while others are uncivilized and thus not worth our study. In part, our sensitivity to this issue is a response to the tendency of past historians, including many of those working in Europe in the 1800s, to assume that there was a natural progression from an uncivilized state to civilization. These historians viewed people who had values, ways of living, and religious beliefs different than theirs as uncivilized. They further believed that these allegedly uncivilized peoples were behind or needed to catch up with those who were civilized. Today, World Historians try to appreciate the great diversity of human experiences and consciously remove these sorts of value judgments. World Historians avoid assumptions that some societies in the past were better or further along than others. Therefore, many World Historians remain wary of the uncritical use of the term civilization.
For our purposes, let us leave aside any value judgments. Societies labeled as civilizations were not inherently better than any others. In fact, as we will see, civilizations demonstrated various vulnerabilities. Considering things like war, slavery, and the spread of diseases, there were sometimes advantages to living outside the nexus of civilizations. For example, in comparing societies, scholars have found that in many instances people residing in decentralized states were healthier and lived longer than did their counterparts in early civilizations. However, people living in societies with social stratification, labor specialization, and trade usually left more written records and archeological evidence, which historians can analyze to narrate our past. The available resources mean that civilizations tend to be better represented in the written historical records. As you read about past civilizations, keep in mind that historians are currently enhancing our understanding of societies that perhaps remained mobile, rejected hierarchies, or preserved their histories orally. These societies were also part of our shared past, even if they are harder to study or have received less scholarly attention.
This section focuses on early civilizations in the Fertile Crescent and Northeast Africa. The civilizations in the Fertile Crescent (Mesopotamia) and Northeast Africa left written records, so that is where we will begin. They also all initially had economies based on farming and developed alongside rivers. Their locations alongside rivers allowed populations to grow the surplus food that they used to support urbanization, social stratification, labor specialization, and trade.
Reference requirements: In your own words, explained why the WOW fact excited you, surprised you, or related to you in a grammatically correct, paragraph (3 – 5 sentences)
Quoted or paraphrased the WOW! fact using appropriate detail.
Provided 3 critical thinking questions
Provided 3 researched, informed answers of a paragraph (at least 3 sentences) each in length
Provided an in-text citation for each answer formatted in one of the approved styles (APA, MLA or Chicago Style for Humanities) and a bibliographic list of sources also in one of the approved styles.
Information to CITE these readings above is: This reading was adopted from World History: Cultures, States, and Societies to 1500. by Dohlenga, GA: University of North Georgia Press, 2018 is licensed under CC BY 4.0 and has been remixed with supplementary material to adapt for CCConline.
examples of this assignment is how the professor wants it:
I want to make sure you all have taken a look at the examples within the instructions for this discussion. If you have not, please take a moment to look at those examples so you can achieve the most amount of points possible. You need your WOW! fact with in-text citation, followed by an explanation as to why you chose it. Then 3 research questions, as well as thorough answers to those questions. Be sure to include in-text citation with each answer. Lastly, list your sources at the end. I have included the APA example here, but you may use MLA, or Chicago citations for your posts.
Two related things caught my eye while reading Chapter 17 of the textbook. The first, was on page 501 when Rembrandt’s painting of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632) was shown. The second was the quote: “One of the more spectacular demonstrations of new knowledge was public dissection, but law performed only on the corpses of criminals”(Kishlansky, 2008, p. 500).
Two things about these caught my attention and made me want to learn more. First, the change in intellectual curiosity that made physicians begin to look for new explanations with scientific basis instead of religious or supernatural ones; second, the morbidness of this public activity.
- Why was dissection done only in public?
Dissections were a method of teaching and instruction. Initially, this took place outside of the universities and thus needed an alternate location. Theaters (with a stage) were popular as they could hold a larger number of students and thus have an audience (Knoeff, 2012).
- How did dissection and anatomy lessons become acceptable to the Christian churches of Europe?
Originally studies of anatomy fell under natural philosophy. This meant dissection was seen as a way to study the human soul. As such this was a way to honor and admire God’s work and thus was acceptable to Christianity (Knoeff, 2012).
- Why were dissections performed on criminal corpses?
One idea says that restricting this to criminal corpses was a punitive measure. It prolonged punishment after death as it abused the body and was a violation of forbidden knowledge. Another, more recent, argument says that dissection undermined customary funeral rites. As such, criminals, whose rights had been stripped due to their crime, were unprotected subjects (Park, 1994, pp. 3 – 4).
Kishlansky, M.. (2008). Civilizations in the west (7th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education. Etext.
Knoeff, R.. (2012). Dutch Anatomy and Clinical Medicine in 17th Century Europe. Europäische Geschichte Online (EGO). Retrieved from http://ieg-ego.eu/de/threads/modelle-und-stereotypen/das-niederlaendische-jahrhundert-17.-jhd/rina-knoeff-dutch-anatomy-and-clinical-medicine-in-17th-century-europe.
Park, K.. (Spring 1994).The Criminal and the Saintly Body: Autopsy and Dissection in Renaissance Italy. Renaissance Quarterly, 47(1), 1 – 33. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2863109.
Heres the Peer post and respond to peer and attach separately as peer response to additional of main discussion post:
Requirements for peer response: Responded to at least two classmates’ WOW facts and asked at least two additional questions in each response. Replied to questions asked of student’s own WOW lesson thread.
Upon reading the Ancient Egypt section in our etext, one of their credited advancements in particular piqued my interest “They also developed a 12-month calendar with 365 days, glassmaking skills, arithmetic (including one of the earliest decimal systems) and geometry, and medical procedures to heal broken bones and relieve fevers.” (Clark 45) Having not heard of Egyptian glassmaking prior, I chose to research more about the subject. With an interest in all art forms, I knew this would have a fascinating history surrounding it. Knowing how glass is made, I wondered how Egyptians discovered this process and how exactly they put it into use.
How was glassmaking discovered and how did it make its way to Egypt?
Early sources state that glass was created as early as 5000 BCE incidentally when rocks used for cooking began to melt and became solid after cooling down. It is unknown of the history between then and Egyptian production of glass, but glass beads were found in Mesopotamian marketplaces in 3500 BCE. (Dadrian) These glass artisans made their way to Egypt in which they could more finely tune their craft and properly created what is now known as glassblowing.
For what reasons did Egyptians make glass?
Glass was considered a high-status object, used as ornamental objects in pharaohs’ tombs. It was used in things like amulets, beads, and inlays exclusively given to royals and favored officials. (History of Glass) It had no practical use at the time of its production, used only as a novelty item.
How did glassmaking become more easily accessible in Egypt?
Three particular glass workshops in Egypt: Amarna, Ramesside, and Malkata were found to be where glass artisans resided and created glass objects. (History of Information) They had multiple glass crucibles for melting quartz with plant ash along with various materials for coloring. Before the workshops, glass came in only through trading in Mesopotamia. With the construction of these workshops, glass became more renewable in Egypt yet was still an object for royalty only.
Berger, Eugene Clark, et al. World History: Cultures, States, and Societies to 1500. University of North Georgia Press, 2016. Etext
Dadrian, Eva. “A Window on a Long Tradition: Egypt’s Glassmaking Heritage.” Rawi Magazine, Rawi Magazine, https://rawi-magazine.com/articles/glass/.
“Egyptian Glass – Glass Making in Egypt.” Egyptian Glass – Ancient Egypt and Glass, History of Glass, http://www.historyofglass.com/glass-invention/egyptian-glass/.
“The Origins of Glassmaking in Egypt.” The Origins of Glassmaking in Egypt : History of Information, History of Information, https://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?id=3090.
Heres the second peer post discussion board to respond to:
While reading section 1.3.1.b of our etext regarding Ancient Egypt, I was intrigued to discover that Egyptian pharaohs lost a lot of their wealth and power by building pyramids (Berger et al., 2016). This particularly confused me at first because I have always thought of the Egyptian pyramids as symbols of great power due to the intense level of adversity that was overcome to build such tremendous structures in a time with limited technology and resources. I felt that pharaohs had most likely built pyramids such as The Great Pyramid of Giza as specific power moves to exhibit their wealth and greatness. However, I could not imagine why pharaohs would allow themselves to become indebted or lose their power just over the act of building pyramids. It seems like a lot of power to give up over a seemingly meaningless material possession, to me. Thus, I began my descent into finding out more about this fact:
Clearly, pharaohs believed there to be some great significance to building pyramids during their rules. Why did ancient pharaohs decide to build pyramids specifically in the first place if they were so costly and time-consuming?
The pyramids were given a particular significance in Ancient Egypt primarily because of their ties to the afterlife (Berger et al., 2016). Their pointed shape was assumed to facilitate the ascent of the pharaohs to the gods after their secular death. Thus, pharaohs used the construction of the pyramids not just as a symbol of the wealth and power that they held during their rule, but also as a way to ensure a smooth transition into the afterlife for themselves.
As Egypt was known for utilizing slave labor (hello, Moses!), why did ancient pharaohs not cut costs by increasing their usage of people who were enslaved to build the pyramids?
While ancient Egyptian society did include many people who were enslaved, these people were typically skilled in many different areas and thus had their talents utilized for more than just manual labor (Berger et al., 2016). Some examples of this include assisting merchant owners in their shops or fighting in the military. In all actuality, the number of enslaved people is much lower than what was needed for the construction of the pyramids anyway. Instead, pharaohs recruited the help of experienced craftsmen to design the beautiful workmanship of the pyramids and unskilled laborers as forces of manpower instead of resorting to using the various skills of enslaved people.
Why pharaohs share power with other individuals such as priests, and how was the distribution of this power potentially affected by the construction of the pyramids?
Again focusing on the cultural significance of Egyptian religious beliefs, pharaohs actually always held absolute power because they were believed to be gods in human form. However, power was allocated downwards from the pharaoh in order to assist the pharaoh with all of their duties as a god. Priests, nobles, scribes, and government officials were considered to be next after the pharaoh in terms of power rank (Independence Hall Association, n.d.). Religious officials were given higher power ranking, most likely because a god on earth such as the pharaoh probably preferred to work with people who worshiped them so highly. However, as the pharaohs lost a lot of their wealth during the fifth dynasty of the Old Kingdom because of the expenses from building pyramids, governors called nomes became more independent and took on more of the pharaohs’ duties and power (Berger et al., 2016). This further highlights the devastation that pharaohs incurred as a result of the construction of pyramids, as no god one earth would ever want to share so much power on purpose.
Berger, E. C., Israel, G. L., Miller, C., Parkinson, B., Reeves, A., & Williams, N. (2016). World history: Cultures, states, and societies to 1500. CCCOnline. University of North Georgia Press. Retrieved from http://media.ccconline.org/ccco/2020Master/HIS111/eText/Sections/Section1/Page3.html.
Independence Hall Association. (n.d.). Egyptian social structure. ushistory.org. Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://www.ushistory.org/civ/3b.asp.
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