Comparison of the Early Civilizations Essay
Comparison of the Early Civilizations
Paleolithic and Neolithic communities differed from each other in many ways, including their use of tools, their hunting of animals and gathering of food. First of all, the Paleolithic people were the most rudimentary in their use of tools. They did not manipulate them in any way. A rock was just used as it was for pounding or cutting a surface. In addition, the Paleolithic people were nomadic; they traveled around hunting and gathering food. When the supply was exhausted in one place, they moved on to the next in small groups of about twenty or thirty people (Spielvogel, 2003).
For this reason, the Paleolithic people were not able to form stable communities. Their family and extended family made up their group, which could eventually die out if the conditions grew too harsh. Especially problematic was the Ice Age. Consequently, the Paleolithic people were very adaptable. They learned how to make fire, shelter and crude tools to hunt. They survived in this way until the end of the Ice Age in 8000 B. C. where cave drawings have survived them to reveal their existence to modern man (Spielvogel, 2003). Unfortunately, population issues forced the Paleolithic man into a new way of life.
Hunting and gathering societies required huge areas of land, so as the population grew, so did the demand for land. In fact, Krieger (1994) estimates that for every 25 people the community needed at least 250 acres of land to sustain them. At the time, the population was about 10,000,000 people. Clearly a change was needed. However, the Neolithic people were named so because of the changes made in the style of living. The Neolithic people moved from crude tools to more sophisticated ones. They were able to take that rock from the Paleolithic era and manipulate it so that it formed a sharp edge, making that more of a tool for cutting.
Later, toward the end of the era, the people discovered ways to melt certain rocks to form metals. In this way the Neolithic society developed more sophisticated knives, axes and hammers (Spielvogel, 2003). The Neolithic people changed from hunting animals to raising animals for food and from gathering food to growing food. They became agricultural and thus were able to stay in the same place for a long time. This permanence allowed the Neolithic people to form communities and villages. As a result, they could develop products of their own and trade with neighboring communities.
Art existed in the Neolithic as well, with some artisans even trading jewelry to other communities. As society progressed, the Neolithic age gave way to the Bronze age about 3000 B. C (Spielvogel, 2003). The civilizations that grew in the river valleys of the Nile and of the Tigris and Euphrates bore some resemblance to the earlier periods of man, but they also are characterized by some marked differences. For example, geography played a role in these developments. First of all, the people were less nomadic than the Paleolithic people. They wanted to stay in the fertile areas mentioned above and to take advantage of its soil.
However, because the rivers would sometimes flood, they were forced to develop methods of water control and irrigation in order to remain there (Spielvogel, 2003). The first known society was that of the Sumerians in the Tigris and Euphrates river valley, otherwise known as Mesopotamia. They, like the earlier peoples, learned to build shelters, not with wood or stone, which the Paleolithic and Neolithic people used, but with the limited resources they had, namely mud and clay ((Krieger et al, 1994). Using these bricks, they erected buildings and even walls around their cities.
They became the leaders of the countryside, forming political city-states. The dominant form of rule here was a theocracy. The Sumerians built temples and believed that gods ruled the cities and divinely chose the kings to do their biddings. Some people were thus noble, and other people were made slaves. However, the economy was similar to that of the Neolithic people in that it was based on agriculture and trade (Spielvogel, 2003). The Sumerians developed a form of writing called cuneiform, which is a form of picture writing. However, few people learned to write (Krieger et al, 1994).
Unfortunately, other communities in the area noticed the power of the Sumerians and wanted what they had. The areas was not very well protected by any natural land forms or waterways, so attacking each other was easy and constant (Krieger, et al, 1994). Thus, war was perpetuated in the world of early man. The Mesopotamian area was in a period of empire building and warring states for over thousands of years. The Nile river valley also provided the same geographic necessities as the Tigris and Euphrates did for the Sumerians. Where the Nile divides (called the Delta) is a very similar geographically as the people’s to the north.
The flooding of the river provided very fertile lands, thus encouraging agricultural communities. The Nile was the main mode of transportation, so trade was relatively easy for these people. Unlike the people of the Mesopotamian communities, the Egyptians were secluded by deserts, the Nile, and the Red and Mediterranean Seas. Their lifestyle was not marred or changed by continual warfare. Like the people of the Mesopotamia, religion was also very important. Again, the rulers were determined by divine prophecy, creating dynasties of ruling families.
One of the most memorable and interesting aspects of Egyptian religions is the use of pyramids and grave goods for burial. The architecture of these pyramids was so sound that many of them still stand today (Spielvogel, 2003). Art was also popular among the Egyptians as it was among the Sumerians and even earlier people. From the Egyptians, come many modern standards of living. Craftsmen used wood and metals to create sculptures, furniture and drawings. The Egyptians also developed a system of writing and began the basis of an educational system, especially writing and mathematics.
These people are credited with inventing the calendar and the process of embalming the dead (Krieger, et al, 1994) The lives of the early civilizations were undoubtedly difficult. Our modern society owes a debt to these people for beginning the seeds of society that has become now a convenient and fulfilling way of life. References Krieger, et al. (1994). World History: Perspectives on the Past. Massachusetts: Heath. Ohio: McGraw Hill. pp. 16-37 Spielvogel, Ph. D. , Jackson. (2003). World History. Ohio: McGraw Hill. pp. 19-53