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Time Scale 4 - Rise of Proto-Humans
Events - < 31
The last common ancestor:
7 million years ago?
32
The earliest bipedal hominins:
6 to 4 million years ago
33
The earlier australopithecines:
4.0-2.5 million years ago
34
The beginning of climatic cooling:
3 to 2 million years ago
35
The later Australopithecines:
2.6 to 1 million years ago
36
The first stone tools (Oldowan):
2.6 million years ago
37
The emergence of the genus Homo:
1.9 million years ago
38
The emergence of Homo erectus:
1.8 million years ago
39
The earliest Eurasians:
1.8 million years ago
40
The invention of the handaxe:
1.76 million years ago
>

Event 36

“THE ROLE OF ROCK”
THE EARLIEST STONE TOOLS
2.6 million years ago

Gona Flake
A lava flake from Gona, Ethiopia, dated to approximately 2.6 million years ago.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Tim White. This photo is used with permission. All rights reserved.

“…and we’ll be saying a big hello to all intelligent life forms everywhere…and to everyone else out there, the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys…”
Douglas Adams, 1981, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, p. 96.

We are a very, very strange species… We are the only animal on the planet that is totally dependent upon tools and technology for our existence. None of us could survive anywhere in the world without some reliance upon various sorts of tools. What is more, our technological behavior is learned rather than instinctive, and is culturally transmitted from generation to generation. Tools have not only shaped our adaptation, but have also shaped our brains and our bodies, over millions of years.

We now know that by 2.6 million years ago, some hominid (protohuman) populations began to strike lava cobbles against others to produce the earliest recognizable tools and thus the first identifiable archaeological record. These rocks were sometimes transported some distance (up to several miles) from their geological sources, showing that our ancestors were also embarking on a lifestyle that included habitual carrying of tools and probably transporting food resources as well. At Gona in the Afar region of the Rift Valley of Ethiopia (see map), several archaeological sites have been excavated with simple stone tools dating to 2.6 million years ago. Other famous African localities with early stone tools include Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania (the name for these early technologies is the Oldowan Industry named after this site) and East Turkana (Koobi Fora) in Kenya.

What were these early stone tools used for? Fossil animal bones here and at other sites bear the clear signs of hominid modification to these bones during animal butchery, notably cutmarks from stone knives used for meat-cutting, and percussion-marks from stone hammers from cracking bones to obtain the edible marrow inside. It is likely that stone tools were also used to crack hard-shelled nuts, to shape wooden digging sticks or spears, and perhaps to help fashion simple containers and carrying devices out of bark, hide, or shell.

 



HOW DO WE KNOW?

The archaeological record documents the earliest stone tools on the African continent, especially in the Great Rift Valley of East Africa. We know the difference between humanly-modified rocks and those found in nature from experimentation and by examining the stone tools made by traditional societies (excavated stone tools and associated fossil animal bones are found in or near volcanic deposits that can be dated by a variety of methods, including argon-argon dating, biostratigraphy, and palaeomagnetism.



WHY SHOULD I CARE?

Tool-use has driven our evolution, and represents an unbroken line of culture and learning from our early ape-like ancestors over two-and-a-half million years ago to ourselves today. It is no understatement to say that if these early proto-humans had not embarked on this type of adaptation, we would probably not be here today (or if we were, we would probably have brains roughly the size of those of modern apes!)

 


 

WEB RESOURCES 

This website is about Oldowan and Acheulean stone tools.
http://anthromuseum.missouri.edu/minigalleries/handaxes/intro.shtml

This Smithsonian website is about early hand tools.
http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/behavior/tools/early-tools

This Wikipedia website is about the evolution of stone tool technologies.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_tool

This YouTube video contains a NOVA segment of a stone tool making demonstration.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRax_a8t4C4&feature=related

This website is about the earliest stone tools.
http://www.mc.maricopa.edu/dept/d10/asb/origins/hominid_journey/oldowan.html

 

 

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1

"From Nothing to Everything:
The Origins of the Universe,
the Solar System, Earth, and Life"
13.7 billion to 1 billion years ago

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"From Nothing to Everything:
The Origins of the Universe, the Solar System, Earth, and Life"
13.7 billion to 1 billion years ago

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1

"The Big Bang"
The Origins of Matter, Energy, Space, and Time
13.7 billion years ago

"The Big Bang"
The Origins of Matter, Energy, Space, and Time
13.7 billion years ago

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2

"Great Balls of Fire"
The First Stars
13.5 billion years ago

"Great Balls of Fire"
The First Stars
13.5 billion years ago

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3

"Cosmic Alchemy"
The Creation of the Heavier Elements
13.4 billion years ago

"Cosmic Alchemy"
The Creation of the Heavier Elements
13.4 billion years ago

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4

"Spinning Wheels"
The First Galaxies
13 billion years ago

"Spinning Wheels"
The First Galaxies
13 billion years ago

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5

"Here Comes the Sun"
The Birth of the Solar System, Including the Earth
4.6 billion years ago

"Here Comes the Sun"
The Birth of the Solar System, Including the Earth
4.6 billion years ago

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6

"Earth, Wind and Fire"
The First Rocks, Oceans and Atmosphere
4.5 billion years ago

"Earth, Wind and Fire"
The First Rocks, Oceans and Atmosphere
4.5 billion years ago

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7

"Just Add Water"
The Origins of Life
3.8 billion years ago

"Just Add Water"
The Origins of Life
3.8 billion years ago

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8

"The Great Rust"
The Addition of Oxygen to the Atmosphere and Oceans
3 billion years ago

"The Great Rust"
The Addition of Oxygen to the Atmosphere and Oceans
3 billion years ago

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9

"Snowball Earth"
The First Ice Ages
2.2 billion years ago

"Snowball Earth"
The First Ice Ages
2.2 billion years ago

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10

"Kingdom of Beasts"
The Rise of Animals
1 billion years ago

"Kingdom of Beasts"
The Rise of Animals
1 billion years ago

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2

"All Creatures Great and Small:
The Cambrian Explosion of
Animal Life and its Aftershocks"
1 billion to 100 million years ago

.

"Animal House:
The Cambrian Explosion of Animal Life and its Aftershocks"
1 billion to 100 million years ago

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11

"Movers and Shakers"
The First Definite Multicellular Animals
600 million years ago

"Movers and Shakers"
The First Definite Multicellular Animals
600 million years ago

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12

"AnimalHouse"
The Cambrian Explosion
543 million years ago

"AnimalHouse"
The Cambrian Explosion
543 million years ago

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13

"In Search of the Lost Chordate"
Finding the Ancestor of Vertebrates (and Ourselves)
530 million years ago

"In Search of the Lost Chordate"
Finding the Ancestor of Vertebrates (and Ourselves)
530 million years ago

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14

"Get a Backbone"
The Rise of the Vertebrates
525 million years ago

"Get a Backbone"
The Rise of the Vertebrates
525 million years ago

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15

"Get out of the Pool"
Early Amphibians
360 million years ago

"Get out of the Pool"
Early Amphibians
360 million years ago

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16

"Landlubbers"
The First Reptiles
315 million years ago

"Landlubbers"
The First Reptiles
315 million years ago

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17

"The Great Dying"
The Permian Extinction
250 million years ago

"The Great Dying"
The Permian Extinction
250 million years ago

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18

"Got Milk?"
Early Mammals and Dinosaurs
220 - 200 million years ago

"Got Milk?"
Early Mammals and Dinosaurs
220 - 200 million years ago

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19

"Up, Up, and Away"
The Earliest Birds
145 million years ago

"Up, Up, and Away"
The Earliest Birds
145 million years ago

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20

"Flower Power"
The First Flowering Plants
125 million years ago

"Flower Power"
The First Flowering Plants
125 million years ago

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3

"The Meek Inheritors: the Dinosaur Extinction
and the Rise of Mammals"
100 million to 10 million years ago

.

"The Meek Inheritors: the Dinosaur Extinction and the Rise of Mammals"
100 million to 10 million years ago

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21

"Cretaceous Park"
The Later Dinosaurs
95-65 million years ago

"Cretaceous Park"
The Later Dinosaurs
95-65 million years ago

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22

"One Extraterrestial Impact Can Ruin your Whole Day":
The Dinosaur Extinction
65 million years ago

"One Extraterrestial Impact Can Ruin your Whole Day":
The Dinosaur Extinction
65 million years ago

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23

"A Warm and Fuzzy Feeling"
The Mammalian Radiation
60 million years ago

"A Warm and Fuzzy Feeling"
The Mammalian Radiation
60 million years ago

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24

"Orogenous Zone"
The Rise of the Himalayas
55 million years ago

"Orogenous Zone"
The Rise of the Himalayas
55 million years ago

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25

"Of the First Order"
The Radiation of the Primates
55 million years ago

"Of the First Order"
The Radiation of the Primates
55 million years ago

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26

"The Land Down Under"
The Origin of Australia and its Animals
40 million years ago

"The Land Down Under"
The Origin of Australia and its Animals
40 million years ago

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27

"Hey, Hey, We're the Monkeys"
The Rise of Monkeys
35 million years ago

"Hey, Hey, We're the Monkeys"
The Rise of Monkeys
35 million years ago

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28

"Grazing in the Grass"
The Spread of Grasslands and Grazing Animals
Beginning 25 million years ago

"Grazing in the Grass"
The Spread of Grasslands and Grazing Animals
Beginning 25 million years ago

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29

"The Sultans of Swing"
The Rise of Apes
23 million years ago

"The Sultans of Swing"
The Rise of Apes
23 million years ago

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30

"Father of Kong"
The Earliest Gorilla-like Forms
10 million years ago

"Father of Kong"
The Earliest Gorilla-like Forms
10 million years ago

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4

"Upstanding Apes:
The Rise of Hominids,
the Role of Rock,
and Food for Thought"
10 million to 1 million years ago

.

"Upstanding Apes:
The Rise of Hominids, the Role of Rock, and Food for Thought"
10 million to 1 million years ago

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31

"Branching Out"
The Last Shared Ancestor of Apes and Humans
7 million years ago

"Branching Out"
The Last Shared Ancestor of Apes and Humans
7 million years ago

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32

"Upstanding Apes"
The Earliest Bipedal Hominins
6 to 4 million years ago

"Upstanding Apes"
The Earliest Bipedal Hominins
6 to 4 million years ago

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33

"I am an Ape-Man"
The Earlier Australopithecine
4.0-2.5 million years ago

"I am an Ape-Man"
The Earlier Australopithecine
4.0-2.5 million years ago

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34

"The Big Chill"
The Beginning of Climatic Cooling
3 to 2 million years ago

"The Big Chill"
The Beginning of Climatic Cooling
3 to 2 million years ago

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35

"Our Poor Cousins"
The Later Australopithecine and their Extinction
2.6-1.0 million yeas ago

"Our Poor Cousins"
The Later Australopithecine and their Extinction
2.6-1.0 million yeas ago

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36

"The Role of Rock"
The Earliest Stone Tools
2.6 million years ago

"The Role of Rock"
The Earliest Stone Tools
2.6 million years ago

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37

"I'm Your Handy Man"
The Emergence of the Genus Homo and Brain Expansion
1.9-1.5 million years ago

"I'm Your Handy Man"
The Emergence of the Genus Homo and Brain Expansion
1.9-1.5 million years ago

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38

"Bigger and Badder"
The Emergence of Homo Erectus
1.8 million years ago

"Bigger and Badder"
The Emergence of Homo Erectus
1.8 million years ago

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39

"Out of Africa"
The Earliest Eurasians
1.8 million years ago

"Out of Africa"
The Earliest Eurasians
1.8 million years ago

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40

"Axes of Power"
The Invention of the Handaxe
1.76 million years ago

"Axes of Power"
The Invention of the Handaxe
1.76 million years ago

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5

"Becoming Human (or Just About):
The Rise of Homo Sapiens
and Our Neanderthal Cousins"
1 million to 100,000 years ago

.

"Becoming Human (or Just About):
The Rise of Homo Sapiens and Our Neanderthal Cousins"
1 million to 100,000 years ago

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41

"Big Brains, Big Faces"
Homo heidelbergensis and Probably Language
500,000 to 250,000 years ago

"Big Brains, Big Faces"
Homo heidelbergensis and Probably Language
500,000 to 250,000 years ago

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42

"Fearful Symmetry"
Later Refined Handaxes
500,000 to 250,000 years ago

"Fearful Symmetry"
Later Refined Handaxes
500,000 to 250,000 years ago

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43

"Bring Out Your Dead"
The Origins of Ritual Behavior
400,000 years ago

"Bring Out Your Dead"
The Origins of Ritual Behavior
400,000 years ago

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44

"Get the Point?"
The First Spears
400,000 years ago

"Get the Point?"
The First Spears
400,000 years ago

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45

"Chips Off the Old Block"
Prepared Core Technologies
300,000 years ago

"Chips Off the Old Block"
Prepared Core Technologies
300,000 years ago

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46

"Light My Fire"
The Controlled Use of Fire
300,000 years ago

"Light My Fire"
The Controlled Use of Fire
300,000 years ago

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47

"Almost Human"
Neandertals and Nearly Modern Humans
Beginning 250,000 years ago

"Almost Human"
Neandertals and Nearly Modern Humans
Beginning 250,000 years ago

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48

"Welcome to Middle Earth"
The Middle Palaeolithic
Beginning 250,000 years ago

"Welcome to Middle Earth"
The Middle Palaeolithic
Beginning 250,000 years ago

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49

"Seashells by the Seashore"
Intensive Exploitation of Seafoods
165,000 years ago

"Seashells by the Seashore"
Intensive Exploitation of Seafoods
165,000 years ago

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50

"A Modern Stone Age Family"
The Emergence of Homo Sapiens
160,000 years ago

"A Modern Stone Age Family"
The Emergence of Homo Sapiens
160,000 years ago

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6

"The Creative Explosion:
The Rise of Symbolism, Language,
Religion, Art, and Music"
100,000 to 10,000 years ago

.

"The Creative Explosion:
The Rise of Symbolism, Language, Religion, Art, and Music"
100,000 to 10,000 years ago

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51

"Points of Conflict"
The Earliest Compound Tools & Points
100,000 years ago

"Points of Conflict"
The Earliest Compound Tools & Points
100,000 years ago

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52

"Rest in Peace"
The First Burials
90,000 years ago

"Rest in Peace"
The First Burials
90,000 years ago

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53

"Bling-Bling"
The First Personal Decoration
80,000 years ago

"Bling-Bling"
The First Personal Decoration
80,000 years ago

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54

"A Roof Over Your Head"
The First Architecture
42,000 years ago

"A Roof Over Your Head"
The First Architecture
42,000 years ago

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55

"Blade Runners"
Upper Palaeolithic Blade Technologies
40,000 years ago

"Blade Runners"
Upper Palaeolithic Blade Technologies
40,000 years ago

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56

"Brave New Worlds"
The Peopling of Australia and the Americas
40,000 to 12,000 years ago

"Brave New Worlds"
The Peopling of Australia and the Americas
40,000 to 12,000 years ago

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57

"Express Yourself"
The First Representational Art & Music
35,000 years ago

"Express Yourself"
The First Representational Art & Music
35,000 years ago

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58

"A Stitch in Time"
The First Needles and Sewing
25,000 years ago

"A Stitch in Time"
The First Needles and Sewing
25,000 years ago

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59

"Bend Me, Shape Me"
The First Pottery
16,000 years ago

"Bend Me, Shape Me"
The First Pottery
16,000 years ago

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60

"Draw Back Your Bow"
The First Bow and Arrow
11,000 years ago

"Draw Back Your Bow"
The First Bow and Arrow
11,000 years ago

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7

"From Farm to the City:
The Neolithic and Urban Revolutions
and their Consequences"
10,000 to 1,000 years ago

.

"From Farm to the City:
The Neolithic and Urban Revolutions and their Consequences"
10,000 to 1,000 years ago

View Time Scale >>

61

"Row, Row, Row Your Boat"
The First Boats
10,000 years ago

"Row, Row, Row Your Boat"
The First Boats
10,000 years ago

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62

"Down on the Farm"
The Neolithic Revolution
10,000 years ago

"Down on the Farm"
The Neolithic Revolution
10,000 years ago

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63

"Heavy Metal"
The Origins of Metallurgy
8,000 years ago

"Heavy Metal"
The Origins of Metallurgy
8,000 years ago

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64

"Easy Riders"
The Development of Ships and Mounted Horse Transportation
6,000 to 5,000 years ago

"Easy Riders"
The Development of Ships and Mounted Horse Transportation
6,000 to 5,000 years ago

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65

"We Built This City"
Cities and Complex Societies
5,500 years ago

"We Built This City"
Cities and Complex Societies
5,500 years ago

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66

"Write This Down"
The Origins of Writing and Notation
5,000 years ago

"Write This Down"
The Origins of Writing and Notation
5,000 years ago

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67

"Big Wheels Keep on Turnin"
Wheeled Vehicles
5,000 years ago

"Big Wheels Keep on Turnin"
Wheeled Vehicles
5,000 years ago

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68

"Iron Man"
The Iron Age
3,500 years ago (1500 BC)

"Iron Man"
The Iron Age
3,500 years ago (1500 BC)

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69

"Power to the People"
The First Democracy
2,560 years ago (550 BC)

"Power to the People"
The First Democracy
2,560 years ago (550 BC)

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70

"What's Your Plan?"
Large-scale Urban Planning
2,210 years ago (200 B.C.)

"What's Your Plan?"
Large-scale Urban Planning
2,210 years ago (200 B.C.)

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8

"Ages of Enlightenment:
From the Dark Ages of Superstition
to the Scientific Revolution"
1,000 to 100 years ago

.

"Ages of Enlightenment:
From the Dark Ages of Superstition to the Scientific Revolution"
1,000 to 100 years ago

View Time Scale >>

71

"Fire and Brimstone"
The Rise of Firearms
Beginning 1300 AD

"Fire and Brimstone"
The Rise of Firearms
Beginning 1300 AD

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72

"A Reawakening"
The Renaissance in the Western World
Beginning 1400 AD

"A Reawakening"
The Renaissance in the Western World
Beginning 1400 AD

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73

"Land Ho!"
Age of Exploration & Exploitation
Beginning 1400 AD

"Land Ho!"
Age of Exploration & Exploitation
Beginning 1400 AD

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74

"Hot off the Presses"
The Printing Press and Movable Type
Beginning 1455 AD

"Hot off the Presses"
The Printing Press and Movable Type
Beginning 1455 AD

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75

"From Superstition to Science"
The Scientific Revolution
Beginning 1543 AD

"From Superstition to Science"
The Scientific Revolution
Beginning 1543 AD

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76

"All Fired Up"
The Industrial Revolution
Beginning 1760 AD

"All Fired Up"
The Industrial Revolution
Beginning 1760 AD

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77

"Start Me Up"
Powered Modern Transport
Beginning 1802 AD

"Start Me Up"
Powered Modern Transport
Beginning 1802 AD

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78

"You Oughta Be in Pictures"
Photography and Cinematography
Beginning 1826 AD

"You Oughta Be in Pictures"
Photography and Cinematography
Beginning 1826 AD

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79

"From a Distance"
Long-Distance Communications
Beginning 1830 AD

"From a Distance"
Long-Distance Communications
Beginning 1830 AD

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80

"Bright Lights, Big City"
Electric Light and Power
Beginning 1879 AD

"Bright Lights, Big City"
Electric Light and Power
Beginning 1879 AD

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9

"Modern Times: The Last Century,
Laying the Foundations of
the World We Live In"
100 to 10 years ago

.

"Modern Times: The Last Century, Laying the Foundations of the World We Live In"
100 to 10 years ago

View Time Scale >>

81

"It's All Relative"
Relativity and Quantum Theory
Late 1800s, early 1900s

"It's All Relative"
Relativity and Quantum Theory
Late 1800s, early 1900s

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82

"Rocket Man"
Rockets, Satellites, and Lunar Landings
Beginning 1926 AD

"Rocket Man"
Rockets, Satellites, and Lunar Landings
Beginning 1926 AD

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83

"You're On the Air"
Television
Beginning 1935 AD

"You're On the Air"
Television
Beginning 1935 AD

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84

"Bits and Bytes"
Computers, Transistors, Silicon Chips
Beginning 1937 AD

"Bits and Bytes"
Computers, Transistors, Silicon Chips
Beginning 1937 AD

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85

"When You're a Jet"
Jet Aircraft
1939 AD

"When You're a Jet"
Jet Aircraft
1939 AD

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86

"Miracle Drugs & Medical Devices"
Penicillin and Other Medical Advances
Beginning 1941 AD

"Miracle Drugs & Medical Devices"
Penicillin and Other Medical Advances
Beginning 1941 AD

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87

"The Genie Has Left the Bottle"
Dawn of the Atomic Age
Beginning 1942 AD

"The Genie Has Left the Bottle"
Dawn of the Atomic Age
Beginning 1942 AD

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88

"Cracking the Code"
DNA Structure & Genetic Engineering
Beginning 1953 AD

"Cracking the Code"
DNA Structure & Genetic Engineering
Beginning 1953 AD

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89

"Can You Hear Me Now?"
Advanced Telecommunications
Beginning 1973 AD

"Can You Hear Me Now?"
Advanced Telecommunications
Beginning 1973 AD

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90

"Surf's Up!"
The World Wide Web
Beginning 1989 AD

"Surf's Up!"
The World Wide Web
Beginning 1989 AD

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10

"The Age of Connections:
The Past Decade of Innovations
and Their Implications"
The last 10 years

.

"The Age of Connections:
The Past Decade of Innovations and Their Implications"
The last 10 years

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91

"Where the Heck Are We?"
Widespread Use of GPS & Satellite Imaging

"Where the Heck Are We?"
Widespread Use of GPS & Satellite Imaging

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92

"Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes, that Make the Strain..."
Overpopulation & Climate Change

"Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes, that Make the Strain..."
Overpopulation & Climate Change

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93

"Green Machines"
Alternative Energy

"Green Machines"
Alternative Energy

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94

"Who Are You?"
The Human Genome Project

"Who Are You?"
The Human Genome Project

View Event >>

95

"Closer Encounters"
Recent Advances in Astronomy

"Closer Encounters"
Recent Advances in Astronomy

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96

"Cellmates"
Stem Cell & Related Research

"Cellmates"
Stem Cell & Related Research

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97

"Keep Searchin"
Widespread Use of Search Engines

"Keep Searchin"
Widespread Use of Search Engines

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98

"Say Hello to My Little Friends"
The Rise of Nanotechnology

"Say Hello to My Little Friends"
The Rise of Nanotechnology

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99

"Here, There, and Everywhere..."
Instantaneous Communication & World-Wide Connections

"Here, There, and Everywhere..."
Instantaneous Communication & World-Wide Connections

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100

"Living for the Future"
The Idea of Sustainability

"Living for the Future"
The Idea of Sustainability

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