Saylor.org's Ancient Civilizations of the World/Neolithic Revolution and the Birth of Civilization

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Civilizations are societies that rely on sedentary agriculture, develop social stratification and economic specialization, and create populations that are sufficient to support urban life. However, such civilizations have only existed for the last 9,000 years—a tiny fraction of the time that the human species has inhabited the earth.

In this unit, we will begin by defining what civilization means and by understanding the early stages of civilization that emerged during the Paleolithic Era (2.5 million years ago). Secondly, we will examine the transition from hunter-gatherer groups to sedentary agricultural communities during the Neolithic Age—one of the first great transformations of human society.

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