We have gathered together the questions you ask about prehistory and teaching it in schools – and tried to answer them!
What were the significant events from the period?Submitted by Michael Tidd of primarycurriculum.me.uk.
When did humans first use fire?Submitted by @PeterGarbutt
Significant events of the period of the Stone Age to the Iron Age, including controlling fire, are numerous because it spans 2.5 million years of human history. Some main ones are:
- Evolution of early humans in East Africa c. 2.5 million years ago
- Possible use of fire by early humans c. 1.5 million years ago
- Spread of early humans around the globe c. 1.5 million years ago
- Humans manage fires – about 400,000 years ago in Britain
- Evolution of modern humans in East Africa c. 200,000-150,000 years ago
- Spread of modern humans around the globe from c. 60,000 years ago
- Arrival of modern humans in Europe about 45,000 years ago
- Neanderthals die out about 26,000 years ago
- Final retreat of the ice sheets c. 12,000 years ago
- Development of farming in the Near East about 12,000 years ago
- Ireland’s land bridge with Britain cut off about 7500 BC
- Britain’s land bridge with the continent finally cut off about 6000 BC
- Farming adopted in Britain about 4000 BC
- Wheels invented c. 3500 BC in the Near East or Central Europe
- Bronze developed in the Near East in about 3300 BC
- Bronze working adopted in Britain about 2300 BC
- Iron developed in the Hittite Empire (Turkey/Syria area) about 1500 BC, spread after empire collapsed c. 1200 BC
- Earliest wheel found in Britain at Flag Fen in Cambridgeshire dates to c. 1300 BC
- Iron adopted in Britain from about 700 BC
- First Roman invasion in 55 BC
- Second Roman invasion in AD 43 – usually used as the end of prehistory in Britain
Were the technical developments in prehistoric times the most important in human history?Submitted by Haslemere Museum.
Since the run through of significant events is mainly a technological one, this seems to be a good question to follow. Arguably the main technical development of prehistoric times was the control of fire, which helped humans eat more calories leading to increased brain size, and eventually to the development of pottery and metalwork. The first control of fire was achieved way before our species even evolved.
The second most important development was the invention of agriculture. It led to a more settled way of living, an increase in diseases by living in close proximity to domesticated animals, and the production of surplus which freed up some individuals from working on the land who could then become metalworkers etc… Ultimately it also led to the industrial revolution and climate change – and who knows what in the future.
Were these the most important technical developments in human history? That’s a matter of opinion, but none of the subsequent technical developments would have been possible without them.
What’s the difference between ‘early humans’ and ‘modern humans’?Submitted by @Tocs1n. On this blog and in our written resources we use the term early human to mean any earlier species of human and modern human to mean Homo sapiens i.e. us.
Other terms are used elsewhere. You may come across hominid and hominin. Hominids are all members of the great apes, whether existing or extinct. This includes chimps, us, Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Australopithecus afarensis etc… Hominin refers specifically to modern humans, extinct human species and our ancestral species, excluding the other great apes.
Sometimes modern humans are referred to as anatomically modern humans, or AMH, or anatomically modern Homo sapiens, AMHS, to distinguish them from earlier species, often called archaic humans.
Where can I find out about
Inspired by Giles Carey of gilescarey.co.uk.
Stone Age to Iron Age sites close to me?
Giles has been asked by many teachers local to where he works about whether there are any sites to visit in their local area in Warwickshire rather than having to trek all the way to Stonehenge. We have also had enquiries from teachers wanting local prehistory to inspire their pupils.
There’s one answer to that – contact your local Historic Environment Record Officer (HERO for short!) in your local authority. There’s more about how to do so in this blog post.
Ask your questions in the comments below!