Roberta’s Timelines: Prehistory – NEW FEATURE

I’d like to introduce a new feature into my blog today, dear friends, which I’ve been working on for many years: my Timelines, a summary of the history of mankind from the first cave men right up to the 21st century, considering various aspects of life such as politics, society, music, arts, literature, fashion, sports and food; easy to understand, informative – and I hope also entertaining. The early parts are going to be a bit thinned out, of course – for a long time, nothing new happened in people’s lives for hundreds or even thousands of years – but later on we’ll be able to look at each year separately and in more and more detail. I’ve added lots of pictures of the most outstanding features from each era, too, so that history will really come alive for you, dear friends! (Disclaimer: I do not own the photos that will be featuring in Roberta’s Timelines.)

So, let’s go way back into time, right back to the beginnings – when our ancestors first climbed down from the trees and started on the long road of development to what we are now…

Part 1: Prehistory

9 million BCE     

society: the Oreopithecus in Italy moves down from the trees and out of the jungle and begins a different development from the other ape species

food: vegetarian diet: fruits, leaves, flowers

7 million BCE

society: Sahelanthropus in Chad is probably capable of walking on two legs for a short while

5.5 million BCE 

society: appearance of Australopithecus in South Africa, he lives on rocks and in caves in small groups and already walks on his hind legs

4 million BCE

society: Australopithecus has already spread all over East Africa and keeps evolving: he walks more upright and his brain is becoming bigger

3.2 million BCE

society: Australopithecus afarensis lives in Ethiopia (the famous ‘Lucy’!): height about 3’7”, still bears some resemblance to a chimpanzee

3 million BCE

society: Homo habilis makes his appearance in South and East Africa: he lives in hordes in tents and huts and starts using tools (stones, bones, wood); meanwhile, Australopithecus has spread as far as China; there isn’t any language yet, only inarticulate sounds

2.5 million BCE

society: the Homo habilis in East Africa makes stone tools himself for the first time, pebble culture (stones that have got the right shape and need only little working on) – beginning of the Lower Palaeolithic! the cradle of the new era is the Olduvai gorge in Tanzania

fashion: because his body hair is decreasing, Homo habilis protects himself from the cold by wrapping up in animal skins in cold weather

food: Homo habilis begins to eat meat

1.9 million BCE

society: Homo erectus (also known as Pithecanthropus) appears in Africa, works hand-axes and other tools and makes bowls for water and fruit out of shells and big bones; he begins hunting for bigger animals, spreads over all of Eurasia and learns to use fire he encounters by chance; there still are only simple sounds for communication, but hordes are formed and the hunt is being done by all males together; males are 25% taller than females! a big danger besides the wild animals are the constant volcano eruptions, but they also help in getting fire

food: Homo erectus is now able to roast food to make it more digestible

1,7 million BCE

society: Acheulean technology: oval and pear-shaped general purpose hand-axes, which resemble each other all over the populated world!

700,000 BCE

society: the Australopithecus becomes extinct (probably defeated by Homo erectus); Homo erectus in China and Africa controls fire for the first time – warmth, roasting of meat, scaring away of wild animals! In India and South East Asia the Palaeolithic starts as well

600,000 BCE

society: the first glacial period starts for mankind, the whole of Northern Europe, Northern Asia and North America becomes uninhabitable, people move to warmer areas; simultaneously, the Palaeolithic and the control of fire begins in Europe as well

540,000 BCE      

society: the Earth warms up again, animals who love warmth return to Europe: rhinos, elephants, buffalos, boars, wild horses! there are also many predators: bears, wolves, and now even lions!

500,000 BCE      

politics: for the first time there are fights between hordes over the hunting grounds

society: emergence of Homo sapiens (a further development of Homo erectus):  communication with more differentiated sounds, life in small hordes in caves, new hunting methods (bears are being stoned from the rocks above, ibexes are being chased up ledges until they fall down, even rhinos and elephants are caught in covered pits), sub-species Neanderthal and Steinheimensis evolve in Africa, Europe and Asia; Mousterian culture: industrial production of flintstones, for the first time the dead are being buried, construction of simple huts out of wood and skin with fireplaces in some areas; when the hunting grounds are exhausted, the whole horde moves on; body hair is still rather thick, height about 5’3” (males) / 5’1” (females), maximum life expectancy 40-50 for males, for females on average 30 (childbirth!)

fashion: clothes made out of animal skins sewn together with needles

480,000 BCE

society: second glacial period, the most extreme one of them all; the ice sheet reaches the area of London and changes the course of the Thames! now, new animals who love cold come from the north into Central Europe: mammoth, reindeer, ibex, fox

430,000 BCE

society: new warm period, warmer than today, the sea level is more than 10 yards higher; the British Isles (connected to the mainland then) are already inhabited; in Europe there are elephants, rhinos, boars and wild horses again!

350,000 BCE

society: another glacial period, the ice sheet reaches Central Europe and China; the original elephant and the original rhino become extinct, in Europe there is now the woolly rhinoceros, the mammoth and the deer for hunting; the most dangerous animals are lions, hyenas and bears!

300,000 BCE      

society: Middle Palaeolithic starts: hunting and fishing are perfected, religious rites, burial sites, artistic expression, long distance trade, egalitarian groups with common property

arts: artefacts in human shape, rock paintings

fashion: first jewellery items made of stone and bones

130,000 BCE      

society: warm period, there are forests even up in Norway and Finland, and rhinos bathing in the Thames and the Rhine! Neanderthal starts ‘conquering’ the mountains as soon as the ice subsides in the Alps, and develops a bear cult there; long distance travel for rare goods like ochre begins

100,000 BCE      

society: the fourth glacial period starts, again there are changes in lifestyle, Homo sapiens lives in caves during the winter and in camps with tents during the summer hunting season; the Levallois technique develops (knapped hand-axes and other stone tools), and also a nature based religion (developed from the fear of natural phenomena like thunderstorms or volcano eruptions); there are forests only in Southern Europe, North Africa and the Near East, Europe is composed of steppe, most of Asia and Africa of desert; the sea level sinks to today’s level

70,000 BCE         

society: Toba Catastrophe: a huge volcano eruption on Sumatra leads to a global volcanic winter that lasts 10 years! mankind nearly becomes extinct, only a few thousand survive in Africa and Southern Europe

60,000 BCE         

music: Homo sapiens’s speech organs are now the same as modern man’s, which means that he can not only speak but also sing; he also uses stones for creating rhythm, and probably dances as well

50,000 BCE

society: beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic: the surviving proto-humans in Africa evolve into Homo sapiens sapiens by producing various small tools for different purposes, better weapons (spear, bow and arrow!) and fishing rods, which in turn leads to a population explosion and a migration wave into Europe, where the last Neanderthal still live in the old way; first settlement of Australia

45,000 BCE         

politics: there are constant fights between the new Homo sapiens sapiens and the old Homo sapiens who are being driven off to Spain; there is already a kind of social structure (clans) and division of labour, and the organisation is matriarchal!

society: the even smarter Cro-Magnon man evolves from Homo sapiens sapiens; the ‘modern’ man lives in huts made of wood and skin and in caves with wooden separations and protective roofs against the wind and snow and constant fireplaces; there are graves with burial objects like jewellery, tools and even meat, there are cults and religions, shamans and chieftains; males and females mate arbitrarily, they don’t seem to know the connection yet between sex and babies; body hair is much sparser now, and they reach a stately height (about 6’ in males)

fashion: warm skins sewn together protect against the cold; jewellery is worn and also put into graves

43,000 BCE         

society: Aurignacian culture in Europe: various tools not only for hunting, but also for arts; fertility cult (babies are associated only with the woman, not the man!), pits with wooden separations and roofs and a fireplace in every room; the location for the summer camps is being chosen carefully: on sunny southern slopes, close to some stretch of water where the wild animals come to drink; there are magicians and shamans with masks and rites where little figurines of animals and humans are being burned

music: first signs of musical instruments: flutes made of bones (Germany), and animal skin drums! (they are probably used mostly for religious rites)

arts: cave paintings (Aurignac), fat female figurines (‘Venuses’) and animals made out of stone and burnt clay

fashion: jewellery made of bones and shells, hair adornment and adorned clothes, and even body paintings in various colours

40,000 BCE                         

society: the British Isles are being settled again (but those settlers, too, become extinct or move away again)

arts: “Löwenmensch” ivory sculpture, one of the oldest animal statuettes, is made in Germany

30,000 BCE                         

society: first rock paintings in Australia, also depicting the first boomerangs!

arts: Venus of Willendorf is made in Austria: female beauty ideal of the time!


society: Gravettian culture, starting out from Bulgaria/Rumania: very effective spearheads for hunting reindeer and mammoths, nets for smaller prey

arts: many Venus figurines!

fashion: very warm clothes against the bitter cold in the mountains

24,000 BCE         

society: Solutrean culture with France as centre: new, very light and very sharp spearheads and arrows!

arts: surprisingly modern reliefs in stone (Roc-de-Sers)

fashion: first appearance of textiles; basket hats and belts are also worn

20,000 BCE

politics: the last Neanderthals are being killed off in Southern Spain


society: Magdalenian culture in Europe and North Africa: tools made of bones (due to the cold climate there are reindeer everywhere), evidence of cannibalism

arts: many cave paintings with depictions of animals and humans (Lascaux, Altamira)

sports: as shown in the Lascaux paintings, people already engage in running and wrestling

15,000 BCE                         

society: via the Bering Sea, America is being settled for the first time

13,000 BCE                         

society: the Ice Age is on the wane, a huge flood of melted ice greatly reduces the population, but afterwards there is a population explosion, since the survivors soon find new methods of hunting (mostly with bow and arrow by now) and fishing; now they can migrate to the northern areas again which had been uninhabitable for ages (like the British Isles, which are still connected to Europe by a land bridge)

food: meat and fish are being smoked for the first time for preservation

11,000 BCE         

society: first culture in North America: Clovis culture, bone and ivory tools, very sharp projectiles

10,000 BCE

politics: division of labour in villages, chieftains rule the clans with more and more power; people build their own huts, and the old principle of common property starts to vanish

society: cattle breeding starts in Mesopotamia and soon spreads to other areas: beginning of the Mesolithic! groups become bigger, whole villages are built with huts of wood and skin and straw, in the Near East there are already houses with stone foundations; hunting, fishing, cattle breeding, building; very small stone tools (microliths), usually made out of flintstone, allow more and more differentiated work; as soon as man settles down in one place, monogamy starts: the men know by now what role they play in reproduction!  the races of Modern Man start evolving: Negroid, Mongoloid, Caucasian, Australoid

sports: the Cave of Swimmers in Wadi Sura, Egypt, shows swimming and archery events

8,000 BCE

politics: the land is now owned by the families who cultivate it; rich and powerful people already have to protect themselves from the proletariat with walls and fences; tribes have leaders and councils, priests have high social standing

society: the change in climate after the end of the Ice Age leads to the beginnings of agriculture (main tools digging stick and sickle, crops wheat, barley, lentils, flax, in China rice): Neolithic Revolution! Man settles down for good now in many regions, monogamy leads to a patriarchal society; villages turn into towns and, in the Fertile Crescent, even into the first cities with stone buildings and a population of several thousand (Abu Hureyra), and the mightiest of the chieftains turn into kings; stone receptacles play a very important role for storing food and liquids, grinding stones grind the grain, trade between towns and even different cultures is done mostly over the waterways with canoes, and in the North with sledges; while there is immense progress and prosperity in the Near East, there is hunger in Europe, though, because many of the wild animals migrate to the North! the different human races of modern man are fully developed by now

Next time: Protohistory

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