Effects of Domestication of Animals on Neolithic People

First let's review what the Neolithic or New Stone Age was. It was a period of time after humans learned to farm but before they figured out how to make tools out of metal instead of stone. Life was easier than it was before farming, but it was still difficult. Neolithic societies were not really true civilizations yet.

Imagine you are a Neolithic person. You likely hunt for your meat, but you also grow wheat, barley, corn, or rice as your main food. As a result of having a more steady food supply from farming, your population goes up. That's great, but now you need more food to feed the growing population!

Now, let's define “domestication of animals.” Civilizations that domesticate animals tame and train animals for their own personal use. One example is having dogs for pets, personal protection, or hunting. Dogs that are domesticated are accustomed to being around people and can be trained by humans to do a lot of different things. Another example is the domestication of herd animals such as cattle and sheep. These animals are kept for their wool, skins, meat, and milk. Large animals can also be used to do physical work like carrying things or plowing the field.

Okay, now imagine you are a Neolithic person with domesticated animals. You have a nice corn patch to provide the main part of your diet, but you also have dogs that make hunting easier, and you have a herd of sheep that you can use for food as well. If you have a horse or other animal that you use to plow your field, you can produce even more crops than before! You have more food now, and your society can continue to grow.

At some point, your society is producing so much food that the population can keep growing, and you still have food left over. When this happened in the Neolithic Age it had huge effects. Neolithic people with domesticated animals could spend even less time producing food. More people could focus on other things like developing writing, government, and religion, inventing wheels and other technologies, and figuring out how to make things out of the shiny stuff that comes out of the ground.

In other words, the combination of farming and domestication of animals helped humans advance to the Copper Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, and beyond. Animal domestication was another step on the road to civilization. It's amazing what humans can do when they don't have to spend all of their time searching for their next meal!

Archaeologists - Who are they?

Some of us like to think of archaeologists as swashbuckling heroes who rescue history's treasures from the bad guys. You know, Indiana Jones.

In reality, archaeologists usually do not fit the image of Indiana Jones that we get by watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” They are important folks though because they help us find out how people lived in the past. Without archaeologists, much of the history of human beings would be unknown to us.

Archaeologists use artifacts, tools, bones, buildings, and other remains they find in order to study the way humans lived in the past. For example, an archaeologist can carefully dig up (excavate) the remains of a house that was lived in thousands of years ago and tell a lot about the culture of the people who lived there. The way the building was constructed can give clues as to how advanced the culture was. Artifacts discovered in and around the building such as pottery, baskets, tools, and fire pits can also provide information about how the people lived.

Archaeology and archaeologists are particularly important when studying a culture that did not have a written language (a prehistoric culture).  There really are not many ways to learn about a prehistoric culture without the use of archaeology.

But, archaeologists are still quite important and useful in studying cultures with a written language (historic cultures) because they have the training and expertise to recover the remains of the culture – perhaps even the writings themselves. For example, if new Maya ruins were discovered in Central America, an archaeologist would know how to best excavate, catalog, and connect any buildings or other artifacts to our existing knowledge of the Mayas. The same would be true of Roman, Greek, Egyptian, or any other civilization with writing.

So, while there may be archaeologists that wear a cool hat and carry a whip, most of them are just hard working scientists who help us learn about and reconstruct the past. Thank goodness for them!

Aztec Laws

The Aztecs had a sophisticated and strict system of law and order.

The emperor and his closest advisers and nobles probably made the laws. There were laws against murder, theft, crimes against the state (treason) etc., as you would expect. There were also laws against being drunk in public, practicing witchcraft, and cheating on a husband or wife.

Punishments varied, but the death penalty was common. Death sentences were usually carried out by strangulation or by cutting out the criminal’s heart in sacrifice to the gods. Other punishments included being held in a cage, having your head shaved in public, or being put into slavery. Interestingly, nobles, priests, and higher-level citizens were usually punished more severely than common folk.

There were several levels of courts in the Aztec court system. Serious or important cases were heard by higher courts, as were cases involving nobles and other high level citizens. Lesser cases or trials of the lower classes were usually heard in lower courts.

Judges heard and decided the court cases. They were appointed for life by the chief justice, and the emperor appointed the chief justice. Cases were heard in public, and the accused were allowed to defend themselves.

As the supreme leader of the empire, the emperor had the final say in any case.