1: The Beginnings of Civilization


  • To describe the transition from Neolithic to
    settled communities in the period from 15,000 to 5,000 B.C.E.
  • Know and understand the stages of prehistory.

I. What is Civilization?

Cave Painting of Bulls
France, 15,300 BCE
Link: Virtual Tour

Key Terms

Bronze Age
Iron Age

  • Urban Life
    • Presence of permanent structures
    • End of previous nomadic existence
  • System of Regulatory Government
    • Leaders controlled, to one degree or another,
      what was done in the community
  • Class Distinctions (wealth and occupation)
    • Specialized jobs like hunter, weaver, weapon smith, etc.
  • Collection of different tools and skills
    • Tools and skills lead to production and trade
  • Written Communication
    • Often, in early times, writing developed as a record–keeping tool for traders and tax collectors so it developed in tandem with tools and skills
  • Religious belief and practice
    • Reflected in the totems, art, texts, and burial practices of the earliest civilizations

II. Stages of Prehistory

  • A. Paleolithic “Old Stone Age” Period (28,000-10,000 BCE*)
  • B. Neolithic “Late Stone Age” Period (8,000-3,000 BCE)
  • C. Bronze Age (3,000-1,000 BCE)
    • Metalwork begins
      • Breakthough: Copper ore + tin ore2,000° campfire = bronze for tools and weapons!
    • Weapons and tools are made from material hardened by simple campfires
    • ca. 3000 BCE: written language invented in Mesopotamia (“cuneiform")
      • Egyptian Hieroglyphic Writing begins soon after (now extinct)
      • 1500s BCE: earliest reference to “Cana’an”
      • 1208 BCE: earliest reference to “Israel”
      • 840 BCE: earliest reference to the “4-letter Hebrew Name of God”
      • 800s BCE: earliest reference to “King David” (in Paleo–Hebrew)
    • Chinese Writing begins around 1,200 BCE
      • It is not definitively known if Chinese writing arose indpendently or not
    • Mayan writing arises independently in Mexico in the 600s BCE (now extinct)
    • Virtually all other forms of written language derive from 1 of these 4 written languages
  • D. Iron Age (1,000-600 BCE)
    • Bloomer invented, allows for much hotter blacksmith fires
      • Iron ore + 2,000° campfire = clumps of useless iron fragments
      • Breakthough: iron ore + 2,800° bloomer fire = iron for tools and weapons! (LINK)
        • This is the height of weaponsmithing until steel production in the Middle Ages

* BCE - Before the Common Era. This is opposed to “CE” or "Common Era," which is equivalent to “AD” or "In the Year of our Lord” (Anno Domini, in Latin) on the Christian calendar. Non–sectarian scholars typically use “BCE” and “CE,” rather than “BC” and “AD."