Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Now that I have discussed each of the major divisions of knowledge as I have organized them, it's time to go into a little more depth. Once again, these are suggestions: a different style of organizing may work for you.

Since history is continuous and doesn't fall into neat periods, especially when different kinds of events are being considered, almost any dividing line between historical periods can be justified from one point of view or anothers. Rather than trying to find "natural" dividing points, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I tend to arbitrarily divide up historical periods with boundaries at round numbers of calendar years. I use three divisions for Prehistory.
1) More than 15,000 before present
2) 15,000 to 10,000 before present. 10,000 Before present = 8000 BC.
3) 8000 BC to 3000 BC

The first of these corresponds very roughly to the Lower and middle Paleolithic stone age. The second corresponds roughly to the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic stone age, and the final corresponds roughly to the end of the ice ages and the beginnings of agriculture and civilization. Dates are for the most part uncertain in this period.

More than any other, this period overlaps with natural and biological history. Few if any individuals can be precisely identified from this period. This period includes the origin of humankind and the peopling of the earth. It is the domain of prehistoric archaeologists and anthropologists rather than historians proper, because what written records there are few and fragmentary and nonexistent for the earlier parts of prehistory. Rather, events and processes must be reconstructed from fossils and physical remains, and there are few of them compared to the abundant records of later years. It is difficult to identify any of these cultural remains with modern social institutions, although they probably did exist in rudimentary form. However, the details tend to be more speculative and controversial than well-established. What exist are archeological sites corresponding to communities, and these apparently tended to be small and short-lived. Later periods of history are useful primarily for the history of archaeology and anthropology, although it may be possible to work back into prehistory from the study of antiquity.

Because of the remoteness of this period from current concerns and the comparative difficulty of gaining enough expertise to be useful, I do not expect to be pursuing detailed studies of prehistory in depth in the near future. Like many other subjects, I include this subject for reference, because I may want to come back to it eventually.

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