Culture is the way people live. It includes what people believe and the things they do everyday. It includes the language people speak and the clothes they wear.
Parents pass culture on to their children. Ideas and ways of doing things are called cultural traits. For example, in the United States, eating with a fork is a cultural trait. In Japan, people use chopsticks.
Some parts of a culture are easy to see. They include houses, food, and clothing. Things you cannot see or touch are also part of culture. They include spiritual beliefs, government, and ideas about right and wrong. Language is a very important part of culture. Geographers want to know how the environment affects culture. Japan is a nation of mountainous islands, with very little farmland. So the Japanese use the sea for food. But the same environment may not lead to the same culture. Greece is also made of mountainous islands. The Greeks eat some fish. But they use mountainsides to get food. Goats and sheep graze there and provide food for the Greeks.
The cultural landscape varies from place to place. In Indonesia, farmers have used technology to carve terraces into hillsides. On the plains of northern India, farmers have laid out broad, flat fields.
Scientists think that early cultures went through four important steps. First was the invention of tools. Second was the control of fire. Third was the beginnings of farming. Fourth was the development of civilizations.
Early people were hunters and gatherers. They traveled from place to place. As they traveled, they collected wild plants, hunted animals, and fished. Later, they learned to grow crops. They tamed wild animals to help them work or to use for food. Over time, people got more of their food from farming. This is called the Agricultural Revolution.
Farmers were able to grow more food than they needed. This meant that some people could work full time on crafts such as metalworking. They traded the
things they made for food. People developed laws and government. To keep track of things, they developed writing. All these events together created the first civilizations. That was about 5,000 years ago.
In time, farming and civilization spread throughout the world. Then, about 200 years ago, people invented power-driven machinery. This was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It led to the growth of cities, science, and highly advanced technologies.
Before the Agricultural Revolution, people had simple institutions. These were extended families and simple political institutions, such as councils of elders.
As people gathered in larger groups, they needed more complex institutions. They developed religions. States needed schools, armies and governments. Today, we have many different kinds of institutions. They help to organize our culture.