The word technology comes from the Greek words Techne meaning art and craft, and logos meaning speech or words. Originally the term meant a speech about arts and craft and when the word first appeared in English in around the 17th century, it kept to its original meaning.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that technology came to mean, “The means or activity by which man seeks to change or manipulate his environment.” So although the way that we understand technology today means that we can look back throughout human history and see all the technological advances that humankind has made this idea of technology as we know it today, did not exist 200 years ago.
The beginnings of human technology date back to the Stone Age where humans began to make tools from stone, such as axes and flint knives. It is important to remember that some animals also use stones and sticks and it is likely that humans did the same until they began to refine these natural materials and make them into tools.
The Neanderthal people were proficient stone tool users and examples have been uncovered that date back to 70,000 BCE. Nobody knows whether they also used wood or constructed simple dwellings because none of these have survived throughout this vast expanse of time.
By the Neolithic age (3500 BCE), humankind was making pottery, jewellery, tools and beginning to crease their nomadic lifestyle and develop farming practices. They used plows and grinding stones for wheat so also developed bread and other modern day practices, living in towns together rather than roaming the landscape and following the herds of wild animals they used for food.
Nobody knows how any of these advancements were discovered or by whom. But gradually over the space of thousands of years, humankind developed previous inventions and technology, refining them and turning them in to something better.
The Neolithic age in Europe has been defined by their mysterious stone monuments and stone circles such as Stonehenge. Scientists still do not understand how or why so many of these were constructed. To create Stonehenge, the vast stones needed to be transported many miles and the laws of physics and astronomy employed to position them into their final resting place. Even today modern people would struggle with this task so whatever technology the Ancients used it was certainly effective.
Defining the oldest type of technology is actually impossible. Was it the use of sticks and stones and other natural materials as tools that were used in hunting and other human activities? Is this the first type of technology? Or was it when humans took a natural object and worked on it so that the tool became something suitable for an exact purpose that humankind could use?
Scientists and archaeologists cannot agree and there are no real answers but one thing is sure; human technology has been in operation since the first person sharpened a stone or a stick and that dates back to at least 70,000 years before the dawn of history as we know it.