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The first humans arose several million years ago, the first homo sapiens 250,000 years ago
The first humanoids evolved in central Africa several million years ago.
However, humans as we know them (Homo Sapiens) only appeared around 250,000 years ago. More
Archaeology can provide many clues about the distant past
Archaeology can provide us with clues about our ancestors and how they lived.
Understanding how our ancestors lived so many years ago - the tools they used and the food they ate - is a real challenge. However, there are many clues from discarded or buried remains. More
Early humans picked food from their surroundings
The earliest humanoids ate raw foods picked from their surroundings.
The diet would have been much the same as their ape ancestors – leaves, nuts, berries and, perhaps, small animals. More
Humans made a huge leap forward when they learned to use fire
Two inventions about 1.5 million years ago saw a huge leap forward.
The first was the ability to control and use fire (at first natural fires), the second was the ability to make tools. More
Fire allowed people to cook food and therefore eat a wider range of plants and animals
Fire allowed people to cook their food.
This made it possible to eat a much larger range of plants and animals, including many too tough to be eaten raw. More
Stone tools allowed larger prey to be hunted
The making of stone tools allowed larger prey to be hunted and prepared.
These tools, usually axes, were of a huge range of designs, allowing early man to hunt and prepare food for cooking. More
Tools and fire allowed humans to survive in colder climates
The use of tools and fire, to keep warm, allowed humans to venture into colder climates.
By this stage, humans were hunter-gatherers, living in small groups as they foraged and hunted for food. This period is called the Paleolithic, or 'Old Stone Age'. More
Humans learnt to make finely crafted tools from bone and wood
During this period, better crafted tools were developed.
As new knowledge and skills developed, this led to the development of bows and arrows, better stone tools (knives and spears) and needles and threads. By hunting in groups, Paleolithic man could tackle even the largest of animals, such as mammoths and giant rhinoceroses. More
About 10,000 years ago, the first settled communities started to develop
Around 10,000 years ago people began to settle in small communities.
This new development in human pre-history started in the area that is now the Middle East. People began to settle in small communities, and to farm. More
The move to more settled communities may have been due to climate change
The change to a settled way of life may have been caused by climatic changes.
Scientists think that the trigger for the change to a farming lifestyle may have been the shrinking of the ice sheets, as the last ice age retreated and the land became drier in some places. More
As the land got drier, new types of grasses started to thrive
In the Middle East, as the land got drier, new grasses started to thrive.
People were left with the choice of moving north (which many did), or living in an environment where there were less plants and animals. Luckily there was a family of plants which thrived in these conditions - the grasses, amongst which were the wild ancestors of wheat, barley and other cereals crops. More
The grinding of wheat encouraged people to settle in one place
In the right areas, enough wild wheat could be harvested in a few weeks to last the entire year.
However, the outer skin of wild wheat is very tough - hence the need for grinding stones to get at the seeds inside. Grinding stones are heavy objects, and so their use would have encouraged previously nomadic groups to settle in one location. More
New, more nutritious grains were developed
New varieties of grain began to appear, more nutritious and better suited to eating.
This shows that people were selecting the best grasses for replanting, encouraging the appearance of strains which were easy to harvest and more nutritious. More
The New Stone Age, when people settled down, began around 10,000 years ago
The period when people settled down is known as the Neolithic or 'New Stone Age'.
The presence of new varieties – the first domesticated grains - have been found in the remains of settlements from around 8000 BC, and is a sure sign that the people were farmers. More
After people began to settle they started to domesticate animals
A little later, the domestication of animals also began.
This may well have been because the people needed suitable animals near their settlements, rather than having to follow the wandering herds to hunt them, which was now difficult for them to do, as they lived in one place rather than in nomadic encampments. More
Farming spread at the rate of about one mile per year
Farming soon spread to other areas.
Although the earliest farming has been traced to the Middle East, it was not long after this that traces of farming can be found in South East Asia. This farming is based on a different staple – rice as opposed to wheat and barley; rice has a higher nutritional value. More
Farming changed almost every aspect of people's lives
Farming altered every aspect of life for our ancestors.
Better farming methods led to the production of enough crops to support larger populations. People were able to live in ever-larger settlements. More
Around 4000-3000 BC, people learned to use metal to make tools
The use of metal tools saw a new phase in human culture.
This new phase took place around 4000-3000 BC, as people learned to use copper and then other metal tools (at first alongside stone ones). More
The first cities developed about 3500 BC
The first cities developed in the Middle East and Indus Valley about 3500 BC.
By about 3500 BC, writing had also evolved and trade networks were starting to develop for the exchange of goods. The trappings of civilization  (“civilization” means, literally, the city-based way of life) had arrived. More
By around 4500 BC people were living in small settlements in Britain
It was several thousand years before cities and writing developed in Britain.
This is not to say that the people of “prehistoric” Britain were primitive hunter-gatherers. By the time cities were appearing in the Middle East, the people of Britain were farmers living in small settlements. More
Metal tools were being made in Britain by 2500 BC
An influx of migrants, around 2500 BC, saw the first use of metal in Britain.
The migrants are known as the Beaker people (named after the shape of their pottery). They were farmers, archers and metalsmiths. They worked first in copper and gold and, later, from around 2100BC, in bronze. More
The Iron Age saw advanced communities developing in Britain
From about 500 BC, the Celts brought advanced techniques in metal-working to Britain.
They used iron, to make weapons and jewellery as fine as anywhere in the world (except China, which, by this date, had perfected steel-making). Soon, large-scale fortifications, called hill-forts, dotted the landscape - the homes of powerful Celtic chieftains and their warriors. More

Plum Sauce
Chop the plums into small pieces, removing any stalks or stones Put the plums and sugar into the...