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Alternate History

13,000 BC to 3000 BC (Blank Slate)

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The epoch from 13,000 BC to 3000 BC covers ten millenia of history that span the prehistory of mankind. This period covers the early development of mankind, and begins with modern man first leaving the African continent and spreading throughout the Old World.

After the early human migrations - from Africa to Europe, Asia, and Ocenia - this era also encompasses the agricultural revolution that occurred in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and India and the subsequent permanent settling of these regions.

Background

The first hominids, a group of primates that include modern day humans, began to diverge from their fellow primates around four million years ago. These early individuals were more ape than man and despite being able to walk upright preferred to climb through the trees of Africa. Around 2.5 million years ago, the first species of hominids to become dominant were the Homo habilis, which were able to create shelters and hunt small prey.

The next dominant species were Homo erectus, which walked more upright and spread out of Africa to the Middle East and Europe. Homo erectus could utilize fire, build larger shelters, use tools, and were adept hunters. Around 100,000 years ago, Homo sapiens evolved from Homo erectus in the heart of Africa. Another hominid species, the Neanderthals, also emerged at this time and settled in Europe.

Lascaux painting

Early Human Art (ca 18,000 BC) near Lascaux, France

While there were many similarities between Homo sapiens and the Neanderthals, the former had a better ability to communicate and operate socially. This lack would see the Neanderthals go extinct about 40,000 years ago. In contrast, the ability of Homo sapiens to adapt to new situations cognitively served them especially well during the Ice Age, which had begun in 100,000 BC and reached its peak by 16,000 BC. The Ice Age would continue until approximately 10,000 BC and was a defining feature during the human migration out of Africa.

Human Migration

One of the defining trends of the period from 13,000 BC to 3000 BC was the relative finalization of human migration. Hominids, such as Homo erectus, had left Africa as early as 1.75 million years ago, but it wasn't until about 70,000 BC when Homo sapiens, after having expanded throughout Africa by 150,000 BC, left their mother continent.

Early Distribution of Peoples

Africa

Khoisan in South Africa

Afroasiatic in North Africa

Asia

With the Amerindians recognizing the Bering region - the region they were located - as basically uninhabitable, they began to migrate southwards, towards Manchuria and Mongolia. At first, many of these migrants remained in the north, partially settling on the coast north of the Korean peninsula. As the migrations reached further south, several small groups broke off and settled in Northern Korea, those these where the minority. The remainder continued to migrate southwards, reaching the Yellow River by 9,000 BC, but not going much further south after that. Quickly, the Yellow River became the central area of Amerindian populations, but migration still continued, mostly towards the west.

Using the Yellow River as their approximate southern "border," the Amerindians continued to migrate west. Having already spread across Mongolia, they began to move across western China, beginning to dominate the region. As the Amerindians spread, they became increasingly well dispersed across east Asia, though the Yellow River was still their most populated region.

Dravidians in India

Han on the Yangtze

Amerindians in Siberia/Mongolia

Altaic in Persia

Europe

Indo-Europeans in Russia

Oceania

Austronesian throughout

  • Melanesian
  • Polynesian
  • Micronesian

Agricultural Revolution

As humans began to spread across the globe, their primary method of survival was the hunter-gatherer - using primitive tools and weapons to chase and hunt prey through their habitat as one source of food, as well as foraging for berries and fruits as another. These methods lasted up until roughly the 12th millennium BC. At this point, certain populations (most notably in Mesopotamia and around the Yellow River), began to frequent certain foraging areas, noticing that these plants were particularly fruitful, and they protected and primitively cultivated these groves. This was the birth of agriculture.

As more and more early tribes adopted this method, some began to notice that seeds scattered on the ground would soon grow into new plants, ripe for consumption. By 10,000 BC populations across the globe had learned how to properly cultivate crops, mainly cereals. Wheat and barley were the dominant crop in Mesopotamia, with rice being more common in the Far East. 

As this revolution spread, more the old ways of the hunter-gatherer were being cast aside for the more settled life of farming. Cattle of goats and aurochs began to be kept, and small permanent settlements of people grew across Asia. 

In Mesopotamia, the growth of sustainable farming coupled with the relative accessibility of the mighty Euphrates and Tigris rivers led to inception of an important tool to early farmers - irrigation. Primitive canals were built in a spidering network out from the rivers across the broad plains, providing life and supplement to the vast barley fields of the region, helping this area develop into one of the most populous areas of the ancient world. As one could expect, such an extensive system of canals needed constant maintenance to keep back the strong river waters. Because of the growing scale of the constructions, the size of the permanent workforce required to maintain the waterways was large. These were the largest settlements in the world, reaching populations upward of several thousand. These were the first cities.

Footnotes

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