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Origins

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Credit: The Granger Collection, New York

Egyptian tomb painting of agricultural scenes from the tomb of Nakht at Thebes. 18th Dynasty.

In a relatively brief time, modern humans have built a world of staggering technical complexity. How did we do it? The human mind has a gift for abstract thought. We track time, recognize patterns, remember and predict. We count and think systematically. After people learned to farm the land and settled in stable communities, it became possible to specialize and harness these skills even more effectively. The stage was set for the rapid innovation apparent in the world today.

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© Migeon Christophe/BIOS/Peter Arnold, Inc.

Hadjar central

When Did Farms and Cities Emerge?

In the period around 10,000 years ago, as Ice Age glaciers retreated, people in several different parts of the world began to grow crops and raise livestock. More permanent settlements arose--and with them, elaborate technologies for construction, communication, war and trade. When people put down roots, they set out to reshape the world. A tension developed between humans and nature that continues to this day.

Making Clothing and Cloth

Sewing tools such as needles have existed for at least 27,000 years and may have first been used to stitch leather clothing. Between 10,000 and 5,000 years ago, early farmers began to produce cotton and wool. Once spindles were used to spin fibers like these into yarn, it was only a matter of time before textile work was mechanized for mass production.

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Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Textile Mill, Russia

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