Chapter 1 Summary: The Earliest Human Societies
By studying history, students can learn about a society's culture, government, economy, and religious beliefs. Historians look for patterns of living and interaction over generations, and that results in insight into human behavior and development. Chief among the resources used by historians are primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are generated by people who experienced a historical event and can include diaries, photographs, and letters. Secondary sources are created by people who did not experience a historical event for themselves but have analyzed primary sources. Examples of secondary sources are encyclopedias, textbooks, and paintings.
Humans' ways of living changed as they interacted with one another and adapted to their environment. Early humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers who had to follow their food source. They developed tools to help them survive and make the most of their environment and resources. Early human technology included stone axes, awls, scrapers, and bows. Humans successfully tamed fire about 500,000 years ago, which allowed them to create light and heat whenever they needed to and also allowed them to cook food.
Circa 8000 BCE, humans began to be sedentary agriculturalists, which was a far more sustainable way to live. In addition, humans domesticated animals; doing so allowed humans to use animals for their hide, meat, and milk as well as for work. This precipitated the need for new and different tools and technology such as plows and irrigation. Humans settled in villages, which was advantageous as far as providing food and defense but was potentially hazardous with regard to the spread of disease and famine. Being sedentary also allowed humans to specialize in specific jobs. Specialization ultimately led to the development of social classes.