Chapter 1 Summary: The Emergence of Civilization
In order to learn about prehistoric people and cultures, scientists have teamed up with archaeologists and other researchers to piece together clues about the life of early man. Artifacts and human remains are most helpful in understanding prehistoric cultures. Early man was remarkably resourceful, however, and created tools from stone. Most impressive was the Neolithic Age or New Stone Age when people became sedentary and learned to make specialized tools. Gradually, prehistoric man ceased hunting and gathering and turned to agriculture which was more reliable and sustainable for larger groups of people.
The result of agriculturalism was the creation of civilizations. The earliest civilizations sprang up along the Nile River in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia, the Indus River in India, and the Huang River in China. Each of these cultures learned to irrigate their crops using the water from the nearby rivers and maintain a crop surplus.
With larger groups of people staying in one place, it became apparent to these early people that some sort of organization was imperative. Soon, a division of labor was created and new social classes emerged. Some became artisans while others became merchants or farmers. Early forms of government also emerged in an effort to help structure and guide people's behavior and to enforce the rules.
Eventually, these ancient people found it necessary to keep records and so systems of writing emerged in each of the original river valley civilizations. Writing allowed them to not only keep track of payments and taxes but also to write down the rules and laws that were to govern life in the ancient world.