Posted: January 14, 2015
The Origins of Humans The Great Debate is between the two opposing sides that argue over the origins of our existence and whether it is because of Evolution, a result of scientific happenings or the Creation argument where there is a supreme being, God, that created the heavens and the earth. ." It's the emotion-packed question of "Origins “why, how, and where did everything come from? The Big Bang Theory is the accepted source of Origins among the majority of Evolutionists, and is taught in our public schools. However, it is argued by Creationists that the Big Bang does not explain many things. Both Creationists and Evolutionists agree that if evolution is at all possible, there needs to be an excessive, if not an unlimited amount of time. For much of the 20th century, it was thought evolutionists had all the time they needed. If the earth ever looked too young for certain evolutionary developments to have occurred, the age of the earth was pushed back in the textbooks. In 1905, the earth was declared to be two billion years old. By 1970, the earth was determined to be 3.5 billion years old, and by the 1990's, the earth had become 4.6 billion years old. Is that a long enough time to allow the evolutionary model to take place? The debate by Creationists is that even following this timeline there isn’t time for this evolutionary process to allow what currently exists to have taken place, therefore God or a creator must have been involved. The Stone Age We call this period the Stone Age because most of the artifacts found from this time are made of stone. Humans who lived in the Stone Age are generally classified into a group called Homo. Homo was divided into two successive and overlapping species – Home Erectus and Home Sapiens. The Stone Age is believed to have occurred from 2 million BCE to 5000 BCE. Homo Sapiens About 40,000 years ago, modern humans moved into Europe armed with the skills to make clothing, and better shelters. 19th century scientists named these newcomers Cro-Magnon people after the French rock shelter where three anatomically modern skeletons were discovered in 1868. Cro-Magnons were Homo Sapiens who evolved in Africa and who slowly pushed their way into Europe. They developed the ability to endure colder climates, even those as cold as Iceland and Greenland. For thousands of years, there was no significant change in the cultural development of the human species. However, about 35000 years ago, remarkable technological, artistic and cultural advances occurred. These developments are often called the “Great Leap Forward”. One of the most significant developments was social organization. People started living in small groups or bands and they started to live in the same location for extended periods of time. They created homes to protect themselves against the elements by digging shallow pits and covered them with tree brush or hides. They sometimes camped under rock ledges but rarely in caves as it was cold and dark and smoke from fires would linger and fill the lungs of the occupants and sting their eyes. Mostly during the stone age, caves would have been used during emergencies, such as storms, or seeking protection from large animals. Neanderthals (an extinct member of the Homo Genus found in Europe and parts of western and central Asia) were quite social. They organized groups to hunt large prey. Evidence suggests they took care of the weak and sick within their community, and they buried their dead. They were the first to have a sense of religion. They certainly had greater mental resources then their earlier human ancestors and perhaps a capacity for abstract thought. Cro-Magnons also lived in communities and survived through interaction. Like Neanderthals, they found that cooperation with others improved their chances of survival. There is evidence that their settlements had housing for up to 40 or 50 individuals. The earliest tools were choppers. Choppers were stones that were chipped on only one side. Over time they developed a high level of expertise in tool-making, using a variety of items, including stone, bone, horns, ivory and wood. Why do you think Cro-Magnons survived and Neanderthals didn’t? Theories on the fate of the Neanderthals include an inability to cope with climate change, competitive exclusion or even genocide by anatomically modern humans. Hybridization could have been the result, where they were absorbed into the Cro-Magnon population. Use of Fire Evidence shows that Neanderthals had fire to keep them warm. Some cave floors where remains have been found consist almost entirely of compressed layers of ash, many meters thick. • First, fire allowed humans to spread farther into colder temperature regions of Europe and Asia. As they began to cook their food - a much faster process than eating it raw – they had more time to pursue other activities. • Finally stone age humans used fire for defense. They threw burning sticks at animals to drive them away from people’s shelters. The Neolithic Age • During the Neolithic Age, people changed from being hunters and gatherers to being food producers. We call this transformation the Neolithic revolution. Most scholars believe that Middle Eastern people were the first to discover that they could plant seed from wild grain. • During the same period, the Stone Age people began to domesticate animals such as dogs, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats as another ready source of food. Perhaps hunters built fences to close in a heard of wild animal. After killing one animal, they may have caged and saved the rest for later. As captured animals slowly lost their fear of people, they became domesticated. The change to a food producing economy had a big impact on the lives of humans. The advent of agriculture increased the food supply, making it possible for larger groups of people to live together in one area. Permanent communities or villages began to develop. The earliest known village is Jericho, which archaeologists date back to 8000 BCE. • Archaeologists have discovered that the Neolithic residents of one community lived in houses of sun dried bricks with flat roofs made of mud covered reeds. People of the Neolithic Age also learned how to make baskets, and how to weave cloth. These activities gave rise to a new group of craftspeople or artisans such as potters, jewelers, metal workers, carpenters, and weavers. In turn, these artisans helped to promote the development of trade in other areas as they became interested in exchanging their wares for food supplies. Trade led to new methods of transportation as Neolithic people began to think about better ways to transport their wares. Civilization • The word civilization comes from the Latin word Civis, which means citizen or someone who lives in a city. By 5000 BCE, the effects of the Neolithic revolution had led to what we can describe as the earliest civilizations. • Agriculture allowed those conditions that we consider to be characteristics of the earliest civilizations. Middle Eastern Civilization – 3500 BCE – 395 CE • Historians know that two of the world’s first great civilizations developed along mighty river systems in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt at roughly the same time. Mesopotamia dates from about 3500 BCE and ancient Egypt from about 3100 BCE. The Mesopotamians drew their source of life from the Tigris- Euphrates river system in Asia, and the Egyptians from the Nile River in Africa. The availability of a constant food supply freed labor for other pursuits, and led to the development of thriving cities, magnificent temples, and powerful empires. The Cradle of Civilization The Tigris – Euphrates valley of present day Iraq lay the ancient Sumerian city state of Ur. Between 1924 and 1934, an archaeological team conducted excavations that uncovered the ancient ruins. In one incredible discovery, was found the tomb of Queen Shub-Ad. They found the remains of more than 60 female skeletons. Clothing remnants and jewels indicated the likelihood that they had been women of the court. Also found nearby were the remains of soldiers with their spears, a harpist clutching his harp, and oxen still harnessed to wagons. The hands of most skeletons were raised to their mouths. Little clay cups were scattered on the floor of the tomb. It is speculated that all were given poison so the Queen did not have to go to the afterlife alone. The discovery also reveals an important aspect of Mesopotamian culture – a profound belief in an afterlife, and a desire to take some earthly belongings to the world after death. The Mesopotamia people of the region made many important contributions that other civilizations in the ancient world would build upon. Today we consider Mesopotamia as “cradle of civilization”. Ancient Mesopotamia lay in what we know today as Iraq, northern Syria and part of southern Turkey. The ancient Greeks were the first to call the region Mesopotamia. The Greek word “meso” means middle and “potamos” means river – thus it was, “the land between the rivers”. Four main peoples dominated Mesopotamia in turn: the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians and the Chaldeans. From 2112 BCE to 2094 BCE, Sumerian culture reached its peak, The Sumerians developed the first known form of writing called “cuneiform”, made significant advances in scientific knowledge, created a vital mythology, and produced the first written literature. The Epic of Gilgamesh, which tells of a legendary Sumerian king who ruled Uruk around 2600 BCE, is the oldest known piece of literature in the world. All these developments had a major influence on the later peoples of Mesopotamia. Although Ur finally fell captive to the Elamites from the east in approximately 2004 BCE, the Babylonians and the Assyrians adopted and spread many aspects of Sumerian culture. Babylonians The decline of Sumer led to a shift in power northward, first to Babylonia and then to Assyria. The Babylonian period began when Semitic nomads from the west, the Armorites, established their kingdom at the city of Babylon. The city reached the height of its power during the time of the First Dynasty (ruling family), which lasted about 300 years. The most significant ruler during this time was King Hammurabi (1792 BCE – 1750 BCE), who created one of the world’s first written codes of law. By conquering all of Sumer, areas to the north and lands to the east and west, Hammurrabi is also credited with establishing the empire of Babylonia. Babylonians were great traders, their ships reached the distant shores of India and Africa, and their caravans traveled far into Persia and Asia Minor. The goods and ideas exchanged on these expeditions enriched both the Babylonians’ culture and the cultures of those they met. When Hammurabi died he was succeeded by a series of weak kings who had difficulty holding the empire together. They were overpower by a couple of different Indo-European tribes until the powerful Assyrians took control of the area. Assyrians The Assyrians took their name from their chief city Ashur, located on the banks of the Tigris River in northern Mesopotamia. It was an important trading center on the east – west caravan routes between Mesopotamia and the surrounding lands. With economic influence, the Assyrians gained political influence as well. Having been under the control of Babylon, the Assyrians had absorbed Sumerian culture. Through a long series of wars and conquests, the Assyrians came to dominate all of Mesopotamia. The Assyrians were among the fiercest and most warlike people in the region, known for committing wartime atrocities against unarmed civilians and treating conquered armies with cruelty. Between 1100 BCE and 600 BCE, Assyrian power spread throughout western Asia. Their efforts extended Assyrian influence west to the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt, south to Babylon, north to Syria, and east to Persia. Several factors were the reason for their military success, but it was mostly because Assyrian kings viewed professional armies as essential to successful conquest, and so they created large, skilled armies that were well organized into units of foot soldiers, charioteers, cavalry and archers. Military officers were trained on combat strategies. One additional benefit presented itself, when the Assyrians had also learned the secret of making iron from the Hittites, and they used that knowledge to make arrows and lances of superior quality. Through this time each Assyrian king treated all peoples, both civilian and military, with great cruelty. Among all this, the Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, also showed a keen interest in both science and mathematics. He constructed a garden and zoo at his palace. Stocked from all parts of his empire, and established a library containing over 22,000 clay tablets that showed all this information. At the peak of its power, the Assyrian empire spilled over the bounds of Mesopotamia, and a single ruler had great difficulty holding it together. As a result the Assyrians began to experience serious attacks on their borders. Shortly after the death of Ashurbanipal, the Babylonians and the foreign Medes united to overthrow Assyria. Once so powerful, the Assyrians were overthrown in 612 BCE and were either killed or assimilated and their empire disappeared. After the collapse of the Assyrian empire Babylon once again became an important center in Mesopotamia. The city had been prominent in the time of Hammurabi and had also prospered again in the 200 years before the collapse of Assyria. During this period, it was ruled by the Chaldeans, a Semitic people who had settled in the fertile area of southern Babylonia near the Persian Gulf at 1000 BCE. The Chaldean king, Nebushadnezzar, transformed Babylon into one of the most beautiful cities of the world. He was noted as a warrior king. He conquered Judah, captured and destroyed Jerusalem, and took many Jews back to Babylon as prisoners and only stopped his conquest of Egypt when he heard of his father’s death. It should however be noted that he fought fewer battles that Assyrian kings and should likely be remembered as a great builder rather than as a warrior. Like many empires of Mesopotamia, the Chaldean empire fell to invaders. By 549 BCE, were challenged by a new alliance of the Medes and the Persian King Cyrus. The city itself was spared, but the Persians became the new rulers of the growing international world. One of the achievements of Babylon has to be the Hanging Gardens, often considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. • Conduct research and explain what the Hanging Gardens were and list the other things that made up the “Seven Wonder of the Ancient World”. The Assyrians agreed with a strong government but took a different approach. In Assyria, religious leaders had less political power than in Sumer. Temples, palaces and monuments in Assyria were built for the use of the king, not for the honor of a particular god, yet the Assyrian king was bound by religious customs. The Assyrian kings were among the most powerful leaders in all of Mesopotamia. Since they eventually ruled an empire that stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Nile River, their far-reaching authority was almost a necessity.