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Big Era Three: Panorama Unit

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Farming and the Emergence of Complex Societies
10,000 – 1000 BCE

Why This Unit?

Between 10,000 BCE and 1000 BCE an abrupt change occurred in the way many humans solved their most basic needs. No longer did all humans hunt and gather to support themselves. As a result of collective learning—generations of humans passing on knowledge, tiny changes in the way people lived, made over time, resulted in what we know as the Neolithic Revolution, or the Agricultural Revolution—the advent of farming.

In 10,000 BCE there were no agrarian communities, no crop surpluses, no cities, no governments, no law codes, no monumental buildings, no written languages, no job specializations. By 1,000 BCE, all of these things existed on all of the continents except for Australia and Antarctica. In addition, population increased dramatically during those 9,000 years, resulting in the spread of humans to new areas of the world (extensification) and also in a rise in density of population (intensification) in certain areas. Ultimately, this growth resulted in an acceleration in the exchange of ideas and in the rate of technological change. It also led to increasingly complex levels of human social organization and the appearance of what we call civilizations.

In 1000 BCE, only a minority of humans lived in cities. However, the spread of urban culture and the networks of exchange they spawned affected humans over wide areas. The world in 1000 BCE was a very different place from the world of 10,000 BCE.

Unit Objectives

Upon completing this unit, students will be able to:

1. Explain what is meant by the domestication of plants and animals and why farming permitted world population to grow and people to live in much larger and denser communities.

2. Analyze the differences between a hunting-gathering way of life and a settled agricultural one.

3. Discuss how agricultural societies developed around the world.

4. Explain how and where complex societies evolved and to describe their significant characteristics.

5. Describe ways in which the rate of change accelerated between 10,000 BCE and 1,000 BCE.

Time and Materials

Lesson One: 30-45 minutes; paper and pencils.

Lesson Two: 45 minutes; paper and pencils.

Lesson Three: 45-60 minutes; paper, pencils, reference materials (textbooks, encyclopedias, online sources).

Extension activities: additional 60-90 minutes.

Table of Contents

Why this unit?


Unit objectives


Time and materials




Introductory activities


Lesson 1: Domestic heir-lines: A lesson in domestication


Lesson 2: Farming: Pros and cons


Lesson 3: Who is civilized?


This unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking




Correlations to National and State Standards


Complete Teaching Unit in PDF format

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