By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
The Ordovician was named after the ancient Welsh Celtic tribe Ordovices; both the name and system were established by Charles Lapworth in 1879 for those rocks which had originally formed the upper part of Sedgwick's Cambrian System, together with those that formed the lower part of Murchison's Silurian System. There was a considerable increase in diversity within the major animal groups during the Ordovician, and several significant new groups appeared. Bryozoans, rugose and tabulate corals, ostracode and eurypterid arthropods, starfish and brittle star echinoderms all appeared. The graptolites colonized the planktonic realm: the water column above the sea floor. Vertebrates diversified with the evolution of primitive jawed fish. The earliest evidence of primitive land plants comes from Middle Ordovician rocks. Primitive land plants first appeared in the mid-Ordovician. The first mass extinction of the Phanerozoic occurred towards the end of the Ordovician. This was associated with a major glaciation, as the warm conditions of the Cambrian and early Ordovician gave way to cooler ones. An ice cap developed on the southern supercontinent of Gondwana. As a result of the trapping of water in this ice sheet, world sea level fell in the late Ordovician.
The Ordovician was a time of great biodiversification, including the proliferation and spread of planktonic graptolites and 'articulated' (rhynchenelliform) brachipods, and the appearance of several new trilobite families such as calymenids and trinucleids. The former Iapetus ocean separated Gondwana from Laurentia by several thousand kilometers in the late Cambrian, and became progressively narrower during the Ordovician. This resulted in part from the microcontinent of Eastern Avalonia (England, Wales and southern Ireland) rifting off the northern margin of Gondwana and moving northwards across the ocean towards Laurentia (North America, Scotland and northern Ireland).
|Quaternary||1.75 mya - now|
Human species emerge
Humans existed long before history. Animals much like modern humans first appeared about 2.5 mya in East Africa. But our ancestors were just another kind of animal.
Geology is the study of earth. Biology is the study of life forms. History is the study of the formation, development and interactions of cultures. Humans existed long before history, and are studied biologically, as organisms. There is no unbridgeable gap between history on one side and physics, chemistry and biology on the other side. History is simply the next stage in the ongoing complexity of the universe.
A genus is a group of species evolved from a common species; the plural of genus is genera. A scientific name always has the genus and species. Animals are defined as belonging to the same species when they mate and produce fertile offspring together. However, within a given genus the differences may not seem all that vast and there may be gray areas. For example, horses and donkeys are very much alike but are not sexually interested in one another. They generally never mate without human intervention, and when they do their offspring (mules) are infertile. They thus continue to diverge more and more into entirely different species. However, bulldogs and cocker spaniels appear vastly different but exhibit sexual interest in each other and can produce fertile offspring.
A human is a species in genus Homo. There were several human species. For thousands of years, Homo sapiens preferred to view itself as totally different and set apart from other animals -- as if Homo sapiens just popped up on earth without any evolutionary ancestors. But indeed there was a single ancestor for genus Homo, and all other human species. It was a single female ape, and one of her daughters gave rise to humans. Homo sapiens not only belongs to a family of various human species, but this family is large and included many cousins. Though we were refer only to Homo sapiens as humans in the vernacular, there were other human species until only recently.
Austrolithepacus was ancient ancestor of humans.
Somewhere in East Africa the first human species evolved from Austrolithepacus about 2.5mya. Some of these left their homeland and settled North Africa, Europe, and Asia. They encountered different climates, geographies, animals, and plants -- and in order to adapt the human populations began to evolve in different ways. These created with time different human species. Humans who reached north Europe after leaving East Africa needed to adapt to cold, lots of ice and snow, and big animals like birds, mammals, mastodons. Others after leaving East Africa arrived in Indonesia and had to adapt to the hot, wet, swampy territory. Central Asia was dry and hot. Many different humans evolved and each of these different species had their own names. Similarly, there are many different species of bears, many of which are quite different.
|Homo neanderthaliensis||Homo neanderthaliensis was named after the Neander Valley in Germany, where they were first discovered. Neanderthals, as they are commonly known, were well adapted to Europe and Middle East which was much colder. They had insulating layers of fat, which had better protection from the cold.|
|Homo soloensis||Homo soloensis was named after the Solo Valley on Java Island, where first remains of this human species were discvered by archaeologists. Homo soloensis adapted to the tropical climate, the jungles and swamps of tropical Java.|
|Homo floresiansis||Homo floresiensis was named after the small Indonesian island of Floris. This unique and interesting human species were dwarfs; Flores Island used to be connected to mainland by land but when ocean levels rose it was disconnected, and some people got stuck on the island when the sea levelrose. Flores is a small island without much to eat, so the big people died first because they needed more food. Smaller peple who needed less food managed to survive better. THis happened generation after generation and the smallest peple had the best chances of living. People on Flores Island became smaller and smaller until they ebcame dwarfs. Studies show the Homo floresiensis reached an estimated height of no more than 1m and weight of 25kg. These humans still could manufacture and use all kinds of tools like spears and whatnot. They even managed to hunt from time to time the local dwarf elephants.|
|Homo erectus||In the bg open plains of Asia, Homo eructus developed. Very tall, 1.8 to 1.9 meters tall. Homo erectus was probably the most successful human species ever in terms of how many years it managed to survive. Homo erectus first evolved about 1.5 millin years ago and survived until about 50,000 years ago. In contrast, Homo sapiens began to evolve maybe to 200,000-300,000 years ago and it is very unlikely that we will break the record of Homo erectus.|
|Homo denisova||In 2010, humans discovered the remains of another human species in a cave in Russia. A fossilized bone of a finger was found, managed to extract DNA and to map it. It was compared to DNA from a finger of all other known human species and it did not match. The conclusion is that there previusly existed in Central Asia another species of humans called Homo denisova (man from denisova cave). This was different than other human species. There may have been other ancient human species and are waiting to be discovered.|
|Homo augusta||working man, because many tools were found along the bones.|
The first bipeds
The human lineage diverged from the African chimpanzees 7-8 million years ago, perhaps because the climate cooled and rainforests gave way to open habitats. While these first hominims shared some features with chimpanzees, they also exhibited other distinctive human-like features. They were bipedal and upright walkers, making them more efficient at ranging over long distances, and their slightly thicker, larger teeth allowed them to chew harder foods.
Hominim is the term for the species in the human lineage. The earliest hominim yet discovered, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, is over 7 million years old. Although relatively small-brained and chimpanzee-like in many respects, this species had molar teeth with thicker enamel, smaller canines, and was largely bipedal. Other small-brained bipedal hominims were present in East Africa until about 4 to 4.5 million years ago.
Emergence of homoThe Earth continued to cool between two and three million years ago, further expanding open habitats in Africa. This shift coincided with the evolution of the first species of our genus Homo and evenutally, the species Homo erectus. This hominim gathered plant foods, and became a hunter, aided in part, by increased abilities to run and walk long distances, a larger brain, and the ability to make stone tools to process foods.
The human species
No one is sure why Homo sapiens evolved in Africa 200,000 years ago, but changes in the brain may have improved our ability to think creatively, and shorter, smaller faces may have helped us speak more clearly. After about 50,000 years ago, humans quickly spread throughout the world, evenutally replacing other hominims such as Neanderthals and Homo erectus. Only recently, and for the first time in millions of years, we are the only species of hominim alive.
At the end of the Ice Age about 12,000 years ago, the human species began to shift from a hunting-gathering way of life to farming. Although humans have been farmers for less than 600 generations, this transition has transformed our species and the world -- our diets have changed, we are more sedentary, our population growth is accelerating, and we are rapidly changing the Earth's environment.
What is important is to understand the generla picture of the human family.
Some were big, small, more vegetarian, more carnivorous, very constrained geogrpahically or across entire continents. So 100,000 years ago there at least six differnet species of humans living side by side on planet earth; we know of six but there may have been many more. In different parts of the world there were different human species at the same time. What is strange is that in the world now there is just one human species. It is strange that we are now the only human species in the entire world.
There were once many different species of humans on earth. There were differences but also similarities. They all belonged to genus Homo.
They all shared several defining characteristics that make them all humans.
Traits common to all humans: big brains, walk upright,
|Large brains||All human species had extraordinarily large brains, compared to other mammals. Mammalls with 60kg have brains abt 200cm3. But humans about 60kg have brains 1200-1400cm3. (cc) Even though earlier humans had smaller brains, they were still very large compared to pigs/tigers of equal weight. This disproportion of big weight versus body size only increased as people evolved. It may seem obvious to us that we developed bigger and bigger brains and that more is always better. But if that were the case then evolutionary brains should not only have produced humans with big brains, but cats, dogs, birds, etc. But this did not happen. The fact is that a big brain has advantages but also poses a problem. It must be carried around and protected. It usually is encased within a massive skull with many protective bones. Also it is hard, bothersome to the body. What us evn ore hard is to fuel the brain. The brain accounts for about 2-3% of total body weight but consumed 25% of all body energy when the body is at rest, not running or whateve.r The brain other apes, by comparison, requires only 8% of bodily energy and even apes have relatively large brains. So thebig problem aside from carrying it around is how to fuel it with energy. Ancient humans paid for their larger nad larger brains in two main ways. First of all, they had tospend more itme looking for food whereas the baboon with a smaller brain did not need so much food so just hung out in the sun doing nothing much of the day. But huamsn always had to look for food to get energy. A second method for paying the brain's energy budget is that humans became less muscular as the brain become bigge.r Muscles became smaller and weaker. Resources were deflected from musculature to the cerebrum. This makes far from sense: a chimpanzeee and human both at 60kg, the human can win an argument but the chimpanzee can rip us apart at 5x stronger. But 2.5mya there was very little that humans got from having bigger brains, but apart from flint knives and pointed sticks they had very little to show for their big brains. THe reason it became so big is one of the greatest mysteries in human evolution. It is unclear what drove the growth of the human brain over hundreds of thousand sof years. It is very important to science that if you have a very important questionand do not know the answer then just be honset about it: we do not know why the brain of our early ancestors got bigger and bigger.|
|walk upright on two legs||We do not walk on four like other mammals. It is easier to explain the advantage of walking upright. It is easier to spot prey across the savannah and moreover once your hands are freed from walking then you can use your hands for many other new purposes like signaling your friends or throwing stones or sticks. Once hte hands became free then people developed more and more nerves and finely tuned muscles in their palms and fingers to allow them to perform very complicated and delicate tasks with their hands like producing/using tools.|
But it also has downside. First of all the skeleton of our primate ancestors evolved for millios and millions of years supported a creature walking on all fours and had a smaller head/brain. When people started to wlak upright and simultaneously had bigger heads, this created big stress on spine and skeleton and muscles in general. People stills suffer from backaches and stiff necks from walking upright. WOmen paid extra for walking upright. One of the things that happen is that your hips must be relatively narrow and close to one another. THus the birth canal through which the baby passes in birth must also be narrow. Simultaneously the baby heads were getting bigger while the birth canal was getting narrower. Death in childbirth of both babies and mothers became far more common in humans that chimpanzees, zebras, humans, elephants, etc. This was because the head got larger but the canal got smaller. Woman started to give birth at an earlier stage in gestation. Women who gave birth earlier when child was still smaller and less developed had a better chance of surviving. Pregnany period of women became shorter and shorter and women began to give birth earlier and earlier. Women give birth to humanbabies much earlier comparatively than any other animal. Humans so to speak are born prematurely when they are only half-baked. A small horse, a colt, can start walking/trotting within hours of being born. Kittens can leave its mother and start walking aorund by itself at only a few weeks old. HUman babies remain helpless and completely dependent for many months and even years. It takes humans a while to catch up with what baby horses, kittens, etc can do.
So this was the solution to walking upright with bigger heads, birth came at an earlier pointin gestation. This had a big impact on humankind for several reasons: because human children are born prematurely they need a lot of care and attention from elders, siblings, etc. Inorder for a human to survive it needs muc more care and attention than a kitten would need. Usually a single mother cannot give to her baby enough care and attention only by herself in order for it to survive. There is a saying, "It takes a village to raise a human." That is why social ties developed; evolutinary pressures favored humans with strong social ties, bcause this is necessary for the babies. If you have childrne, the only way you can take care of them is with assistance from other humans. So humans live in groups. THis is the first effect of half-baked births. The second effect is that humans can be educated and socialized than any other animals. Most animals emerge from a mother like a vase out of a kiln; if you try to change the shape, it will only scratch or break. In contrast, humans emerge like molten glass from a furnace. It can be spun, stretched, etc. After thye are born, humans can be educated and socialized in various ways. This is why today we can educate our children to become Chrsitians, Buddhists, capitalists, socialists, etc etc.
So humans had these advantages and became very powerful, but humans who joined all these advantages still stayed irrelevant for more than 2mya.
They were weak andmarginal with little environmental impact. About 1mya there were only about 1m humans in the world. They were not top predators, they were preyed upon, they were not top dogs. Humans themselves were not very good hunters. They could rarely hunt alone big animals like giraffes and elephants. They mostly ate nuts, fruits, mushrooms, and hunting small animals like rabbits and frogs and turtles. They also ate the leftovers from other animals like a lion would hunt a giraffe and humans would later scavenge the remains. One of the most common uses of early stone tools was not to hunt, but to crack open the bones of dead animals to eat the marrow. Ancient humans probably ate much marrow, which was the original speciality of humans in the world; their original niche. Many animals have a special niche. A lion eats a giraffe and leaves some over, it's a big animal. Next come big scavengers like hyenas, jackals, wolves, and only then do humans approach the carcass very carefully and there is nothing left -- except marrow.
THe position of humans in the food chain for close to 2my was not a top predator, somewhere in the middle instead. For hundreds of thousands of eyars we hunted small animals but were also hunted by large predators and could not hunt big animals alone. Only in the last hundred thousand years did human jump from the middle to the top of the food chain and become top predators of planet earth. This spectacular leap from middle to top had enormous consequences. Not only oculd people eat and do, but psychologically. Humans ar eunused and unadapted to this position. Other animals at the top of the food pyramid like lions, sharks, etc, alligators, birds, evolved to fill this position over millions of years. They know what to do. Humankind ascended to position of the planet's top predator in almost no evolutionary time and humans are unadapted. Many historical calamities stem from how humans treat other and the environment from this over-hasty jump. Our position in the ecosystemis very different than what is was befor. Do not thing of us as getting a hold of bombs, but thiink of us as a herd of sheep that did. Armed sheep are more dangerous than armed wolves because they would not know how to behave in a position of power. How did we make this sudden jump from the middle to the top of the food chain?? (Cognitive revolution??)
Humans had big brains, tools, complex social structures, but remianed marginalin the ecosystem. But int he last hundred thousand years we ascended to the top of the food chain and became the mostpowerful animals around. How?
The first significant gulf between man and other naimals was the domesticatino of fire. The most singificant step was the domestication of fire. When? Where? How? Not known, but we do know that by about 300,000 years ago some humans were using fire on a daily basis. Fire had importnat advantages for humans. It gave humans a source oflight in darkness and warmth in winter. It also gave our ancestors the first really effective weapon against dangerous animals like lions and birds.Fire could also be used to start changing the environment to fit human needs. People for example could use fire to burn down forests. Once the flames died down then humans could walk in and collect dead animals that had cooked in the fire. The mostimportant thing that fire did, the best thing, was that it enabled humans to cook. Entirely new sections in the world grocery store were now avaialble. Wheat, rice, potatoes, could now be eaten with fire. Humans cannot digest them uncooked. once potatoes, wheat, etc are cooked then they can be eaten and imbine the calories and nutrients. Fire let people eat many new things, and it also kills germs and parasites especially in meat but also other kinds of food. This portected peple from many parasites. Another big advantage of cooking is that it reuced the time that humans needed to invest in chewing, and time/energy for digestion. Uncooked food must be chewed a lot, then it takes a lot fo energy to properly digest. Chimpanzees spend 5 hours each day on average just chewing food to make it easier for their gut. People who use fire find that 1hr a day is sufficient AND require less enrgy to digest it. Cooking allows us to outsource our digestion to fire. Fire digests the food for us. Humans, in contrast to chimpanzees, na survive with smaller teeth, less powerful teeth and shorter intestines. There may be a connectino between the shortening of the intestine and the growth in the brain. The two biggest energy consumers are the gut and the brain. it is difficult to have both big intestines and a big brain. They compete for limited energy. By shortening the intestines beause not so much is needed to digest food, then the way is opened for a much bigger brain.The growth of the brain began 2.5mya but really jumped only about 300-400,000 yeasr ago with Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis and this is about the time that people began to cook. Once you cooked your food then your intestines were less taxed and could reduce and the brain greatly expanded.
Most animals have a direct link between their body's power and their power as a creature. The size of their teeth, breadth of wings, greatnss of muscles. Yes, animals can harness currents and wind, but there is till a very close connection to their actual physical abilities. Eagles rely not only directly on their bodies, but also on identifying winds and thermal columns. They can identify thermal currents and spread wings and allow their wings to carry them upwards. But they cannot control the locations fo these columsn. And their maximum carrying capacity, power, is sitllproportional to their wing span. A powerful column of hot air is not enough to lift an elephant because their wingspan is simply not big enough. The poewr of animals depends on size and shape of hteir bodies. Humans domesticating fire broke the link between the power of the animal and the poewr and size of the body of the animal. BY domesticating fire, humans controlled an obedient and potentially limitless force. Unlike eagles, humans can decided when adn where to ignite a fire. A single woman with a torch or flint cna burn down an entire first in hours with thousands of trees, animals, etc but an eagle can use wind but is still limited by size of wings. There is absolutely no proportion between the size of the woman's body and the ability to burn down the whole forest. The domestication of fire was a sign of things to come. This was the first important step on the way to the atomic bomb. Fire made humans more different than all the other animals and more powerful. Even afterdomestication fire, though, humans were still not the most important/powerful animal in the world. The real jump had to wait a few hundred thousand years more until appearance spread and trials of Homo sapiens. This appearance and spread of Homo sapiens
Homo sapiens first apeared in East Africa some 200-300,000 yearsago.
Homo Sapiens first evolved somewhere around East Africa, 300,000 to 200,000 years ago; the exact date is contentious. Byt by 100,000 years ago it was inhabitd by homo sapiens looking about exactly like you and me. Around 70k years ago they reached the middle east then spread across the eurasian land mass. When Homo sapeins arrived in middle east, most of Eurasia was inhabited by other humans. What happened to them? This is one of history's biggest and most important questions.
Decline of other species
There are two conflicting theories: interbreeding theory tells of interbreeding between spaien and other species.
As they spread across they world they bred with other human species adn the humans today are the restult of this interbreeding. For example, when humans reached middle east and europe they found local species of neanderthals. The neandnerthals were muscular and better adapted and had bigger brains and had tools and fire and were good at hunting. How did Neanderthals look like? There is evidence that some had fair skin and fair hair. According to interbreeding theory, when Sapiens arrived in Neanderthal territory they interbred and merged. Thus, Europeans and Middle Easterns are not pure Sapiens but a mixture of Sapiens and Neanderthals. Furthermore, when Sapiens reached China about 60,000 years ago they met and bred with local Homo erectus and Homo Denesova so that CHinese and East Asians are not pure Sapiens but a mixture of Sapiens and Erectus. Thus the only pure Sapiens would be Africans. This is the interbreeding theory.
The replacement theory is in contradistinction to the interbreeding theory. There was no sex between Sapiens and other human species, due to different anatomies and mating habits and maybe even different body odors. ANyhow they had very little sexual interest withsomebody from the other population. Even some Neanderthal ROmeo and Sapiens Juliet would have infertile offspring, like horses and donkeys making infertile mules. THe two populations, according to the replacement theory, of Sapiens and Neanderthals, remained completly distinct and when NEanderthals died out their genes died with them. Thus, Sapeins replaced other human populations without merging with them. All living humans today, not just africans, are pure Sapiens. We all share same East African ancestors.
The debate between these two theories is not just academic but political as well. From an evolutionary perspective, 70,000 yeasr is a relatively short time and not enough time for importnat genetic changes to occur. Thus, if replacement theory is correct and we are all descended from same African ancestors then all humans today have roughly the same advantages genetically. Racial distinctions between Africans and EUropeans and Chinese are negligible if the replacement theory is correct. But if the interbreeding theory is correct then there might be genetic differences between Chinese, Africans, Aboriginals, etc like Chinese might have unique Erectus gnes that EUropeans lack, but the Europeans would have unique Neanderthal genes. This would mean that there might be significant differences, not just in physical but mental and psychological qualities as well. THis is a very problematic notion that there might be deep genetic differnces between different populations today.
The replacement theory had mst backing because it was more politically correct but also because it was more archaeologically supported; scientists were disinclined to support the intebreeding theory, until about 2010 when a four-year effort to map the Neanderthal genome was achieved. Enough intact Neanderthal DNA from all sorts of bones was accumulated to map the entire genome. THen scientists took this Neanderthal genome and compared it with genomes/DNA of people living today. The results revealed that about 4% of the unique human genes of modern people in Middle East and Europe are Neanderthal genes. Then a few months later, DNA from fossilized finger bones of the Denesova cave, revealed that up to 6% of Melonesian and Aboriginal genes were from Denesova. If these results are valid then it means that there were at least some sexual encouteres between Sapiens, Neanderthals and Denesovans, that resulted in fertile offspring and there are some people today whose ancestors are Neanderthals and Denesovans. The interbreeding theory has some truth in it. It does not mean, however, that the replacement theory is entirely wrong. Neanderthals and Denesovans only contributed a small percent of our modern DNA, 4% - 6% -- it is impossible to think of a true merger. In the case of a true merger, we would expect to to see 40% to 60% shared DNA. The ancient populations of Sapiens and Neanderthals may have intermingled but did not merge, they remained distinct.
If this is the case then how should we understand biological relations between Sapiens, Neanderthals and Denesovans? Were they different species or different populations of the same species? Well the evidence shows they were not totally different species like horses and donkeys, but it would be a mistake to view them as different populations of the same species like bulldogs and greyhounds. Any two species that evolve from a common ancestor were at one time just two populations of the same species, but with time the two populations became more different. They eventually become distinct and become two different species. On the way to this full distinction, there is a point in time when they were already tremendously different but were still capable on rare occasions of having sex and producing fertile offspring. About 50kya Sapeins, Neanderthals and Denesovans were exactly at that borderline point. 50kya sapiens were already very different from Neanderthals and Denesovans not just in genetics and physical traits but already very different in cognitive and social abilities. Yet it was still just possible on rare occasions for a Sapiens and Neanderthals to have children together. The two populations did not merge but some Neanderthal genes and some Denesovan genes made their way into Sapiens DNA. Sapiens could have sex with an animals from almost a completely differnet species and raise children together.
If the Neanderthals did not simply merge then wht happened? WHy did they vanish? One possibility is that Neanderthals became extinct because Sapiens outcompeted them.
Imagine that 40kya Sapiens from the middle east arrived in a Balkan valley in Greece or Bulgaria today and these newcomers from Africa had to eat so they hunted local deer and picking local mushrooms and nuts and fruits and eat them. This is the food needed by Neanderthals so the two species start to compete for the same food resources. If Sapiens were already more sophisticated than Neanderthals intheir techniques of hunting/gathering then with time Sapiens had more of the food and ate more and the population grew. Neanderthals left with less and less food dwindled and disappeared, except for perhaps one or two individuals from the NEanderthal band who somehow managed to join the Sapiens band and this is how hteir genes came to us. They outcompeted withut violence.
Alternatively it oculd have flared up into violence, war and genocide. Tolerance is not a human trademark. The first thing that comes to mind about humans is intelligence, sophistication and ingenuity, but not tolerance. in modern times, even a small difference in skin color or dialect or religion has been enough for one group to exterminate another group. Would ancient Sapiens been more tolerant? It'sunlikely. It may well be that when Sapiens encountered Neanderthals that the result was the first and most significant ethnic cleansing in history.
In reality it probbaly did not happen the same way in all areas. A heterogenous mixture of the outcompetition and exterination theories likely occurred. NEanderthals' disappearance poses one of the most significant questions in our history.
*Why the Euro-centric obsession with Neanderthals?
Perhaps this is exactly why our ancestors wiped out "Neanderthals ...and other humans." Maybe they were too familiar to us to ignore their existence, but too different from us to tolerate their existence. Whether Sapiens are to blame or not, no sooner had Sapiens had arrived that the native population of human species went extinct. The las remains of Homo solensiensis on JAva date to 50kya and Denesova disappeared baout 40kya and Neanderthals disappeared 30kya and last dwarved vanished from Flores island about 12kya. These various human species left behind bones, stone tools, a few genes in our DNA, and many unanswered questions. They also left behind us, Homo sapiens, the last surviving human species. What was the secret to our dominance and spread? How did we adapt to so many different environments? How did we push all other human species to extinction? Neanderthals were bettter adapted with their big muscles and brains to colder climates -- why did they perish upon our arrival?
Human history is categorized most broadly by the cognitive, scientific and industrial revolutions.
Cognitive revolution abt 70000 years ago
Homo sapiens, previously an insignificant species of primate, developed unique congitive (thinking/rememering/learing) abilities that gave it immense power and turned it into the most important animal in the world. Homo sapiens, a species of African apes, evolved unqieu cognitive abilities that gave it immense power and turned it into the most important animal in the world.
Second big revolution is agricultural revolution about 12000 years ago
Domesticated certain animals/plants and developed cities/villages and began to develop ever-more complex societies.
Homo sapiens domesticatd animals and plants, established permanent settlements, and began to create ever more complex societies.
THird is Scientific Revolution about 500 years ago
Homo sapiens gains more and more power, becomesn master of the entire planet, and begins to change the most basic rules of life. Life had been by natural selection, but now technologies like genetic engineering and direct brain-computer interfaces that it is expected that in the next century or two it will completel change the way life on planet earth is.
Homo sapiens gains more and more power, becomes the master of the entire planet, and begins to chang ehte most basic rules of life.
In order to resolve know more about ancient people, we need to knew something: hard evidence about how our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago actually lived.
Unfortunately there are few certainties regarding the living conditions of our forager ancestors. Archaeological record concists mainly of some fossilized bones and stone tools, hardly enough to reconstruct the rich life of peple 20,000 or 40,000 years ago. But we do have at our disposal some genetic evidence. The last main source of information we have is direct observation of modern hunter-gatherers like Australia and Kalahari Desert. This is a very important source of information because we can view the way of life directly, but it is also dangerous to assume that people 50,000ya lived in same conditions and lifestyles as people today. Another problem is that it was not a single unified world before but many differnet worlds. Most notable characteristic of hunter-gatherer societies is how different ehy are, one from another. They do not all have same social structures, beliefs, values, religions and norms. There is and was an enormous variety amongdifferent groups of hunter-gatherers. There were about 5,000,000 hunter-gatherrers divided into thousands of tribes and bands, each with its own culture, religion, language and behavior patterns. Ecological zones likely caused differences, but even in same conditions might have had different norms. This was one big legacy of cognitive revolutions. Thanks to fictive language, evne people with same genetic makeup under similar ecological conditions could create different imagined realities which manifested themselves in many ways. Since the cognitive revolution there has not been a monolithic way of life, but an incredible array. But there were likely some common characteristics that were probably shared by all human societies.
For the vast majority of people like us they lived as hunter-gathers and their way of life shaped their bodies and minds which we still carry with us today.
Subconsciously we still live in the Stone Age even if the world around us has changed. This is the premise of the field of study called Evolutionary Psychology. Not only is hte body shaped by evolutionary pressures, but also the mind and its psychology are shaped by evolutionary pressurse. THerefore, in order to understand our psychology today, we must understand the pressure or conditions that shape this psychology. An example would be diet an monogamy/polygamy/polyandry.
People lived in small bands of a few dozen to a few hundred individuals and all were humans. After the agricultural revoltuions, most members of societies were actually domesticated animals. For example, NZ has 5,000,000 people and 50,000,000 hseep. This is important. One important exception to human socities is that the dog was the first animal that Homo sapiens domesticated.
The dog was the first animal that Homo sapiens domesticated.
They were domesticated from wild wolves. This was done long before the agricultural revolution. By 15000 years ago, domesticated dogs were a part of at least some human socities. We have hard evidence from that time forward but they were likely htere early. A tool from Northern israel 12,000 years ago contains the skull of a woman next to a small puppy, and her left hand is resting on the small puppy. We also have records of dogs being buried individually in their own graves just as humans wer eburied in their own graves. What did the dogs do? They were used mainly for hunting likely and fighting too and also as an alarm system against enemies and intruders, both human enemies and dangerous animals. They could rely on dogs to sound the alarms if someone was coming. Wolves barely bark at all, very rarely, but dogs bark all the time. Scholars estimate that a selection pressure for dogs was whether they were serving as a good alarm system or not. If you raised five puppies and four hardly barked but one did all the time, and barked as an adult dog when somebody was coming, then the dog was crucial for people as it served as a kind of alarm system. THe genes of this dog that barked a lot got passed on to the next generation of dogs. One of hte main characteristics of dogs is that they bark a lot when people are coming. One of their main roles was to help protect and defend the band by souding the alarm whenever they heard something approaching. Mutual bonds of understand and affection developed ovet the generations, between dogs and people. Dogs and people co-evolved to communicate well and understand one another. Dogs that were good at understanding human wants, commands, emotions, had a better chance of surviving and passing their genes to the next generation. Also dogs taht manipulated humans by being cute and begging food etc so tht's how dogs and humans not only evolved to understand, communicate and maniplate one another. Today the dog is the animal that has the best connection and understanding with human beings, signals, emotions.
DietOne example is our eating habits. The way we eat today, not just what but how, is shaped by a large extent to our ancestors' conditions tens of thousands of years ago.
Why does the industrial world over-eat to the point of self-harm? 50,000 years ago if a woman were walking along the Savannah and saw a tree full of ripened fruit, the most sensible thing to do was to eat as many as possible, as quickly as possible. Sweet things were very rare. It was a prize to find such a source of readily available sugars. Except for fruits, there are hardly any sweets in the Savannah. Secondly, it was good to eat as quickly as possible because their presence could not be guaranteed at a different time. A local baboon band could have depleted the fruits. People who ate as many sweet things as quickly as possible were at an advantage and passed on their genes.
Today there is an abundance of incredibly concentrated sweet treats at easy access. 50,000 years ago? More like 150 years ago. We keep reacting to food with the same basic logic that is incompatible with conditions today. Subconsciously in our deepest layers of mentality, we still live in the Savannah.
Sexuality, romance and family
Another example is our sexual and romantic family relations. What kind of family relations and sexual habits have 40,000, 50,000, 60,000 years ago? Some scholars believe that the ancient foragers, our ancestors, did not live in monogamous nuclear families. Some believe that people lived in communes, not in monogamous nuclear families.
At any given time, a woman could have had sexual or romantic relations with several men and perhaps women. A man could have been active with various women and some men. It was not like jumping from beds of strangers, a series of one-night stands. Because they were communes, everyone was very close together, and people in those bands knew each other better than some people today know their spouses. You could see how the other behaved in extreme conditions that few husbands and wives get a chance to see how their spouse reacts when a lion attacks, or during a mammoth hunt. But 50,000 years ago people shared these extreme circumstances from time to time. People knew each other much more deeply than even married couples today. Do not imagine that these communes were like alienated promiscuous dens like in the modern world, but instead very close bands. Parenthood was very different from parenthood today. At the time the children were raised by the entire tribe, in that all adults helped take care of all children even if biological related were the primary connection. Men could never be sure if a child was theirs or someone else's.
There are in fact some tribes/societies today that have a concept called Collective Fatherhood. A child could have more than one father, the belief in those tribes is that when a child is growing in the womb of the women it is nourished by the semen from many men, just as an apple tree is nourished from the rain of many clouds. Indeed, up until recently, it was not known that one sperm fertilized one egg. In these collective fatherhood societies, a woman while pregnant had sex with many men -- a hunter, a communicator with spirits, a producer of knives/spearpoints, the best lover. Why not have my child have qualities of all these men? According to this idea, just as people are inclined to eat many sweet things quickly, people are inclined to live in communes and practice collective fatherhood. If this is true, then many problems experienced today in romantic, sexual and family lives results from a mismatch between our biological and cultural programs. Divorce, infidelity, etc stem from our bioogical inclinations and modern cultural programming being in conflict.
Other scholars insist that bands of hunter-gatherers were more communal, but that monogamy was an integral part of our development. They were composed of two-parent cells raising their children together, perhaps with some help from neighbors but with parents playing the same role as today.
Another characteristic of human bands was a high level of intimacy.
They were surronuded throughout their lives by friends and amily. Privacy nad loninliness did not really happen. Relations between one band and another band were probaly both hostile and friendly. They perhaps exchanged members, came together for a big hunt like surrounding a big herd, trade especially luxury items like seashells, maybe political alliances against another band or neanderthals, and they may have come together a few times a year for religious festivals. This was a trademark of Homo sapiens, which gave humans an advantage over other human species. This was what humans could do and Neanderthals could not do. Even just coming together a few times a year was a big advantage over other human species.
They lived in constant movement. THeir movements were dictated by changing seasons and annual migrations of animals and seasonal plants.
They generally had a territory in which they inhabited, though, of perhaps 200 km2. There were examples of seasonal and multi-seasonal settled camps, especially along lakes, rivers and seashores. Permanent fishing villages were first permanent settlements in history even before the agricultural revolutions. Permanent fishing villages as early as 45,000ya on coast of Indonesian islands. THis could have been the base from which Homo sapiens launched its first trans-oceanic enterprise, the human intrusion into Australia.
But in most areas humans were going from place to place and feeding from a variety of different food sources. Human bands did not live by eating one thing, but many things. Insects, berries, mushrooms, nuts, edible roots, trapped frogs, turtles, rabbits,hunted deer, bison and mammoth. THey did not live by just doing one thing. In terms of calories, nourishment and raw materials for tools, gathering was more important than hunting. Most food, most calories, were obtained by mainly gathering vegetable foods. Also they gathered stones, sticks, etc. Skins and flesh of animals were importnat but not as important as the gathering.
Intellect and strength
Superb physical and mental skills were required for foraging
They were as fit as modern Olympic marathoners. They had amazing physical abilities. To survive they also needed tremendous knowledge, detailed mental map of home territory. Also technical skills like making traps, making flint knives, handling dangerous situatinos, etc etc. Mastery of these skills rquired years of apprenticeshipand practice. In all probability the avreage forager had wider, deeper and more varied knowledge of the surrounding world than most people today. most people in indutrialized societies do not need to know a lot in order to survive. You need to know a lot about your tiny field of expertise, but in the greater world you rely blindly on other experts whose own knowledge is limited to their tiny field of expertise. You have no idea how to grow, harvest wheat, or prepare clothes. You have no idea how to make your shoes or who made your shoes. 20,000 years ago you had to know how to obtain your own food, prepare your own goods and even though they helped each other there was an expert, they were a member of your band who you intimately knew. At the very least you had to be initmately familiar and on good social relations with the people who were perhaps better at certian things than you were.
At the collective level we can make spaceships, but at the individual level we know much less than our ancestors. The size of the average Sapeisn brain has been decreasing since the agricultural revoltuion, the size of the human brain began to shrink because survival in the era of foraging required superb mental abilities from everybody. But when agriculture and industry came along and people began to live as pesaants and city dwellers, people could rely on complete strangers and niches for imbeciles became available. People with smaller brains and less knowledge could survive in a big city by working a machine in a factory. Or in an agricultural village you could be the village idito who survived by carryig buckets from the well or river.
The hunter-gatherer way of life differed significantly from region to region and season to season. But on the whole foragers seemed to have had a mor comfortable and reawrding lifestlye han people who came after them. Theyhad bigger brains, more knowledge, more skilled set, and in other ways had better lives than peasants, laborarers and office clerks who followed in their footsteps.
People on most affluetn socities in world live 40-45 hours per week. In developing countries it's 50 - 80 hours per week. Hunter-gatherers seemed to have worked 35-45 hours per week. On average it was enough to go hunting one outof three days and go gathering nuts, mushrooms just three to six hours per dday. This was neough in most areas for most of the time to feed the band. They worked less hours than most people today. Also foragers enjoyed a lighter load of household jobs. Unlikeus, ancient foragers when they came back home did not have to wash the dishes because there were no dishes, vacuum carpets because ther were none, change diapers because no diapers, no bills to pay, not the tremendously detailed arrangements to make, so they had a simpler and easier lifestyle.
The forager economy was characterized not just by people working less, but most people working more interesting careers as hunters and gatherers than peasants or industrial workers. Imagine the daily life of a Chinese facotry worker today. Making way through putrid streets, to a dreary sweatshop and operating the same machine in the same way day after day after day for ten long hours a day. The typical developing-world working day is ten hours per day. Then return home through traffic and pollution. Now time to wash dishes, do laundry, take care of baby, all these things. Now go back to 30,000 years ago and see how a CHinese forager lived. Leaving at 8am she andher companions roamed in nearby forests and swamps to gather mushrooms and gather roots and catch frogs and run away from tigers and snakes. By early afternoon they were back at camp to share the food they gathered and make lunch. That left them plenty of time to gossip andtell stories and play children and hang out. It was not ideal, of course. Sometimes they were bit by snakes or caught bylions. But there were no automobile accidents. No industrial accidents. Foraging was more interesting than factory worka nd also provided people with better nutrition than industry or agriculture. Evidence from fossilized skeletons indicates that ancient foragers were less likely to suffer from starvation or malnutritionand were generally taller and healthier than peasants who followed them.
Average life expectancy was still much shorter thna it was today. Average life expectancy was thirty to forty years, the same as 200 years ago. Also it should be noted hat htis relatively short life expecancy was due to high incience of child mortality. 30,000 years ago people lived to be 35-40 but in reaity child omrtality was vey high and your chances of reaching age 15 to 20 (about 25-33% died before late adolescence) but if oyu managed to srurive and reach age twenty then you could live to be sixty, seventy or even eighty. People who were forty were not old.
What was the foragers secret to success that protected them from staration and malnutrition? They had very vared diets. Peasants who followed, most of the population, suffered from unbalanced diets/nutrition. Especially in pre-modern times, most calories feeding omst agricultural population usually came from a single crop (or two at the most) like wheat and potatoes, or wheat and rice. If you are eating such a limitied diet then you are prone to malnutrition. In southern China peasants have been eating rice for breakfast luncha n dinner for thousands of years. In Mexico they ate maize -- sometimes more than 70% or even 90% of their calories came form a single crop. In the Middle East it was wheat. This provided calories, but not all the vitamins and minerals that they needed. Ancient foragers in most areas of the world ate dozens fo different foodstuffs. You might eat mushrooms and nuts for breakfast, then frogs and snails for lunch then mammoth steak for dinner from th ehunting party. A typical forage band ate dozens and even hudnreds of different foodstuffs, both animal and vegetable foodstuffs. This variety ensured that htey received all necessary vitamins and mineral and other nutrients. There was another beenfit for variety of foodstuffs. By not depeding on a single kind of food they were also protected from calamities that hit a particular source o food. In agricultural societies there is famine, drought or fire that destroys the annual rice crop. Then a society based on rice or wheat starves because there is nothing else. In a forager society however they were much more protected from natural disasters. They suffered from time to time with difficult periods without enough food but they could manage these calamities much easier than peasants/farmers because if they lost some foodstuffs they coudl gather/hunt larger quantiies of other sources of food ro simply move to a less affected area because their terrtory was large enough dozens oreven hundreds of km if a river flooded and washed out many goods, they would move to a mountain that was not affected. But if a river floods the wheat ro rice field then everything is gone and hte peasants might die from starvation.
Also foragers had another big advantage; they suffered less from infectious diseases. Most infectious diseases that have plagued human societies from the agricutlrual revoltuion onwards like smallpox, measles, tuberculosis, originated in domesticated animals like cattles, horses and pigs and trasnferred to humans only by agricultural domesticated animals. You have swine flu, chicken flu, which moves from our domesticated animals to humans. Ancient foragers only domesticated dogs so they did not receive these deadly infectious diseases. Ancient foragers suffered far less than their descendants the peasants/farmers did from infectious diseases. Anothe reasons they were less prone to infectious disease was because they were small roaming bands. These were not ideal places for infectious diseases to take hold and spread. In later times when people lived in permanent cities, tens of thousands of people in same place, with garbage, with toilets, with pigs, horses, cattle, these were ideal hotbeds for infectious diseases to spread. This is why after the agricultural revoltion people died in huge numbres from these diseases. Hunter-gathererrs lives in small bands that moved often, not years of waste buildingup. Also their varied diets, relatively short working week, rarity of infectious diseases, have caused these societies to be defined as the original affluent socieies. We often think of rich nations like United States, Switzerland or Japan as affluent societies; but long before, the hunter-gatherers were affleunt.
But it would be a mistake to idealize their lies.
Thought they lived better lives than most peopl ein agricultural societies, there were periods of hardship, child mortality wsa veyr high, accidents like alling from a treecould be a death sentnece, and most people likely enjoyed close intimacy of small bandbut if other people for some reason didn't like you they couldmake your life hell and you couldn't just move like in a big city or big country, itcould be very difficutl to just leave in the harsh circumstances. At least some bands suffered from high or even very high levels of violence. It is best neither to demonize nor idealize lives of foragers. THere were good and bad asepects. Good days and bad days. But there is a prejudice today that life has been ongoing improving but that's not true. Life in the hunter-gatherers hadmany positive aspects andhistory does not always go from good to bad, from worse to better. Good things have been lost on the way. And many people reading this might be from affluent layers of society. But the typical person in a middle-class today is not a normal representative of a person today or previous centuries following agricultural revolution.
Animistic beliefs was the basis of worldview and beliefs. From latin word anima, meaning soul or spirit. Aimism is the world full of animated beings all of whom can communicate with one another directly. No separatation between spiritual and physical worldanimals, plants and inimatve objects or phenonema possess a spiritual essence. Every animal, plant, rock, has awareness, hasa mnd, has feelings and emotions. Animists may eblieve that the big rock at the top of the hill has feeling, desirse and needs. It might be angry or rejoice due to actions by the people. THey might ask it to do things or them, or vice-versa. Also an oak tree, or a stream. In the animst world, objects and living things are not he only animated beings. THere are also immaterial beings like fairies, monsters, immaterial anima. They can be spoken with, communicated with, made deals with. ANimists particularly believe that there is no barrier betwen humans and other beings. We believe that animls have emotions and minds but cannot be directly communicated to, but animists believe htat hrough song and dance and ceremony can communicate with them directly. A hunter may aska herd of deer if they may offer one of their own; and he may apologize to the killed deeer. The shaman may contact the spirit causing a sickness to pacify or scare it away, to restore the health of the person. If the spirit does not cooperate then might ask for help from other spirits to restore the health. WHat separates animism from later religions is that the entities addressed are local beings a particular tree or wolf or cloud or dmeon. They are not religions of great gods, one grreat god responsible for many trees and wolves. Main communication is with a particular entity in your valley, in your local location. THere are no barriers between humans and other beings. We may speak directly with elephants androcks. Also there is no strict hierarchy. Things around us ar enot below us. We are in a similar position. Similarly animists do not give much importance to all-powerful gods ahtat run the world as wished. The world of animist does not revolve around humans or any particular being or group like gods. It revolved around communication with a community of entities forming the world. It should be emhasized that animism is not a speciic religion. It is an umbrella name for thousands of different religions and cults and beliefs. WHat make them animist is a common core approach to the world and man's place in the world. But aside from these core beliefs there could be very big differences between different animist groups. For example many groups of belief believe in great gods, so they are all theists. From the word theos in Greek, for god. Many religions are theist like Greek, Hindu, Islam, Judaism, all are theist religions. They all beleive in great gods and appraoach the world with the basic understanding that there is a hierarchy where a single great god or gods is at the top and humans are subject to them. Most culturse after the agricultural revolution have been theist, but this does not tell us much about the particulars of what they believed or practiced in daily life. We could find Jewish Rabbis 18th century and Aztec priests from 15th century Mexico and Sufi mystics from 12th century Iran and Viking warriors 12th century Scandinavia and Roman legionnairs and Egyptian bureacruats -- al are theist. But we do not know much about their beliefs and practices just to know that they are theist or not.
The differences between beliefs and practices of different animists might have been just as big as between Islam and ancient Greek religion. Similarly 30tya two foraging bands might have been animists, where the world is sufused with emotions and feelings, but differences between them might have been tremendous.
There may have been revolutions -- a charismatic leader who leads a new faith tradition.
Most evidence we have coes from limited statues and paitings and no written evidence so we can't be sure how to interpret them. There are detailed accounts by modern scholars but most are a good source of information for prejudices of modern scholars. They are a poor source of information about what our ancstors actually beleived.
Lesco Cve painting
What is being depicted? WHat is meaning?
Venus of VIllendorf - many similarly statues were foud in Europe and Russia out of varios materials like clay and ivory.
Many statues of these women but barely any of men.
Hand-prints in Argentina. Cave of the hands.
We think they had religions and probably most were animist but we know nothing else.
Politics and warfare
Scholars cannot even agreeon most basic stuff like wehther people had private proprert, monogaous relatinships, nuclear families.
One of the most rekarable findings was at Sungil in Russia. There Russian archaeologists found a 30tya burial site from a society that subsisted mianly by hunting mammoths and other arctic animals. Found skleton of 58 year old man covered ins trings of mammoth ivory beads. Altogether grave contained about 3000 such ivory beads. On head of dead man was a hat decorated with fox teeth. on his hand he wore 25 ivory bracelets. Other graves had human skeletons with far fewer grave goods. So they probably had a hierarchical society and this man was not just the leader of one band but a tribe of several bands. It is unlikely that a few dozen members of s ingle band could have produced so many grave goods by themselves. Another finding was a grave with two skeletons, buried head to head. One skeleton was a boy around 12/13 and other skeleton was a girl of about 9/10. Girl apparently suffered from some sort of severe hip deformity and had trouble walking. Boy was covered i about 5000 ivory beads of kind as chief and wore on his head decorations of fox teeth, dozens of fox teeth. Boy also was wearing a belt studded with 250 teeth of foxes. At least sixty foxes had to have their teeth pulled out for the boy's belt. The girl was coverd in abt 5250 ivory beds and all kinds of other jewlery and interesting stuff. Both were surrounded by ivory statues and other kinds of delicate and interesting objecst. It took a skilled craftmas about 45minutes to create each one of the beads. 10,000 beads over two children, not counting other objects, required about 7500 hours of delicate work by a very experienced craftsman or three years of labor by an experienced artisan just for the ivory beads. It is extremely unlikely that at just a young age the children of Sungil had proven themselves as big chiefs or powerful hunters and thus received the respect. Cultural beleifs must explain it.
Perhaps children owed their rank to their parents. Perhaps they were children of the leader, in a society that believed in strict rules of succession.
Perhps children had been identified at birth as reincarnations of some long-dead spirit.
Perhaps children were buried in such a mangificent way not because of how the status had while alive, but because of how they died. Maybe they were ritually sacrificed perhaps as part of burial rite of leader and buried with the same magnificence as the leader. We do have evidence of people being sacrificed inthe burial of a big chief.
The children of SUngil are among hte best evidence we have that Sapeisn could invent socio-poltiical codes far beyond the dictates of our DNA and far beyond other human species let alone other spcies at all. Burial at SUngil is tthe clearest indiciation that t least in some bands there were hierarchiies and large social inewualities.
WHat then about wrfare? Was it an ancient phenonmen or a relatively new one? Did ancient bands fight their neighbors?
Some scholars imagine that ancient forager societies were peaceful and largescale conflict among groups only began with agricultural revolution when people gained large lands and assets on those lands.
Some scholars imagine that ancient forager societies were exceptionally cruel and violent and warfare and alrge-scale violence are not a result of agriculture.
Both schools of though have veyr little evidence for their arguments. only evidence we have are veyr meager archaologic remains and modern anthropological studies.
Modern studies are rich and intriguing but not informative. The societies re normally isolated with very low populatin density and opportunities to find other people are limited. People in kalahari do not fight often but maybe just ebcause they rarely meet anybody in the Kalahari. Maybe in a fertile vllaye there woudl have been wars. Alos even these isoalted societies are subject to modern state that prevent eruption of large-scale conflict. Anthropologists actually had only two main opportunities large and relatively dense population sof foragers independent of control of modern states: in northwestern north America, Canada, Alska in 19th century and in north Astrualia in 19th and early 20th century. How lots of hutner-gatherers lived in relatively fertile areas. In both cases anthropologists found a high frequency of armed conflict between the different bands. We are unable to reliably project these findings onto societies on different continents, in different climates, tens of thousnad of years ago. There is no clear evidence of large-scale violence but that does not mean that it did not happen; we have very little evidence of anything from that time. From 20tya to the outbreak of the agricultural revolution we have much more evidence. From this period 20tya to beginningof agricultural revolution we have evidence of differnet patterns. A fmaous example is a survery of400 skeletons found in Portugal from period immediately before agricutlral revolution. They found 400 diff skeletons from that period and only two showed clear marks of human violence like an arrowheaded embedded in human bones. A similar survey of 400 skeletons found in Ancient Israel period immediately before agricultural revoltuoins showed only one skull with a sigle crack that could be attributed to human violence. But that just means that we did not find hard evidence. You could slit someones' throat and that would leave no skeletal evidence. Another survey of 400 skeletns from Danub Valley, scientists found clear evidence for violence on eighteen skeletons. Eighteen out of 400 but it's actually a very high percentage. If all those eighteen people died frm human violence, then abt 4.5 percent of deaths were from human violence but in modern day early 21st century all deaths only 1.5 percent are attributable to human violence. 20th century was much more violent and we find just 5 percent. So if in ancient Danub Valley 4.5% of people died violently then Ancint Danub Vlaley wa as violent as 20th century. There are other related fidings like Jabal Sahara in Sudan, archaeologists found a cemetery 12tya just before agricultural revolution containing 59 skeletons. SOme skeletons had arrowheads and spearpoints embedded, 24 of 59, 50%, had arrowheads or spearpoints embedded in the bone or found with the skeleton. The skeleton of one woman in that cemeteyr had twelve different injuries so someone must have really tried to kill her. In a cave in Bavaria there were rmains of 38 people, foragers, mainly women/children all thrown together into two burial pits. Half the skeletons included childrena and evenbabies had clear signs of human weapons like knives and clubs. Few skeletons of older males, were theones with worst marks of violence among them. This shows the massacre of a forager band at once.
Which evidence is more important? Peaceful Portugal and Israel skeletons or violent Jebel Sahara and Ofrent? Neither is more representative. Just as foragers exhibited wide spectrum of religions and social structures likely, so too they probbaly had a variety of violence rates. Some areas in some periods may have had peace and tranquility, others may have been torn by ferocious conflicts.
It is even more difficult to try to reconstruct a particular religious movement or particular violent event.
World was as colorful, dramatic and exciting full of various varients. it is vital to realize that they had their own revolutions, ecsatic religious movements, profound philosophical theories and artistic masterpieces and keep asking these questions even if we have few answers and may never have more answer. IMportant to ask questions because we thereby ispire ourselves to look more carefully for eveidence and scholars always develop new research methods to illuminate new evidence. Genetic evidence, for example, has been a brekathrough. Today we can extract DNA from ancient fossilized bones and from this evidence we gain all kinds of new inishts about world of ancient foragers. Question of whether they lived in nuclear families and were monogamous or were in communes with multiple fathers? Previusly it was thought we would never have the answer but today it seems we might ahve a good answer soon enough. By extracting DNA from all people at Sungil or Jaba Sahara or Bavaria and then start reconstructing fmaily trees of those people who likley belonged to the same band. Did people with same mother have same father or not? This is a good way to solve a riddle about lives of ancient foragres that untl big breaks of modern genetics seemed somethign wecould never solve. Another reason to ask is to rmeind us of our ignroance. Science is built not just on knowledge but ignorace. Always remember what we do not know. We know very little about the history of Homo sapiens. History has gone on for 70ty since cogntivie revoltuion and first 60ty we know almost nothing.But those 60ty they shaped the bodies and minds we have today but world also, except perhaps antarctica. Visiting siberian tundra or amazonian rainforests or australian tundra, we imagine a pristine landscape but it's an illusion. Foragers were there in all these places and brought about dramatic changes in te ecology even of the most dense jungle and most remte and desoalte desert.
These wanderings bands of story-telling Sapeins turned out to be mstimportant but also most destructive force the animal kingdom had ever produced.
Relationship of sapiens to ecossytem
Until Sapiens, all humans lived only on Afro-Asian landmass. Europe, Asia, Africa, and close islands. Some islands were reached simply by walking there during periods when sea levels were much lower, connecting what later became an island. Some islands close to shore were settled by humans who simply swam there or hung on to tree trunks ad maybe crossed 2, 5 or 10 km and thereby settled nearby islands. None of the arhcaic species before Homo sapiens could cross open sea, large expanses of open sea, and therefore none ever reached and settled America, Australia or remote islands like Madagascar, NZ or Hawaii. Sea also kept other Afro-Asian plants and animals localized, there were different, separate ecologial systems in Afro-Asia, Australia, America, Madagascar. Plants/animals evolved in these places without connection to other places. None could cross from one place to the other. Planet Earth was thus divided into several distinct ecosystems. The entire planet was unified into a single ecological unit for the first time, by Homo sapiens. People moved plants and animals move from place to place. When Sapeisna cquired for the first time the technology, organization skills and perhaps even vision to break out from Afro-Asian andmass and explore these areas of the outer world. THe first breakout from Afro-Asia occurred about 45tya in Australia. Experts today are hard-pressed to explain this amazing feat: reaching from Asia to Ausralia. We find bones, teeth in Australia from 45tya but how they crossed from Indonesia to Australia is hard to explain. Though there are many islands, between these islands htere are stretches of open sea sometimes 100, 150 km wide. Also, how did they manage to adapt themselves overnight to an entirely new ecological system? It was not just hard to reach Australia,but hard to adapt to conditions there. If you knew what mushrooms in SE Asia were poisonous, you were not necessarily aided in finding Australian poisonous mushrooms. It is elieved that Sapiens living in Indonesian islands developed seafaring societies with boats and beame more and more used to going out to sea and this enabled them to reach and settle Australia. We are not absolutely sure htis is how it happened but it seems the most plausible. This was an unprecedented revolution in human abilities and lifestyles. Sapeisn are basically African apes who lived milllions of years, adaptingthemselves to life on land. THen to develop socities that live by building boats and living over sea and fishing is without precedent in hte annals of life on earth. We have amny examples of sea creatures evolving to become land creatures and vice-versa. For instance, dolphins and whales had ancestors had lad creature. But this change took millions of years and was a genetic evolution. But for humans it was not a genetic difference but a social difference. THis was also important fro a historical perspective. The journey of the first Sapens to Australia is one of the most important events in history. As importnat as European voyages to America or voyages to moon. FIrst tie a large terrestrial animal crossed from Afro-Asia to Australia, from one ecological ssytem to another. Moment that a first hunter-gathere set foot on a beach in Asutralia was the time that humans crossed from middle to top of food chain and ebcame deadliest animal on planet earth. Before then humans showed a remarkable ability to adapt themselves to their environemnt but their impact was negligible. They had demostrated remarkable success in moving and adjusting to all kind sof habitats like deserts and swamps and s forth but did so without really changing the habitat. Changed their behavior but not the enivironemnt. First settlers of Australia did not just change themselves to adapt but bega to transform the Australian ecosystem beyond recognition. Australia 50tya was vastly different from what we know todya. It was full of large strange creatures like giant kangaroos and giant koalas and flightless birds twice the size of ostriches, giant lizards that looked like dragons and gant snakes 5m long. Also marsupial lion as massive as a modern tiger and was continent's largest predator. ANd largest creatures of all at that time was diprotodon which weighed about 2 tons. There were 24 Asutralian species that weighed 50kg or more on average. But within a few htousand years of Spaiens arrival, 23 of 24 went extinct. Only the red kangaroo managed to not go extinct once humans arrived. Also many smaller species and food chains thrughout Australian ecossytems were completely rearranged. This was the most importnat transformation in Australian ecosystem for millions of years. Millions of years of continuity then 45tya a big catastrophe, a big break, where many species especially the biggset species all disappear. Many scholars put the blame on climate change but evidence implicates Homo sapiens. How?
Theories: Large animals breed slowly with longer pregnancy. Months or years for a diprotodon mother in gsetation, with few offpsring per pregnancy (usualy ust one) and long breaks between prengnancies whereby rabbits breed like rabbits, diprotodons go eyasr between birhs. So even killing one diprotodon eery few months could cause deaths to outnumber births and over a few generations they were driven to extinction.
Even though Sapens ahd only stone age technology, they also had in Australia the element of surprise. In Africa and Asia humans evovled slowly and oer hundrds of thousands of years became better hunters. As it happened slowly, animals that humans hunted in Africa and Asia like giraffe and bison and elephants gradually learned to beware of humans. So when Sapiens arrived, the animals already knew to keep their distance from humans. In contras thte Australian giants had no time to learn to run from humans. According to the normal critiera of the ecological system we do not look very dnagerous. Compared to a tiger or alligator we have few muscles, slow movement, smalll teeth/jaws, no poison, no sharp nails. When first humans arrived in Australia 45tya they looked at creatures like us and wentback to munching their leaves. Before they could evolve fear of humans, they went extinct.
Also fire agriculture. Practice of using fire to reshape the environemtn to fit your needs. When sapiens landed in Australia 45tya they were already expert in use of ire agriculture to rehsape dificult environemnts. They used this to dleiberate reshape Austrailian environemet, burning down dnse thickets and forests that wee difficult to naivagate, and made hte way for openg grasslands that were easy to navigate and made it easier to hunt the large game. We have interseting evience that about 45tya Eucalyptus trees were quite rare they only became widespread only after Spaiens arrived and began to burn down large forests and woods. Eucalptyus are more resistant to fire than mostother trees, so when Sapiens arrived and burned forests and woods the Eucalptyus thrived and flourished and ebcame a dominant tree of Australia.
Another explanation of how Sapiens drove so many animals to exitnction in Australia is that in addition to hunting and fire agricutlure, Climate change. There was a climate change that beset Autralia about 45tya and destabilized the ecosystem and made it very vulnerable. It normally could have recuperated from this climate change. Diprotodon lived in Asutralia for millions of years through many events of climate change. But together with the human invasion, when Sapiens arrived at this critical junction when the ecosystem was so brittle. But based on millions of years of contiuity, climate change alone would not have been enough to cause the collapse of large animals in Australia.
This collapse was the first mark that our species left on Earth. Up to the collapse in Australia there was no evidence that Sapiens would have such a massive impact. As intersting as Sapiens were they did nothing importnat in the ecosystem. This gave reason to recognize that Sapiens completely changed ecology of Australia. FIrst big thing the Sapiens did to alter the surrounding world.
Sapiens were subsequently responsible for similar and even larger ecological disasters in other parts of the world.
|Tang Dynasty||618||Tang Dynasty founded in China|
|Islam Established||622||Muhammad establishes first Muslim community in Medina.|
|Baghdad Founded||762||Baghdad founded as capital of the Islamic empire.|
|800||Charlemagne crowned first Holy Roman Emperor.|
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|Mongols Take Baghdad||1258||Mongols conquer Baghdad.|
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|Black Death||1347||Black Death arrives in Europe.|
|Constantinople Is Capital||1453||Constantinople (Istanbul) becomes capital of the Ottoman Turks.|
|Europe and North America||1492||Europeans send Christopher Columbus to find a sea route to India, but he becomes lost and is discovered by Carribeans (not continental North Americans).|
|Ottomans Take Egypt||1517||Ottomans conquer Egypt.|
|The Reformation||16th Century||Martin Luther launched the Reformation in 1517 when he published his theses.|
|Isfahan Is Capital||1598||Isfahan becomes capital of Iran.|
|Great Fire of London||1666||Great Fire of London.|
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|New pandemics||Out of Kinshasa, HIV emerges in the 1920s and Ebola emerges in 1976. The former becomes a global pandemic in the 1980s and spends the ensuing decades killing millions; its transmission methods make it a target of sexual hysteria, but eventually a chronic but preventable illness. edgeonthenet.com earthsky.org In 1976, Ebola is discovered and becomes a recurrent health crisis as the risk of it decimating the global population creates panic with each oubtreak. theguardian.com|