The book of Genesis in the Old Testament states: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” – and modern Christians believe this is true. Just how God accomplished creation has been debated for centuries. Most modern scientists believe the beginning of the universe and the earth is best explained by the “Big Bang” theory. Scientific evidence gathered from excavations all over the world disclose thousands (if not millions) of fossilized skeletons whose ages can be accurately established using a number of proven radiometric dating methods. Brain size developments over the last few million years show a pattern of progressive brain enlargements leading up to modern man. We know from detailed field excavations and scientific studies that man evolved slowly over several million years from up-right, bi-pedal hominids into homo-sapiens – modern man. At some point, in the development of humans, God chose to breathe his Holy Spirit into his developing creatures and they became fully human. To be fully human one must have the presence and intelligence to recognize a conscience, to exercise free will and to know the difference between right and wrong. The Hebrews call this the “Neshama” – the soul of man. Biblically, this first event by humans is represented by the story of the symbolic couple – Adam and Eve.
The time frame for this momentous event is uncertain. Scientific scholars report “homo-sapiens” entering Eurasia around 150,000BC. Some of them – like the Neanderthals were not fully developed as humans but they survived the frigid Eurasian climates for over 100,000 years and eventually became extinct. The first fully human species – the Cro-Magnons – appeared about 50,000BC and lived to become our ancestors. We know that the first generations of homo-sapiens migrated out of Africa – north into the middle east, India and the far East. They were still hunter/gatherers – nomads searching for a better climate, more edible plants and herds of moving animals. The beginning of our civilization starts in the middle East (Iraq and Iran) in the “Fertile Crescent” – from the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers westward and then south along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Why did it happen here? Why not in the Americas, in India or the Far East? It is a mystery to be solved.
The key factors supporting the transition from a hunter/gatherer to an agricultural society was first, domestification of wild cereal grains into gardens and later, the domestication of herds of wild animals. The first crops were: emma wheat, econ wheat, barley, peas, chickpeas, bittervinch and flax. The deep rich soils of the”Fertile Crescent” and seasonal rainfall produced an abundance of wild plants for domestication. The Biblical story of the “Garden of Eden” symbolically describes the natural richness and variety of wild plants in this area.
The first domesticated wild animals were: goats, sheep, pigs, cows and horses that thrived well on the flourishing plant life.
The last significant Ice Age (Younger Dryas) in the middle East terminated about 10,000BC. From that point forward humans occupied the Fertile Crescent and began the long transition from a hunter/gatherer society to an agricultural based society where bands of humans began to produce their own crops and herd their own animals. By 6000BC peoples in this area were completely dependent on raising their own food and domesticating herds of animals. Populations exploded as bands grew to chiefdoms to villages to towns and later into cities.
But why had not the earlier homo-sapiens in Africa start and produce this transition? There are three basic reasons: first the extreme temperatures over most of Africa prohibited the growth of many edible crops. Second, there were few , if any, domesticable animals in south Africa. Zebras, Lions and Rhinos could not be domesticated. Third, there were wide gaps in water supplies across the African continent with over one third of the land as a desert. It took a major effort for mankind to find their way north out of south Africa into the more livable lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
So what were the advantages of settling in one location, farming and herding ones own animals? As agricultural production increased, more foods could be produced that could be sold to others – for the first time in history. This allowed a portion of the population to devote time improving living conditions, harnessing water, arts and crafts and developing special talents in medicine, law and military capability. Organized armies not only provided security for their populations but could exploit other surrounding areas and foreign populations. In 3000BC the first wheels were invented (discovered), horse and oxen drawn plows multiplied food production and the world changed as never before into a modern society.
The Bronze and Iron Age arose in the Middle East about 1200BC producing metal weapons and farming tools far superior to those anywhere else. Specialists in mining of metallic ores, timber and precious stones brought additional wealth and capabilities to these innovative peoples.
As populations in southwest Asia grew, the natural expansion of growth moved east and west along the latitudinal axis. To the East successful civilizations flourished in China but great distances retarded any technological exchange with the Fertile Crescent until much later. Most of the mideastern civilization moved westward following fertile lands and moderate temperatures that supported crops and abundant wildlife.
Transfers in information and technology along longitudinal axis in every continent proved most difficult because of mountain ranges, oceans and seas, deserts and extreme temperature changes. Civilizations in the Americas flourished in individual areas but little progress was made in exchanging technology north and south because of these and other geographical configurations. Islands in the Pacific lived primitively in isolation for thousands of years before being exposed to civilizations’ advancements.
As populated areas grew, exposure to various diseases reached epidemic proportions and in some areas 70 percent of a population were eliminated by such killers as tuberculosis, cholera and influenza. Over time such Eurasian diseases as: syphilis, gonorrhea and cholera reached remote places like Hawaii from rats and fleas transported by merchant ships. As a result of Columbus travels, major populations of Native Americans were wiped out by Eurasian diseases. Later, the Aids virus originally found in monkeys in Africa was transported all over the world. And so, the building of modern cities brought power and wealth along with disease and death. In general, power and sophisticated technology shifted westward into Europe and later the Americas.
Modern societies in the Middle East created our alphabet and numbering systems and each geographic expansion brought new languages, beautiful art, music and paintings of enormous value. The establishment of formal religions, governments and powerful armies followed. Competition between nations and economies brought on industrialization, civil and world wars, suffering and domination of the weak by the strong. These same cultural characteristics thrive today.
In conclusion, one may ask: did our developing civilization follow a path carved out by people of a superior intelligence, or was it just blind luck? Was there some guiding hand that brought hunter/gatherers from tropical Africa to areas of moderate climates and plentiful rainfalls, planted an abundance of seeds for food and placed domesticable animals on this earth in special places? Your scientific knowledge coupled with your religious beliefs should help answer this question.
- A long anthropological debate may be on the cusp of resolution (io9.com)
- History of Human beings: Homo sapiens in Africa (egrejeen.wordpress.com)