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From the Beginning of Time : World History NCERT Notes For UPSC

Jan 24, 2023

From the beginning of time

It was 5.6 million years ago, the first humanlike creatures appeared on the earth's surface. After this, several forms of humans emerged and then became extinct. Human beings resembling us originated about 160,000 years ago. 

Read further to understand the story of human evolution from the beginning of time and upgrade your IAS preparation

The Story of Human Evolution

The Precursors of Modern Human Beings

  • By about 24 million years ago (mya), humans emerged a subgroup amongst primates, called hominoids. This included apes. And, much later, about 5.6 mya, the evidence of the first hominids was found. 
  • Hominids have evolved from hominoids and share certain common features, there are major differences as well.
  • Hominoids have a smaller brain than hominids
  • Hominoids are quadrupeds, walking on all fours, but with flexible forelimbs. 
  • Hominids have an upright posture and bipedal locomotion (walking on two feet). 
  • There are also marked differences in the hand, which enables the making and use of tools.
  • Around 2.5 mya, with the onset of a phase of glaciation (or an Ice Age), large parts of the earth were covered with snow and there were also major changes in climate and vegetation
  • Due to the reduction in temperatures as well as rainfall, grassland areas expanded at the expense of forests, leading to the gradual extinction of the early forms of Australopithecus (that were adapted to forests) and the replacement by species that were better adapted to the drier conditions. 
  • Among these were the earliest representatives of the genus Homo.

Modern Human Beings

  • Some of the earliest evidence for Homo sapiens has been found in different parts of Africa.
  • Two totally divergent views have been expounded, one advocating the regional continuity model (with multiple regions of origin), the other the replacement model (with a single origin in Africa).

Early Humans 

Ways of Obtaining Food

  • Early humans would have obtained food through number of ways, such as gathering, hunting, scavenging and fishing.
  • From about 35,000 years ago, there is evidence of planned hunting from some European sites.
  • Fishing was also important, as is evident from the discovery of fish bones at different sites.

From Trees, to Caves and Open-air Sites

  • Between 400,000 and 125,000 years ago, caves and open air sites began to be used. Evidence for this comes from sites in Europe.
  • Example: In the Lazaret cave in southern France, a shelter was built against the cave wall. Inside which two hearths and evidence of different food source were found.

Making Tools

  • The use and making of tools are not confined to humans. Birds are known to make objects to assist them with feeding, hygiene and social encounters, and while foraging for food some chimpanzees use tools that they have made.
  • The earliest evidence for the making and use of stone tools comes from sites in Ethiopia and Kenya.
  • It is possible that stone tool makers were both women and men
  • The earliest evidence of sewn clothing comes from about 21,000 years ago.

Also Read: Etikoppaka Wooden Toy Craft

Modes of Communication

Language and Art

  • There are several views on language development:
  • Hominid language involved gestures or hand movements. 
  • Spoken language was preceded by vocal but non-verbal communication such as singing or humming.
  • Human speech probably began with calls like the ones that have been observed among primates.
  • Language may have developed as early as 2 mya. The evolution of the vocal tract was equally important. This occurred around 200,000 years ago. It is more specifically associated with modern humans.
  • Another suggestion is that language developed around the same time as art, that is, around 40,000-35,000 years ago. The development of spoken language has been seen as closely connected with art, since both are media for communication.

Timeline 1 (mya)

  • 36-24 mya: Primates; Monkeys in Asia and Africa. 
  • 24 mya: (Superfamily) Hominoids; Gibbons, Asian orang-utan and African apes (gorilla, chimpanzee and bonobo or ‘pygmy’ chimpanzee). 
  • 6.4 mya: Branching out of hominoids and hominids. 
  • 5.6 mya:  Australopithecus. 
  • 2.6-2.5: Earliest stone tools
  • 2.5-2.0: Cooling and drying of Africa, resulting in decrease in woodlands and increase in grasslands.
  • 2.5-2.0 mya: Homo 
  • 2.2 mya: Homo habilis. 
  • 1.8 mya: Homo erectus. 
  • 1.3 mya: Extinction of Australopithecus. 
  • 0.8 mya: ‘Archaic’ sapiens, Homo heidelbergensis. 
  • 0.19-0.16 mya: Homo sapiens sapiens (modern humans).

Timeline 2 (Years ago)

  • Earliest evidence of burials:   300,000 
  • Extinction of Homo erectus:  200,000 
  • Development of voice box: 200,000 
  • Archaic Homo sapiens skull in the Narmada valley, India:  200,000-130,000 
  • Emergence of modern humans: 195,000-160,000 
  • Emergence of Neanderthals: 130,000 
  • Earliest evidence of hearths: 125,000 
  • Extinction of Neanderthals: 35,000 
  • Earliest evidence of figurines made of fired clay: 27,000 
  • Invention of sewing needles:  21,000

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