There are six (6) different cultural transitions or civilizations which are represented by different technologies. While other western cultures experienced six technological transitions, Africa witnessed five. Because in Africa, there was no bronze age.
These information ages, technological and cultural transitions include the stone age, bronze age, iron age, middle age, industrial age, and electronic age.
Let us discuss the major characteristics and technologies of these different information ages. This topic is important for students in Junior Secondary Schools.
The Stone Age
The stone age is a period of human development that could be termed a barbaric period. There was no organized way of handling information, however, people who lived during this period were creative. It was a period when people use stone implements. They make tools and equipment using stone. This period is divided into 3 different periods, namely the Paleolithic period, Mesolithic period, and Neolithic period.
This is a period characterized by hunting and gathering at a subsistence level. The major technologies used by people who lived during this period include:
1. Pebble tools – these are rocks that broke naturally. They have sharp edges that can be used in cutting. These stones were picked, used as tools, and is thrown away.
2. Bifacial-tool, or hand-ax – This tool is a pointed object produced with a stone hammer or anvil.
3. Flake-tools – When a stone is being hit with a hammerstone it produces flakes. These flakes become a tool used during this period of civilization.
4. Blade-tools – When a long narrow flake is a stroke out from a stone, it becomes a blade.
The images are shown in the diagram below.
This is a period of civilization when people begin to rear plants and animals. This period marked the beginning of the human settlement. Instead of people moving from place to place, they began to rear and produce food for themselves. Technologies and inventions of this age include, but not limited to the following:
- Invention and the use of bow and arrow
- The emergence of pottery
- Housing settlements along rivers and lakes.
- Development and use of microliths implements.
The diagram below shows some of the images that reflect the Mesolithic civilization.
This is the climax of the Mesolithic period when settlements resulted in the formation of hamlets, villages, and communities. Settled villages cultivate cereals such as barley, wheat, and millet, and rear animals such as pigs, goats, sheep, and cattle. This period of civilization ended with the rise of urban civilization which began with the use of metal tools.
Key Technologies of the Stone Age
Key inventions which are still in use today were invented during the stone age. Some of these inventions include simple tools such as:
- Woods used for digging
- Clubs, bow, and arrow for hunting.
- Hunting spear for hunting and as a weapon.
- Stone tools used to sharpen sticks.
- Stone axe for killing prey and fighting
- Shells, hides, or barks were used to make containers.
- Clothing and shelters
- Use and controlled use of fire
The Bronze Age
During this period of civilization, people began to make tools and weapons of metals using bronze. Bronze contains 90% copper and 10% tin. When alloys of copper and tin are mixed after smelting, it gives a tool stronger than copper or tin alone.
Like the stone age, the bronze age is divided into the early, middle, and late bronze ages. According to Childe, these divisions are marked with progressively more sophisticated metallurgy that culminates in the discovery of ironworking. It is important to note that the bronze age was absent in Africa.
The Technologies of the Bronze Age
The bronze age witnessed interesting and creative inventions and innovations that have lived till date. Some of them include:
1. Metallurgy: This was the beginning of mixing or combining and manipulating metals to form stronger metals. Such manipulations and combinations led to the following technologies:
a. Smelting: This was a major technology of the Bronze Age. It involves the heating of ore at a particular temperature to produce a pure metal without impurities. This age witnessed the smelting of copper and tin mineral ores into bronze metals.
b. Alloys: When two different mineral ores are combined after smelting, they form an alloy.
c. Casting: The alloy formed after smelting is usually poured into a mold to form a specific object.
These objects usually take the shape of the container after it has hardened. This was how objects and weapons such as swords, spears, and blades were formed.
2. Soap: The inspiration for the invention of soap took place in the bronze age. Soap was formed by combining water, alkaline, and Cassia oil.
3. Irrigation farming: The irrigation system of farming first took place in the bronze age. During this period, water was diverted through canals and ditches to farms.
4. Keys and locks: We all know keys and locks. The first locks were invented at about 200bc. These locks were used to foster the security of assets.
5. Language writing: This age marks the beginning of language development. Language development also helped in forming an organized society and centralized government.
6. Other inventions associated with bronze age include kite, umbrella, boat, crop rotation system of farming, and so on.
Below is the combination of some images that relate to the bronze age. Try to identify each image.
The stone age is an important period in history when humans used stone implements. At this period, they gradually shifted from a nomadic lifestyle to a settled lifestyle. In nomadic lifestyles, they move from place to place. But during the stone age, they began to settle down and have farms where they plant crops and harvest them.
The bronze age was not captured in Africa but was a period when stone implements were replaced with bronze equipment. During this period, bronze was the material used to manufacture weapons and implements for farming and war.
Though this period was not captured in Africa, there are pieces of evidence of bronze artifacts in Egypt and Benin Nigeria. The bronze age was said to have begun in 3150BCE in Egypt. In Benin Nigeria, sculptures were made using bronze as early as the 13th century. These materials were found in the palace of the Oba. All these led the British to appreciate the cultures and traditions of Africa.
These two civilizations are important in human history and mark the beginning of living in settled towns and villages.