Germany lacked any clearly defined geographical boundaries until modern times. The idea of a single German people, or Volk, is likewise a relatively recent development, largely invented by 19th- and 20th-century writers and politicians. From ancient times, several ethnic groups have mixed to shape the history of Germany, resulting in a stunning diversity of cultures and dialects. Political definitions of Germany have tended to reflect this ambiguity, at various times including many regions that today are sovereign nations (such as Austria and Switzerland) or parts of other countries (such as France, Poland, Russia, and Hungary). Modern Germany is the product of centuries of social, political, and cultural evolution. This history section provides a brief survey of that evolution.
The forests of Germany were occupied during the Old Stone Age by bands of wandering hunters and gatherers. They belonged to the earliest forms of Homo sapiens, who lived about 400,000 years ago. Neandertal people, who were similar to modern humans in many ways, first appeared in Europe about 200,000 years ago. (The name Neandertal comes from fossils discovered in 1856 in the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf.) By about 30,000 years ago, the Neandertals had disappeared, but another human group, the Cro-Magnon—known for spectacular cave drawings, such as those at the famous site at Lascaux, France—had appeared in Europe. See also Human Evolution: Late Homo sapiens.
About 7000 bc Homo sapiens societies experienced a crucial transformation, which archaeologists have labeled the Neolithic, or New Stone Age, revolution.
During this period, many groups began producing their own food through agriculture and the domestication of animals. Their permanent settlements and more stable food supply in turn triggered a significant increase in population. The indigenous hunters of central Europe encountered farming peoples migrating up the Danube Valley from southwest Asia in about 4500 bc. These populations mixed and settled in villages to raise crops and breed livestock. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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