A course I recently took a class that an Australian professor required us to use Pinterest boards to show a time line of the technological advancements of the human race starting with the use of stone tools all the way through to the present day. It was a creative way for the Professor to engage us art students. After you read this post you too should try posting a Pinterest board showing the timeline described below! I dare you.
Let’s talk about the history of technology for just a moment. For a large part of mankind’s existence his use of tools remained pretty much static. But about 50,000 years ago, we developed a complex set of behaviors and began using tools much more regularly. Many scientists associate this with the development of language as we now know it. Many of the early tools found and studied were made from stone that used for simple cutting or chopping. They were often just a chiseled stone our early ancestors would hold in one hand. The discovery and use of fire was a huge turning point in the technological advance of human kind. Many scholar’s believe that we had control over fire between 500,000 – 400,000 years ago. They gleaned this information from burnt animal bones found from eons ago. Fire allowed people to cook their food. This increased the digestibility and nutrient value of the food that they ate. It also allowed them to broaden the range of foods they could eat.
Other key technological advances for mankind were the use of clothing and the building of shelter. Neither can be dated exactly, but by 380,000 BC humans were constructing temporary wood huts and clothing allowed man to leave Africa and move into colder environments. Mankind spread into other continents and eventually across the globe. Mans’ technological ascent began in the Neolithic period. This is often known as the new stone age because new polished stone axes allowed for large forest clearings and the onset of agriculture which allowed for the feeding of much larger populations. This change of life allowed for more children to be raised by a family who in turn could help to raise more crops. The increase in population led to new towns and eventually to the forming of cities. New environmental challenges arose, such as the need for dikes or reservoirs, as the human race expanded.
Eventually, we see the creation of metal tools, a major step forward, allowed by the creation of the furnace and bellows. This allowed for smelting and forging of gold, silver, lead and copper. The improvements were easy to see even for early humans. Eventually, working with these metals would lead to the discovery of much stronger and harder alloys such as bronze or brass.