English translation copyright © 2014 by Yuval Noah Harari
Cloth edition published 2014
Published simultaneously in the United Kingdom by Harvill Secker First published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011 by
Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan, Dvir
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Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Harari, Yuval N., author
Sapiens : a brief history of humankind / Yuval Noah Harari.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 978-0-7710-3850-1 (bound).–ISBN 978-0-7710-3852-5 (html)
1. Civilization–History. 2. Human beings–History. I. Title.
CB25.H37 2014 909 C2014-904589-1
Jacket design © Suzanne Dean
Picture research by Caroline Wood
Maps by Neil Gower
McClelland & Stewart,
a division of Random House of Canada Limited,
a Penguin Random House Company
In loving memory of my father, Shlomo Harari
Timeline of History
Matter and energy appear. Beginning of physics. Atoms and molecules
appear. Beginning of chemistry.
Formation of planet Earth.
Emergence of organisms. Beginning of biology.
Last common grandmother of humans and chimpanzees.
Evolution of the genus Homo in Africa. First stone tools.
Humans spread from Africa to Eurasia. Evolution of different human
500,000 Neanderthals evolve in Europe and the Middle East.
300,000 Daily usage of fire.
200,000 Homo sapiens evolves in East Africa.
The Cognitive Revolution. Emergence of fictive language.
Beginning of history. Sapiens spread out of Africa.
45,000 Sapiens settle Australia. Extinction of Australian megafauna.
30,000 Extinction of Neanderthals.
16,000 Sapiens settle America. Extinction of American megafauna.
Extinction of Homo floresiensis. Homo sapiens the only surviving human
The Agricultural Revolution. Domestication of plants and animals.
5,000 First kingdoms, script and money. Polytheistic religions.
4,250 First empire – the Akkadian Empire of Sargon.
Invention of coinage – a universal money.
The Persian Empire – a universal political order ‘for the benefit of all
Buddhism in India – a universal truth ‘to liberate all beings from
2,000 Han Empire in China. Roman Empire in the Mediterranean. Christianity.
The Scientific Revolution. Humankind admits its ignorance and begins to
acquire unprecedented power. Europeans begin to conquer America and
the oceans. The entire planet becomes a single historical arena. The rise
The Industrial Revolution. Family and community are replaced by state
and market. Massive extinction of plants and animals.
Humans transcend the boundaries of planet Earth. Nuclear weapons
threaten the survival of humankind. Organisms are increasingly shaped
by intelligent design rather than natural selection.
Intelligent design becomes the basic principle of life? Homo sapiens is
replaced by superhumans?
The Cognitive Revolution
A human handprint made about 30,000 years ago, on the wall of the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in
southern France. Somebody tried to say, ‘I was here!’
An Animal of No Significance
ABOUT 13.5 BILLION YEARS AGO, MATTER, energy, time and space came into
being in what is known as the Big Bang. The story of these fundamental features
of our universe is called physics.
About 300,000 years after their appearance, matter and energy started to
coalesce into complex structures, called atoms, which then combined into
molecules. The story of atoms, molecules and their interactions is called chemistry.
About 3.8 billion years ago, on a planet called Earth, certain molecules
combined to form particularly large and intricate structures called organisms. The
story of organisms is called biology.
About 70,000 years ago, organisms belonging to the species Homo sapiens
started to form even more elaborate structures called cultures. The subsequent
development of these human cultures is called history.
Three important revolutions shaped the course of history: the Cognitive
Revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago. The Agricultural
Revolution sped it up about 12,000 years ago. The Scienti c Revolution, which got
under way only 500 years ago, may well end history and start something
completely di erent. This book tells the story of how these three revolutions have
affected humans and their fellow organisms.
There were humans long before there was history. Animals much like modern
humans rst appeared about 2.5 million years ago. But for countless generations
they did not stand out from the myriad other organisms with which they shared
On a hike in East Africa 2 million years ago, you might well have encountered a
familiar cast of human characters: anxious mothers cuddling their babies and
clutches of carefree children playing in the mud; temperamental youths cha ng
against the dictates of society and weary elders who just wanted to be left in
peace; chest-thumping machos trying to impress the local beauty and wise old
matriarchs who had already seen it all. These archaic humans loved, played,
formed close friendships and competed for status and power – but so did
chimpanzees, baboons and elephants. There was nothing special about them.