Lesson 2: Early Farmers Article
The Stone Age is a fascinating place. Unfortunately, there were no books written during the Stone Age. The reason for that is quite simple: there was no writing system or even a spoken language! Stone Age dwellers communicated with non-verbal communication. Grunts, head nods, motions, etc. were all used to communicate between each other. Wouldn’t that be a frustrating way to live your life? To not be able to understand anything or have no way to communicate would make for some trying times. Despite the fact that there was no written language, we can still learn about these times through archaeology. Archaeology is the study of artifacts. People who study artifacts are called archeologists. It is these artifacts that teach us about pre-history, or the time period before there was written language. Archaeologists go out and dig for artifacts from certain time periods. Places where archaeologists go to uncover artifacts are called excavation sites. They get everything set up and prepare to dig. One method archaeologists use to find out how old an artifact is, thus learning when it was used and how old it was when it died, is called carbon dating. This helps us learn what types of tools were used, weapons, etc. Through artifacts and carbon dating, we have learned much about the pre-historic time. We have learned that people were nomads, which means they traveled around from place to place, without a permanent home. Archaeologists know this because instead of finding large camps or towns, they found smaller camps, which meant they were only temporary. We have also learned that agriculture started to take shape late in the Stone Age. Agriculture is the raising of plants and animals for human use. In other words, the only reason certain animals are raised is to eat them or to help with work, not for pets. In order for agriculture to work, there needs to be domestication of animals. Domesticate is to tame animals. It’s important to domesticate animals because could you picture a wild cow pulling a plow for someone? I don’t think so. Also, agriculture involves harvest, which is to gather the crops when they are ready. Lastly, archaeologists can study artifacts to discover the way humans produced the items they used, or in other words, they can figure out the technology of the time period.
The Stone Age time period is usually broken up into two parts: The Old Stone Age and the New Stone Age. These two halves are drastically different. The Old Stone Age lasted 3,490,000 years. During this immense amount of time, very little progress was made. At the beginning of the Old Stone Age, rocks and stones were used for tools and weapons. Towards the end of the Old Stone Age, about three million years later, the people had only progressed in technology to using deer antlers. Not a very big advancement, especially when you compare it to us today. Think about how big of a change cell phones have had in the last ten years. A cell phone today looks nothing like a cell phone of ten years ago. We definitely progress faster with technology. What are some other things in our world that you can think of that have drastically improved in a short amount of time? Just think about it…
The New Stone Age witnessed a lot more progress than the Old Stone Age. The transition from the Old Stone Age to the new Stone Age was due to the development of metal working. This was important. Metal started to be used for tools, weapons, etc. Metal is stronger and more durable than stone. Once the new Stone Age began, advancements were made in stone working as well. Polished rock tools were being used. The glaciers were gone, which meant wild plants and food crops could grow and flourish. Most importantly, the domestication of animals and plants came to the forefront. Early farming saw the domestication of three main plants: wheat, rice, and barley. One can make a lot of food out of those three ingredients. Domestication took place with animals as well. Four main animals were domesticated: goats, dogs, sheep, and cows. These four animals greatly improved living conditions. All of this domestication brought about a change of life style for the people of the new Stone Age, which eventually led to the end of the Stone Age and the beginning of civilization. Animals produced many things such as milk and wool. This was important because milk is an important ingredient for being strong and healthy. Wool could be used for blankets, clothing, etc. Animals would also plow the field, making it a faster process, thus being able to farm and produce more. The increase in farming production led to a surplus of food, which is having more food than you need. With all the extra food, the people could sell it for things they lacked.
One small village that was uncovered by archaeologists goes by the name of Skara Brae. Scientists estimate that about 50 people lived in this small village. These people lived in Scotland. They raised sheep and cattle. Farming was a big thing for them.