I'd like to have a broad understanding of how various societies in the world developed pre-scientific understanding. There are a lot of resources for ancient Greece. There are even a few for what immediately preceded the origins of an early scientific understanding around 300 BC. Trying to go a little further back and broader, there are some resources on ancient Egyptian and Babylonian science and mathematics.

I know that what I'm searching for may not have any records, written or otherwise. But I at least wanted to ask if anyone knows of accounts from 1) other societies, or 2) any information on earlier peoples and their knowledge. More specific questions include:

  • Which tools were used (by which people, when, and where)?

  • What did people know about astronomy, what medicinal practices did people have, did they have some understanding of "chemistry" in the form of metallurgy for instance? How did they discover these very early discoveries? How would someone stumble onto metallurgy?

  • How did people explain the world through religion or other concepts?

  • How was society structured so that knowledge could be gathered and processed and transmitted?

In trying to reach farther back in time, I'd be interested to know about say the Sumerians, the Nufians, hunter-gatherers, perhaps even anything we might know about Neanderthals. In trying to go geographically broader, I'd be interested to know about what the earliest people were up to in the lands of India, China, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Meso- and South-America.

In general I'd like to have as much understanding as is possible about what context gave rise to ancient science. I fully recognize how difficult the task is given the sparse (and sometimes utterly non-existent) writing available from the time. But if anyone has any resources I'd appreciate it!

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ There is plenty of information on pre-historic societies and ancient civilizations, too much of it to pack into a single post. For this sort of broad brush research you should use search engines and online encyclopedias, e.g. already Mesopotamian Science and Technology has a full-size article. This site addresses much more narrow questions. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Nov 9, 2020 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ A specific suggestion: Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being by G. Lakoff and R. Núñez (2000). A general suggestion: The Savage Mind by C. Levi-Strauss (1962). There are wikipedia articles for both. $\endgroup$
    – sand1
    Nov 10, 2020 at 19:12


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