Prehistoric community
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  The prehistoric human community

 
The earliest humans are thought to have lived in small family units, much like the apes. On the plains of Africa, or at the margin of the plains and the forest, they gradually evolved physically and mentally so that they could successfully compete for food and shelter. Their superior capability allowed them to spread outward from Africa into a wide variety of climates and environments.

Gatherers and hunters
The first hominids are believed to have been gatherers of plant foods and the occasional animal carcass. Although they were probably not capable of sophisticated hunting at first, the ability to eat both meat and plant food was an important survival strategy. Meat was especially important as a source of fat, available otherwise from only a few plant and nut foods. Fish of all types were important sources of protein and fat for those people living near water.
Human predecessors eventually learned the technologies of fire and hunting, and became hunter-gatherers. The ability to hunt living animals brought important advantages. Fresh meat was safer to eat than rotten meat. The fur and hides could be preserved from a fresh kill to provide clothes. Warm clothes allowed the early humans to penetrate into colder climates. Raw fresh meat is difficult to consume, however. Fresh meat was tenderized by fire and could be preserved by smoking for later consumption. Fire also allowed the environment to be controlled to some extent. For example, early explorers of North America commented on how the Iroquois regularly burned the forests to clear land for farming or create more food productive meadows.

  Nomads
Hunter-gatherers were probably not unsettled wanderers taking what came their way. Their existence and survival depended on systematically exploiting the resources around them according to what has been called an optimal foraging strategy. They moved to the seashore to harvest oysters in season, near the nut trees in the fall, and elsewhere to be present when fruits were ripe. They may have followed certain herds or arranged to intercept migrating mammals, birds, and fish at the same place each year.
Plant foods make up 70 percent or more of the diet of present-day hunter-gatherers, but most of these live in very marginal areas. Prehistoric humans would have lived on the most productive lands and plant foods may have been even more predominant in the distant past.
A critical condition of the hunting and gathering lifestyle was uncertainty. The small living groups had to be flexible in where they lived, how quickly they could move, what they ate, and population size because their food sources were not dependable. Interaction with other groups would have been limited because each would have required a large territory for gathering. In the short term, droughts, fires, floods, bad winters, and other environmental conditions could turn a rich food area into a food desert very quickly. In the long term, ice ages made part of the world uninhabitable and much of the rest only marginally productive.
There were periods of bounty, no doubt, and some leisure time for social activity. There was time for making beautiful objects, as well as the necessary tools, weapons, and clothes. Cave paintings and artifacts suggest the beginnings of art and religion.
The slow gradual process of human evolution and technology advance brought our human ancestors safe to the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. As the ice receded, the land reentered a cycle of gradually increasing plant and wildlife abundance. Humans by this point had spread around the world and were sufficiently advanced to begin dominating instead of just surviving. One by one large animals like the mammoth and giant bison went extinct, handicapped partially by loss of habitat and perhaps decisively by human hunters with increasingly efficient weapons.
In this time of abundance, prehistoric humans made the single greatest technological leap of our species—the agricultural revolution.