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Current time:0:00Total duration:5:11

Video transcript

[Music] where does history began well history begins with writing that's how we use the term prehistoric before writing but of course we're not satisfied with only knowing literate cultures we want to push back further and understand the cultures that are pre literate but in order to invent writing you have to have a society you have to have some stability and we find that at the end of the Neolithic period the Neolithic period begins around 10,000 BCE when we have human beings who can settle down because they've figured out how to domesticate animals they figured out how to farm how to raise crops and that brings some stability they don't have to live a hunter-gatherer existence anymore this is known as the Neolithic Revolution and it really was a revolution it completely changed human beings way of relating to nature we could for the first time control nature to some degree this takes place after the end of the last ice age and it may have to do with the environment becoming more hospitable but we see this Neolithic Revolution in areas all over the world that were disassociated from each other at some time around 3000 many of those cultures also developed writing and writing is seen as one of the hallmarks of civilization and we see the development of what we recognize the civilization that is early cities farming techniques writing developing in the great river valleys around the world most famously in Egypt in Mesopotamia in the Indus Valley and in China and there are several areas in China had sophisticated Neolithic culture one in particular this called a yang tube this culture developed around what is today Shanghai and Yangtze River right at the Delta of the Yangtze just like Egypt developed right around the Delta of the Nile and ancient Mesopotamia developed between the Tigris and Euphrates River it made sense this were places where you could irrigate crops and in fact the behind you people seemed to have become expert rice growers and were able to create a surplus which allowed them not to worry about eating not to worry about feeding themselves it allowed at least certain elements of society to begin to develop in more sophisticated ways thank you culture was especially known for producing beautiful Jade objects specifically something that we called some square hollow tubes that are decorated with lines and sometimes circles that represent faces some of them are short and some of them seem to be stacks that are quite tall and we're looking actually at several examples here at the British Museum these were found in graves sometimes there were many a song in graves there were also objects called B these are round discs also with holes in the centre we have no idea what any of this means this is a culture where we have found no traces of writing it's possible that they were pre literate or it's possible that they wrote on a material that didn't survive but the result is all of the ideas that surround these objects are theories because they clearly represent faces whether they're monster faces or animal faces or human faces these clearly meant something and there's a great degree of regularity and specificity now this Jade is true Jade or nephrite and it is extremely hard and this culture did not have tools that were harder than this nephrite that is they couldn't carve it you can't incise into it you can't take a knife and cut into it it's just too far you can't even really scratch it so when you look at these objects that are so precise it's almost impossible to imagine that they were produced by rubbing sand some of the lines are very very fine and run parallel to each other it's important to think about the care with which these objects are made they are clearly symbols there's a uniformity there's an intention ality there's a clarity and there's tremendous effort though we don't speak this language we recognize it as the product of a human mind a human mind that was trying to say something about power perhaps about our relationship to nature about the spiritual world about what happens after death the kinds of questions that human beings ask all the time still there verticality the repetition of these parallel lines is hard not to think about these in relationship to issues of power some scholars have suggested that the rectilinear quality of that sung is a symbol for earth that the round interior is a symbol of the heavens of the sky of the Sun these are symbols that develop later in China and it's very seductive to link this Neolithic culture with later Bronze Age cultures to read that definition back into time it's definitely tempting it is possible that this is the origin of those symbols but we can't really know [Music]