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The stone age. It conjures up images of people in caves, wearing bearskins around a fire huddling for warmth and occasionally going out and clubbing a mammoth. Like all things on Earth it's a little more complicated than that. For one the stone age spans nearly 2.5 million years from our very early ancestors to the bronze age where our first usage of metal was incorporated around 6000bc give or take a thousand years. So for most of human history we were as the title suggests banging two rocks together. Nobody really knows who was the 1st person to pick up a stone and realise the potential for not just killing animals but a whole range of tasks, skinning animals, butchery, tree cutting, bowls, grinding nuts and later grains for flour. the most versatile of these stones was flint (obsidian too but mostly flint). It was the original Swiss army knife. hitting flint at the right angles and with the right tools can produce razor sharp objects and we pull these objects out of the ground on a regular basis. We find their chippings, there tools and there mistakes. What we do know is the oldest tools ever found are over 2 million years old and were found in what is now Ethiopia in Africa. Humans tended to live in small nomadic bands following the animals as they moved through the seasons, collecting nuts and berries and hunting as they needed for food. Fishing and seafood collecting started in the middle stone age around 100,000 years ago. At this time there were still Neanderthals roaming our earth. Far from being primitive and backwards. Scientist now think we interbred with this off cut our species and some traits are still visible to this day. They made complex tools they hunted the same way we did what finally led to there demise nobody knows for sure. Neanderthal usage of projectile weapons in hunting occurred very rarely (or perhaps never) and the Neanderthals hunted large game animals mostly by ambushing them and attacking them with mêlée weapons such as thrusting spears rather than attacking them from a distance with projectile weapons. This is probably what drove them to smaller numbers as Homo-Sapiens took more and more game away from them. 
From 50,000 to 10,000 years ago in Europe, the Old stone age ends with the end of the old stone age and onset of the Neolithic era (the end of the last ice age). Modern humans spread out further across the Earth during the period known as the Neolithic. The Old Stone age is really marked by a relatively rapid succession of often complex stone artefact technologies and a large increase in the creation of art and personal ornaments.

The Americas were probably colonised via the Bering land bridge which was exposed during this period by lower sea levels. These people are called the Paleo-Indians, and the earliest accepted dates are those of the Clovis culture sites, some 13,500 years ago. Globally, societies were hunter-gatherers but evidence of regional identities begins to appear in the wide variety of stone tool types being developed to suit very different environments.



NEOLITHIC

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What made the Neolithic different from the stone age was the invention of farming. The planting of crops to take a yearly harvest. Around 9000bc the first humans realised that when they dropped the seeds or berries of the food they were gathering some would grow into new food sources where they were dropped some clever people realised that if they gathered enough of these seeds and dropped them onto the earth they could be gathered (or harvested) in time for the winter. This with the start of Animal Husbandry the ability to keep animals for food was the start of a rapid expansion in the human race and the beginning of the first towns and cities. Grains were ground into flour and the first bread was baked. In the last few years, remains of figs were discovered in a house in Jericho dated to 9400 BC. The figs are of a mutant variety that cannot be pollinated by insects, and therefore the trees can only reproduce from cuttings. This evidence suggests that figs were one of the first cultivated crops and mark the invention of the technology of farming. This occurred centuries before the first cultivation of grains. Settlements became more permanent with circular houses, these houses were for the first time made of mud-brick. Around 8500bc the first signs of ritual burial are found people preserved skulls of the dead, which were plastered with mud to make facial features. The rest of the corpse may have been left outside the settlement to decay until only the bones were left, then the bones were buried inside the settlement underneath the floor or between houses. By 6500bc Pottery was being developed. It seems a trivial invention now but this was the start of storage large pots full of grain meant that you could store some of last years harvest in case the coming years harvest was poor. you could also store flour and carry water. This also allowed for the first trade as you now could pack up your pot full of grain take it to someone and trade it for whatever they had animals,clothing or whatever their needs were (this is Probably where the 'Oldest Profession' really started to take hold).



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Map showing the various regions of human activity during the Neolithic period

However, early farmers were also adversely affected in times of famine, such as may be caused by drought or pests. In instances where agriculture had become the predominant way of life, the sensitivity to these shortages could be particularly acute, affecting agrarian populations to an extent that otherwise may not have been routinely experienced by prior hunter-gatherer communities. Nevertheless, farming communities generally proved successful, and their growth and the expansion of territory under cultivation continued. Another significant change undergone by many of these newly-agrarian communities was one of diet. Pre-farm diets varied by region, season, available local plant and animal resources and hunting. Post-farm diet was restricted to a limited package of successfully cultivated cereal grains, plants and to a variable extent domesticated animals and animal products. Supplementation of diet by hunting and gathering was to variable degrees precluded by the increase in population
above the carrying capacity of the land and a high sedentary local population concentration. This led to more and more migration to find more land and more farming. Neolithic man was fast becoming the dominant species and by 4000bc had discovered something rather magical..... More on that in Part Two...


 


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    Simon Knowles

    Sadistic, Satirical, Sarcastic, Socialist, with enough time on his hands to waste yours.

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