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Humanities LibreTexts

1: Prehistory

  • Page ID
    1176
  • Learning Objectives

    To be able to address the following questions:

    1. What were some factors that led to hominid bipedalism?
    2. How did climate affect hominid development?
    3. How and why did Homo sapiens expand out of Africa?
    4. How and when did Homo sapiens populate the Americas?
    5. What was a hunter-gatherer existence like?
    6. Why did Homo sapiens start to prefer agriculture?
    7. How did agriculture start to change human relationships?

    • 1.1: Chronology
    • 1.2: Introduction
      This chapter begins at the origins of bipedalism some eight million years ago and brings us up to eight thousand years ago with the Neolithic Era or “new stone age.” Bipedal hominids would develop during the Pliocene era and our closest ancestors during the more recent Pleistocene. Finally, modern Homo sapiens would appear during the Holocene. During the Holocene humans would perfect tool usage during the Paleolithic Era, and would usher in agriculture during the Neolithic.
    • 1.3: Human Beginnings in Africa
      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 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.
    • 1.4: Agriculture and the Neolithic Revolution
      Historian Lauren Ristvet defines agriculture as the “‘domestication’ of plants… causing it to change genetically from its wild ancestor in ways [that make] it more useful to human consumers.” She and other scholars have pointed to the Neolithic Revolution, that is, the move from a hunter-gatherer world to an agricultural one, as the root of what we today refer to as civilization. Without agriculture we don’t have empires, written language, factories, universities, or railroads.
    • 1.5: Summary

    Thumbnail: Lascaux animal painting. (Public Domain; Prof saxx)

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