Peterson Book (World History) Chapter 1

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• Paleolithic Man from Africa  Humans began to portray themselves on the surfaces of places where they lived and traveled as early as 50,000 B.C.E. Most of these paintings have vanished, but some have been redone, as in this rock painting from the region of Niger in Africa, which shows a person, perhaps a shaman, wearing a large headdress. (© David Coulson/Robert Estall Agency UK)

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When does history begin? Previous generations of historians generally answered that question with “when writing begins.” Thus they started their histories with the earliest known invention of writing, which happened about 3000 B.C.E. in the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys of Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq. Anything before that was “pre-

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the  beginning of history back to the formation of the universe, when time itself began. This very new conceptualization of “big history” is actually similar in scope to the world’s oldest histories, because for thousands and perhaps tens of

history.” That focus on only the last five thousand years leaves out most of the human story, however, and today historians no longer see writing as such a sharp dividing line. They explore all eras of the human past with many different types of sources, and some push

The Earliest Human Societies
to 2500 B.C.E.
with the creation of the universe.

thousands of years many peoples have narrated histories of their origins that also begin

Exploring the entire human past means beginning in Africa, where millions of years ago humans evolved from a primate ancestor. They migrated out of Africa in several waves, walking along coasts and over land, eventually spreading across much of the earth. Their tools were initially multipurpose sharpened stones and sticks, but gradually they invented more specialized tools that enabled them to obtain food more easily, make clothing, build shelters, and decorate their surroundings. Environmental changes, such as the advance and retreat of the glaciers, shaped life dramatically and may have led to the most significant change in all of human history, the domestication of plants and animals.



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C HAPT ER P R EV I EW
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Evolution and Migration How did humans evolve, and where did they migrate? Paleolithic Society, 250,000–9000 B.C.E. What were the key features of Paleolithic society? The Development of Agriculture in the Neolithic Era, ca. 9000 B.C.E. How did plant and animal domestication develop, and what effects did it have on human society? Neolithic Society How did growing social and gender hierarchies and expanding networks of trade increase the complexity of human society in the Neolithic period?

Evolution and Migration
How did humans evolve, and where did they migrate?
Studying the earliest era of human history involves methods that seem simple — looking carefully at an object — as well as new high-tech procedures, such as DNA analysis. Through such research, scholars have examined early human evolution, traced the expansion of the human brain, and studied migration out of Africa and across the planet. Combined with spoken language, that larger brain enabled humans to adapt to many different environments and to be flexible in their responses to new challenges.

Understanding the Early Human Past
People throughout the world have developed systems of...
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