Early Civilizations

I. Before Civilization
A. Food Gathering and Stone Tools.
• Stone tools were used for collecting meat from dead animals and later in hunting. Humans proved to be particularly good hunters and may have caused or helped to cause the extinction of mastodons and mammoths about 11,000 years ago.
• The diet of Stone Age people probably consisted more of foraged vegetable foods than of meat. Human use of fire can be traced back to 1.5 million years ago, but conclusive evidence of cooking (in the form of clay pots) can only be found as far back as 12,500 years ago.
II. Mesopotamia
A. Settled Agriculture in an Unstable Landscape
1. Mesopotamia is the alluvial plain area alongside and between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The area is a difficult environment for agriculture because there is little rainfall, the rivers flood at the wrong time for grain agriculture, and the rivers change course unpredictably.
2. Mesopotamia does have a warm climate and good soil. By 4000 B.C.E., farmers were using cattle-pulled plows and a sort of planter to cultivate barley. Just after 3000 B.C.E., they began constructing irrigation canals to bring water to fields farther away from the rivers.
3. Other crops and natural resources of the area included date palms, vegetables, reeds and fish, and fallow land for grazing goats and sheep. Draft animals included cattle and donkeys and, later (second millennium B.C.E.), camels and horses. The area has no significant wood, stone, or metal resources.
4. The earliest people of Mesopotamia and the initial creators of Mesopotamian culture were the Sumerians, who were present at least as early as 5000 B.C.E. By 2000 B.C.E., the Sumerians were supplanted by Semitic-speaking peoples who dominated and intermarried with the Sumerians but preserved many elements of Sumerian culture.
B. Cities, Kings, and Trade
1. Early Mesopotamian society was a society of villages and cities linked together in a system of mutual interdependence. Cities depended...