Neolithic through Classical Antiquity
Man’s technological ascent began in earnest in what is known as the Neolithic period (“New stone age”). The invention of polished stone axes was a major advance because it allowed forest clearance on a large scale to create farms. The discovery of agriculture allowed for the feeding of larger populations, and the transition to a sedentist lifestyle increased the number of children that could be simultaneously raised, as young children no longer needed to be carried, as was the case with the nomadic lifestyle. Additionally, children could contribute labor to the raising of crops more readily than they could to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
With this increase in population and availability of labor came an increase in labor specialization. What triggered the progression from early Neolithic villages to the first cities, such as Uruk, and the first civilizations, such as Sumer, is not specifically known; however, the emergence of increasingly hierarchical social structures, the specialization of labor, trade and war amongst adjacent cultures, and the need for collective action to overcome environmental challenges, such as the building of dikes and reservoirs, are all thought to have played a role.