The Neolithic Revolution – 10,000 BC > 2,000 BC
Name a revolution in human history. What’s the first one that comes to mind? The French? The American? The Russian Communist? The Chinese Communist? How about the Renaissance or the Reformation? The Industrial or the Scientific? Sure, they were all fairly important turning points in human history, but if you’re looking for the #1, without a doubt, species-changing, grand-daddy-of-them-all revolution, you need look no further than the Neolithic Revolution.
The Neolithic Revolution? Yep, the age when food finders became food makers. In the centuries after 10,000 BC, as the ice started to melt and the rivers started to flow, across Europe, Africa and Asia, humans independently started making the one choice that would completely transform how they governed themselves, how they interacted and how they worshipped.
They started to farm.
You can’t underestimate the impact of this shift from a nomadic lifestyle to an agricultural one. Once we established permanent roots and began pumping out our own food, we could turn our minds towards a host of different activities. We were no longer just surviving. For the first time, we could see what our minds could actually accomplish. We started building, inventing and philosophizing. We created governments, militaries and religions. We turned our evolution into hyperdrive. Nothing would ever be the same.
But why were humans able to make this shift? On this question, scientists and historians can’t seem to agree. Some say the climate was getting drier. Others say it was getting wetter. Others claim the megafauna started to die out, so we camped out near rivers and watering holes hoping to hook a fish or spear a thirsty animal. Others even believe that as our religious rituals began demanding more and more sacrifices, we just ran out of food. Regardless of the reasons – and they might all be a little bit true – around 4500 BC humans settled down around major fresh water sources and the civilizing magic began.
For two centuries, historians all pretty much agreed that the first civilizations emerged along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), the Indus River in India, the Nile River in Egypt and the Yellow River of northwest China. At least, that’s what your sixth grade history book taught you and that’s what any archaeologist worth his salt would have confirmed.
But in the 1990s, historians from Eastern Europe gathered in New York and dropped a bomb on the intellectual community. They claimed that for decades they’d been unearthing civilizations in Romania that predate those of Mesopotamia by almost a thousand years. They had known and written about these Danube River civilizations since before World War II, but no one seemed to care. Whether it was because the articles were written in Russian or because during the Cold War Era any claim made on the other side of the Iron Curtain was seen as a huge...