Early World History = Prehistory: Paleolithic to Neolithic
WEEK ONE –
PREHISTORY & CULTURAL DIFFUSION
1. Defining History and why we study it
2. Defining Culture vs. Civilization
3. Defining Cultural Diffusion – why it matters
4. Agricultural hearths of the world and diffusion
5. Characteristics of Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic ~ diffusion
6. Defining the 5 basic institutions of human societies
7. Gender roles and their evolutions
8. Pivot Point in History = Agricultural Revolution
9. Features of Natufian Culture
Historical Theme – Geographic Determinism
CULTURE - The body of customary beliefs, social forms, and
material traits constituting a distinct complex of tradition of a group
of people ~ patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures
that give such activities significance and importance ~ the sum of all
CIVILIZATION - When citizens willingly and mutually bind themselves
in political, economic, and social organizations in which individuals
merge themselves, their energies and their interests in a larger
community ~ it embraces not only a people’s social and political
organization but also its particular shared way of thinking and
believing, its art and other facets of its culture ~ community of people
with shared cultural values.
SOCIETIES - People in general thought of as living together in
organized communities with shared laws, traditions, and values. Not
all societies advanced to a status of civilization
Elements of Culture:
Influences on learning culture:
How Culture Spreads – the Four “C”s
How Culture Changes
•Invention = new ideas ~ increases control
•Innovation = improvement of an idea ~ new
use for something old
•Diffusion = spread of idea ~ most important
way cultures change
Diffusion ~ “Process by which a feature or trend spreads across the landscape”
Methods of Diffusion
•Relocation diffusion people physically carry their culture with them
•Acculturation diffusion adoption of another’s cultural traits
•Expansion diffusion culture spreads out from a center point ~ takes
greater amount of time to disperse information
·Contagious diffusion everybody wants it ~doesn’t miss anyone ~ all
are informed, like a rumor ~ like diseases that
are epidemic (regionally localized) or endemic
·Hierarchal diffusion not everyone wants it or knows it ~ moves out
from a center but bypasses some people ~
leapfrogging effect ~ passes from like to like
·Stimulus diffusion underlying concept spreads but the specifics
with the execution do not ~ idea of a written
language may spread but not the language
Region Crops, Comments
Mediterranean, Middle East,
wheat, millet, seed fruits, lentil, peas, flax, date
palm, figs, vine fruits, onions, cattle, camel, sheep,
horse, dog, pig
North China millet, soybeans, sorghum, peach, apricot
South Asia, India lettuce, cucumbers, millets, zebu cattle, mango
may be earliest of all areas, wide variety of fruits and
spices; tea, taro, yams, breadfruit, citrus fruits, sugar
cane, rice, coconut, jute, banana, ginger/spices, dog,
duck, goose, water buffalo
Ethiopia, South Arabia
millet, sorghum, cotton, coffee, soft wheat,
West Africa yams, oil palm, rice, arrow root, bushpig, okra
Mesoamerica (Central Mexico and
northern Central America)
ancient civilizations - Maya, Aztec, Toltecs, Zapotecs,
corn, beans, squash, chile pepper, tomato,
turkey, chocolate, peanut, tobacco, papaya
Peru - Andean Andean civilizations - Incas and earlier groups
potato, manioc, pineapple, llama, alpaca
Ancient River Valley Civilizations
Did they advance to a state of civilization independent of each other or did the
elements of civilization diffuse from one hearth to another?
New Stone Age, ground stone tools,
appears in different
parts of the world at different times, first
agriculture - food production
Uplands of Middle East, 8,000 B.C.
Transition phase, 10,000 B.C.,
glaciers retreat, hunting of herd animals
replaced by exploitation of forest
bow & arrow, fishing, collecting
Old Stone Age - chipped stone tools,
raw material is rock. Australopithecus to
early Homo sapiens used stone tools.
Techniques changed. Earliest tools -
Latest tools- finely worked blades.
Hunting and collecting. Migratory
Paleolithic approx. 35,000 - 10,000 BCE.
Social Conditions - Nomadic life of "hunting-gathering"
Religious - Animistic, (veneration of natural life-forces).
Imagery - Pregnant animals , female images
Media - Paintings on cave walls, (earthen pigment
mixed with animal fat and blood).
Amulets carved from bone or stone, showing pregnant,
human female images or images of animals. These are
much smaller in size than the images of the painted
Major Site: - Lascaux, a major site of cave painting,
discovered in France in 1940. Lascaux is one of the most
important, extant (so far known) sites of cave paintings.
The Lascaux Caves, a cave complex in southwestern France,
contain some of the most remarkable paleolithic cave paintings in
the world. Known as "the prehistoric Sistine Chapel," the
Lascaux paintings are at least 15,000 years old.
20 meters &
First 20 meters slopes steeply down to the first hall known as the Great Hall of
the Bulls = begins with a unicorn-like figure who seems to be chasing a herd of
horses. Also visible a large, partially drawn bull towards the back of the hall. On
the opposite side = three large wild oxen (now extinct link with a group of small
stags painted in ochre. The color black dominates the works: only the group of
stags, three bovines and four horses, of which three are incomplete, are
The Painted Gallery, which is about 30 meters long, is a continuation of the same hall. Considered to the
pinnacle of paleolithic cave art, the Painted Gallery covers the entire upper reaches of the walls as well as the
surface of the ceiling. The iconography is based on classical prehistoric animal themes: wild oxen, horses,
ibexes, the stag and, at the back, the bison. Notable among these are the "Chinese Horses," a triad
surrounded by large red cows. At the back a horse seems to be dashing towards the inmost depths of the
Venus of Willendorf
c. 24,000-22,000 BCE
(Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna)
Discovered in 1908 during archaeological excavations at a paleolithic site
near Willendorf, a village in Lower Austria near the city of Krems. It is carved
from an oolitic limestone that is not local to the area, and tinted with red
HOW BIG DO YOU THINK IT IS?
4 3/8 inches
What do you think its primary
purpose might have been?
Venus of Dolní Věstonice Venus of Lespugue
Venus of Willendorf
c. 24,000 BCE
found in Southern France
c. 25,000 BCE
found in Austria
c. 26,000 BCE
found in the Czech Republic
Over 100 Paleolithic statuettes of women portrayed with similar physical attributes have been mostly
found in Europe, but with finds as far east as Irkutsk Oblast, Siberia, throughout much of Eurasia, to the
Pyrenees in Spain. Carbon dating gives a range of creation from as early as 35,000 BCE to as late as
11,000 BCE. They were carved from soft stone (such as steatite, calcite or limestone), bone or ivory, or
formed of clay and fired. They are some of the earliest works of prehistoric art.
Mesolithic approx. 10,000 - 8,000 BCE.
Social Conditions – Transition, “bridge” from hunting-gathering
cultivating – becoming settled
Religious - ancestor worship, veneration of the dead
Painting moved out of the caves into the open on rock wall
surfaces. Subject changed from animals to groups of people.
The humans shown in rock painting are highly stylized,
rather like glorified stick-figures. These humans look more
like pictographs than pictures, and some historians feel they
represent the primitive beginnings of writing (i.e.:
hieroglyphs). Very often the groupings of figures are painted
in repetitive patterns, which results in a nice sense of
rhythm (even if we're not sure what they're meant to be
Natufian Culture: precursors to the Neolithic advancements.
four hunters and their chief, painting,
Remisia, Castellón, Spain,
Mesolithic/Neolithic, c. 6,000 B.C.:
Natufian Mesolithic Culture
• many densely populated settlements
• flourished Jordan river valley
between 10,500-8000 B.C.E.
• based on cultivation of wild barley
• developed advanced agricultural and
• stratified, matrilineal, and matrilocal
• 9000 B.C.E., climatic change caused
site abandonment. Some returned to
hunting and gathering; others
domesticated wild grains.
• precursors to Neolithic Revolution
skull tell us
Neolithic, approx. 8,000 - 3,500 BCE.
Social conditions - Village life of farming communities, also
known as "food producing" cultures, located near a river basin
Religious - Ancestor veneration, (veneration of the spirits of
ancestors, those who led the community before their death).
Imagery - The human head, often abstracted and shown
gazing into space
•People settled in permanent locations with specialized occupations.
•Concept of ownership ~ privately owned property and goods.
•Systemized regulations to enforce rights of ownership.
•Specialization of labor.
Characteristics of Civilization
•social stratification and ranking,
•trade or exchange networks, leading to the presence of
•luxury and exotic goods,
•control of food as in agriculture or pastoralism,
•high population density,
•centralized rule, and
•armed military force.
5 Basic Institutions of All Societies
of human skulls
from Paleolithic -
some kind of
hope of an
•Jericho, near the Jordan River and an oasis,
•was an urban center by 7000 B.C.E.
•Its economy based primarily on wheat
and barley farming,
•but both hunting and trade also were important.
•Expanding wealth resulted in walled fortifications
and an encircling ditch.
•Housing (improved bricks, plaster hearths
and stone mills) became more
•Religious shrines present
in a later period.
•The city was governed by
a powerful elite probably
associated with keepers
of the shrines.
Neolithic tower at Jericho:
10,000 years old. Perhaps a
precursor to the ziggurats of
Mesopotamia. Believed a
wooden shrine may have sat
on the top.
The tri-section temple plan will dominate throughout the
ancient Near East for millennia
•Catal Huyuk, founded
around 7000 B.C.E. in
•was larger in size and
•It was the most
center of the Neolithic
•A rich economic base
was built on extensive
•Standardized construction patterns suggest the presence of a powerful ruling elite
associated with a priesthood.
•Well-developed religious shrines indicate a growing role for religion in people's lives
Catal Huyuk, founded
roughly 8,500 years ago.
Catal Huyuk’s 35 acres of
Çatalhöyük was discovered
in the late 1950s and
excavated by James
Mellaart between 1961 and
1965. It became famous
internationally due to the
large size and dense
occupation of the settlement,
as well as the spectacular
wall paintings and other art
inside the houses.
Interior decoration in Catal Huyuk 8,000 years ago—5,000 years before the rise
of Greece’s city-states. The walls were painted with vivid images of goddesses,
hunters, and, in the bottom right hand corner, of the city’s ground plan and the
nearby volcano that gave Catal Huyuk its rich store of exportable treasure:
obsidian. Note the beast-master motif top center, which will show up in Sumerian
art forms 2000-3000 years later.
Gilgamesh Motif cylinder seal impression,
Akkadian period, c. 2,400 B.C.
(Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore):
Catal Huyuk, 6000 bce.
From Azarbaijan, 1st mill. BC
Third Dyn. UR, 2000 BC
Herakles and the Kerkopes,
Sicily, 550-540 B.C.
The Beast-master Motif throughout history
Neolithic Agrarian Attributes
•They were primarily rural societies.
•They were based primarily on peasant agriculture or livestock breeding.
•Most people maintained life in balance with their natural environment.
•Their religion was based heavily on gods and spirits that controlled their natural environment.
•Their religion emphasized ritual and sacrifice as ways to control the deities.
•They relied on religious specialists to communicate with the gods.
•They believed time to be cyclic.
•Their social values emphasized kinship and the clan.
•Significant advancements in new technologies and expansion of populations