The Technological Advances of Early Man – History Essay
Webster defines technology as the practical application of knowledge in a particular area. The advancement of man from the beginning of civilization to present-day passes
through many stages of history. Some of those stages include man before civilization, as in the old, middle, and new stone ages, the Mesopotamian civilization, the Egyptian civilization, the Greek civilization, and the Roman civilization. Each new civilization brings with them new ideas, new culture, and new technology. Technology is the key to early civilization, as well as all other civilization. Humans have technology because of man’s ability to reason. If we do not use this ability, then we are only as good as the animals around us. Another important aspect of technology in civilization is that, in most cases, the civilization with the greatest technology usually survives longer. For example, if one soldier arms himself with a copper shield and a wooden shield and the other soldier arms himself with a iron sword and a bronze shield, the second soldier is most likely to survive because he has the greater technology that gives him better materials to work with.
Before one can discuss the different civilizations and their technology, he must first talk about civilization in itself. Civilization is defined by three elements: cities, metal-working or technology, and writing. Cities also need three elements which are
people, defensive walls, and government. Of course a city needs a population, but it also needs defensive walls to have protection from outside invaders. A city also needs a government, of a centralized ruling unit. Early civilizations almost always had a king, usually a military leader. The government gives the city unity and organization.
In addition to cities, a civilization also needs metal-working, or technology. The first metals were copper and tin. The earliest civilizations uses copper because it is easy to obtain and easy to shape. Technology then advances into the bronze age where man mixes copper and tin. This process makes bronze, which is a stronger and more durable metal than copper. A down side to using copper is that it is brittle and looses its blade after so many uses. Bronze, however, is much stronger. After bronze comes iron. The discovery of iron solves more than one problem. First, it is a better and stronger metal than bronze. Second, tin is hard to find in the ancient world. This hinders the process of making bronze. Iron ore though is found in abundance in the ancient world, which makes production a little easier. The only exception to production being easier is that iron is difficult to melt because of its high melting point. Nevertheless, the technology of man is steadily increasing.
Writing is also a necessity to civilization. Writing first appears because of trade and business. Business transactions of the ancient world provided the first need for a written language. Another need for writing is to record the past. In many cases, stories
are passed down from generation to generation. These stories need to be recorded for the observation of history and culture for the generations to come. The first forms of writing is pictographs. This form uses pictures, which means that man just simply drew a picture of what he wanted to say. For example, if the dealer wanted to trade ten chickens for a cow, he would simply draw ten chickens and then a cow. As technology progressed, writing and language followed. Pictures became symbols, and symbols became letters.
Civilization depends on the three elements of cities, metal-working, and writing. Without these elements, civilization does not exist. This brings us to our first observation of man: the Paleolithic Stone Age. The stone ages is the time period before civilization. Man uses tools of stone. Paleolithic Stone Age means “old stone age”. during this time, man was know as hunter-gatherers. As hunger-gatherers, man was nomadic, which means they followed their food source. Man had no farm knowledge and paid no attention to climate or season change and how it affects the environment. Man also improvised shelters during this time. The shelters were mostly found in caves. Man also mastered the use of fire. With this use of fire, man also learned how to use the fire to harden wood for weapons and tools. In addition to wooden tools, man also used stone to make many objects. Standardization was developed as best it could be. Standardization is the making of tools according to a certain pattern. Man repeated the patterns that worked the best when making tools. In addition to technological advances, man also achieved physical skill. Man mastered the art of spear-throwing or shooting a bow and arrow. Man mostly used this for hunting, but other times in warfare. All of this technology helped man survive through the four Ice Ages of the Paleolithic Period.
After the Paleolithic Period comes the Mesolithic Stone Age, or “middle stone age”. This time period is considered to be a transitional period. The transition is from the final ice age to the settlement of man for cultivation. During this time, man began certain farming techniques which produced wheat and barley. Even though man began to use farming as a source of food, the majority of man remained hunger-gatherers. The culture and technology, other than the new farming techniques, ultimately remain the same with from the Paleolithic to the Mesolithic time periods. The middle stone age’s time period changes with each area of existence. This is because the polar ice cap is shrinking slowly. It is out of certain areas while remaining in others.
The Neolithic, or new, Stone Age emerges shortly after the Mesolithic time period. Man during this time is slowly getting away from savagery by increasing his reliance upon stock-keeping and farming. This new reliance in creased the population because it solved the problem of food shortage by taking man away from being hunter-gatherers. Temporary settlements were established for stock-keeping and cattle herding. The settlements remained temporary because man was still developing his farming skills so some nomadic measures were needed. However, after man perfected his farming techniques, he is able to establish permanent settlements. All of the permanent settlements occurred because of a reason. Some of these reasons are water, food, clothing, shelter, and defense from violence. These needs are the reason for the first settlements emerging in the two places known as the Tigris and Euphrates River Valley and the Nile River Valley. These two river valleys are perfect for supporting man because it has a huge water source that also produces food and defense. Another advantage of being near a river is trade. The fastest way to ship product in mass form is by water. This raised man’s awareness of his surroundings and helped the technology by observing other tribes and settlements around their own. With the population growing, more and more ideas appear. By using this spreading of ideas, the Neolithic man is able to begin to use copper tools by the end of the Neolithic age.
If writing is to be considered the difference between barbarianism and civilized man, then the first civilization is forms in Mesopotamia, also known as the Tigris and Euphrates River Valley. The Mesopotamian civilization is not one big empire. Instead, it is an accumulation of several city-states that are ruled by warrior kings. Each city-state has massive walls around the city to protect itself from outside invasion. The walls are made from a mud-brick formula. The farming was rather easy in Mesopotamia because of the fertile land. Man starts to learn to observe the environment around him. In example, farmers begin to observe the natural flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and develop their own irrigation system. The people of Mesopotamia also had buildings. Every city had a temple built in the middle. The temple was made from mud-brick also, and it was built to honor their various polytheistic gods. The use of copper is also being perfected during this time period. Some bronze is used later on, but copper is still utilized more because it is cheaper and easier to work with. All communication is either by boat or by foot. The civilizations use the rivers as much as possible when it comes to travel because of the speed and safety. Foreign invaders often come into the land of Mesopotamia and take over. Some, like the Akkadians, form a unified empire. Others, like the Babylonians, go back to independent city-states. Each time the land is conquered, a little bit of society and culture from each civilization is left and intermingled with the new power. The intelligence of man is growing and technology is increasing with it.
Very soon after civilization appeared in Mesopotamia, civilization also appeared in the Nile River Valley, also known as Egypt. The Egyptian society always appeared as a unified empire. Pharaoh is given absolute power. Egyptian cities were surrounded by defensive walls. Much like Mesopotamia, Egypt had very fertile land because of the Nile River. The Nile River Valley is considered to be the most fertile land in the known world, but the fertility stops at the borders of the river. Wealth in ancient Egypt is calculated by the amount of land that a person has. The more land a person owns, the wealthier he is. The growth of slavery also began in Egypt. In fact, the famous Egyptian pyramids made of granite, built for tombs for pharaoh, were built by slaves. Rather than kill his enemies, pharaoh would often take his enemies into captivity to use their labor.
More inventions used by man in this civilization were the wheeled-cart, later turned into the chariot, and sails. Large ships were created mostly for the imports and exports since Egypt was the leading export for grain in the world. Egyptian civilization became very rich off of their exports and the fruits of their labor are found in one of the most famous archaeological finds in history: the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. The bronze age of Egypt is believed to be at its peak at this time because of he many bronze fine arts and crafts found in the tomb. Workings of gold, silver, and ivory are also found in the tomb which tells us that the civilized man is progressing exceptionally.
Around the same time in history, both the Mesopotamian and the Egyptian civilization begin to die out, leaving scattered, independent states of civilizations. Shortly after this downfall of civilization, iron is discovered. Iron is tougher to melt, but, once it is formed, it is much stronger than any other metal at this time in history. This new invention spreads by the scattered settlers of the fallen civilizations. Once the proper techniques of making iron tools are mastered, the civilization of man picks up again with brand new technology. After the invention of iron, man also begins to make wider roads of stone. With these larger roads, armies can cross large amounts of land with ease. Traders can also use these roads to carry various goods from other civilization. Civilization is spread throughout the known world either by choice or by force. With civilization comes technology, which is a never-ending evolution.