As far as anatomically modern human beings go, archaeological evidence shows that modern humans replaced their archaic contemporaries (archaic Homo sapiens, Neanderthals) about 100,000 years ago. For the next 50,000 years, the archaeological evidence we’ve collected is pretty much indistinguishable from that left by the archaic humans.
Fast forward to the Upper Paleolithic period which began about 50,000 years ago and you start to see a distinct change in culture. Yes, people were still hunter/gatherers, but they did construct weapons made of bone, ivory, and antlers, to hunt animals. These weapons were almost always projectile weapons, but were very efficient and many were customized to account for greater accuracy, speed, and distance. They also made personalized jewelry and artwork including paintings, sculptures and bone and antler engravings.
Now, on to the Neolithic period that began about 12,000 years ago (combining the Mesolithic with the Neolithic for simplicity), when there is a definite shift from hunter/gatherers to agriculture and the domestication of animals. So what brought about this distinct change? Well, one factor was that the ice age ended, so the environment they were used to started to change rapidly. As temperatures rose, new land areas were exposed from under the ice. Plants became more readily available, while some animals couldn’t adjust to the environment and became extinct.
The shift to agriculture happened in a most of the world’s populations over a period of around 9000 years. Anthropologists have been debating why this occurred for quite some time and list a number of hypotheses from the changing environment to population growth. At the beginning of this era, it is estimated that there was around 5-10 million people worldwide (we’re at about 6.26 billion people now).
Once people started living in civilizations, it didn’t take long for a social and political system to come into place. Agriculture allows people to store food away, hence creating a food surplus. Food then becomes a type of wealth – I have more than you. I want to make sure that both you and I know how much I have. And so record keeping was developed. Record keeping began as tokens and date back to about 10,000 years ago. People began marking them and eventually started coding them. Cuneiform became the first ‘written language’ as a means of record keeping. With wealth and record keeping comes warfare, I know how much you have and I want it for myself. By the time the first Dynasty in Egypt was established in 3000 BCE, the world population had reached approximately 100 million, so Pharaohs could afford to send men into battle to fight.
In terms of metals, copper was used during the Chalcolithic period (5500-3000 BCE), bronze during the Bronze Age (3000-1200/1100 BCE), and then iron during the Iron Age (1200/1100-539 BCE).
So where does Noah’s Flood fit into this? Because so many different cultures report a flood in their literature – Mesopotamia, Hebrew, Egypt, and Greece – it is probable that one did occur. We just don’t know where, when, or how big. For the purpose of this response, I’m going to take geologists Walter Pitman and William Ryan’s findings as fact. Basically, they studied the Black Sea and concluded that it was fresh water up to 5600 BCE, until there was a sudden flooding of the Mediterranean.