The Evolution of Humans and the Paleolithic Era Middle School Workshops Session 2 Craig Benjamin When did the first humans appear? What’s different about humans? How did humans live in the Paleolithic?
WHG Era 1 – The Beginnings of Human Society: Beginnings to 4000 B.C.E./B.C. • basic features and differences between hunter-gatherer societies and pastoral nomads • Analyze and explain the • Geographic • Environmental • Biological • and cultural processes that influenced the rise of the earliest human communities, the migration and spread of people throughout the world, and the causes and consequences of the growth of agriculture.
W1.1 Peopling of the EarthDescribe the spread of people in the Western Hemisphere in Era 1. • In the first era people spread throughout the world. As communities of hunters, foragers, or fishers, they adapted creatively and continually to a variety of contrasting, changing environments in the Americas. 6 – W1.1.1 Describe the early migrations of people among Earth’s continents (including the Berringa Land Bridge) 6 – W1.1.2 Examine the lives of hunting and gathering people during the earliest eras of human society (tools and weapons, language, fire).
Pt. 1: What’s different about humans? • The key difference: • An enhanced ability to ‘adapt’ • All living creatures ‘adapt’ to their environments, but: • Humans adapt much fasterthan any other creature • Humans adapt so fast they start creating new environments • Humans adapt faster than is possible through ‘natural selection’
Why do humans ‘adapt’ so much more effectively? • ‘Natural Selection’ is one way of adapting • ‘Learning’ is a second way of ‘adapting’ • Animals with brains can ‘adapt’ during their lifetimes • But Animals cannot share most of what they learn with others, so: • - Most of what they learn is lost when they die • Each individual has to • start from scratch So learning does not accumulate from generation to generation! Mouse learning to run a maze
What’s different about humans? A third way of adapting • Symbolic language is the key: • Imagine a lecture given only in mime • Words are symbols that can convey much more information about • Things that are not present [e.g. Africa] • Things in the past or future [e.g. next Christmas] • Things that don’t exist [e.g. pink elephants] • Words can convey complex information precisely [e.g. how to make a bow and arrow]
Symbolic Language • Allows humans to share what they learn with other humans • In detail • With precision • So learning is • shared and pooled and • accumulates from generation to generation • Over time, humans learn more and more ways of adapting to their environment • This is why they adapt more successfully than any other large animal on earth
Human History v.Natural HistoryCollective Learning • In Human history, collective learning supercedes natural selection • Culture takes over from Genes • So • ‘NATURAL HISTORY’ is based on genetic change • ‘HUMAN HISTORY’ is based on cultural change (sometimes called ‘Memetics’)
Pt. 2: How did humans acquire symbolic language? • Explaining the origins of human language is difficult • Because language leaves no direct archaeological evidence • We don’t yet have a full explanation • We know that: • Preconditions accumulated slowly, over millions of years (e.g. large brains) • Symbolic language proper appeared quickly, within the last 50,000 years
How much linguistic ability do apes have? • Chimps have perhaps 30 different calls • Some have been taught to the level of a 2-year old child Kanzai, a Bonobo Chimpanzee, learning to ‘speak’,using ‘tokens’
But chimps are not capable of ‘collective learning’ • They cannot store new ideas efficiently • So, chimp behavior has not changed much in the last 100,000 years • i.e. their ‘history’, like all other animals, was governed by • Natural Selection, not by Collective Learning • By Genetic Change, rather than Cultural Change
What makes the difference? Brain size and structure? What’s inside your head! Large brains are vital for symbolic language BUT: Evolving very large brains is hard, which is why few species have them What’s the problem with large brains?
The downside of large brains • Big brains demand lots of energy • The human brain is only 3% of our weight • But demands 20% of the energy we use • Big brains mean that babies are very dependent • It takes time for brains to develop the wiring necessary for children to function well • Big brains make birth difficult • No wonder large brained species are rare!
Brains, Primates and Hominines • Very roughly, brain size correlates with brain power • Primates have larger brains for body size than most mammals • Hominines have even larger brains for body size • Chimp brains, c. 300-400 cc • Australopithecines: c. 380-450 cc • Homo habilis: c. 600-800 cc • Homo erectus/ergaster: c. 850-1,000 cc • Homo sapiens: c. 1,350 cc
Brains evolved rapidly in the last 200,000 years Their brains may have been larger than those of modern humans Neanderthals appeared more than 200,000 years ago, mainly in Europe and W. Asia. Neanderthal skull Human skull Modern Reconstruction
Does this mean Neanderthals were capable of ‘collective learning’? • They ‘adapted’ better than earlier hominines • They had brains as large as ours • Their stone tools were more sophisticated than those of other hominines • They migrated into ice age lands • They used improved hunting technologies • But • They probably had limited language ability • They adapted less successfully than modern humans • They died out: the last Neanderthals perished in the S. of France about 30,000 years ago
Range of Neanderthals Range of modern Humans by 28,000 years ago Approximate geographical range of Neandertals, 100,000-28,000 BCE Comparing the range of Neanderthals and modern Humans Approximate geographical range of Homo sapiens by 28,000 BCE
Broca’s area The problem: brain organization is as important as brain size Tiny changes in the wiring may have made all the difference
How did modern humans acquire language? • Our best guess: • Recent research suggests one or two ‘language genes’ may make the difference • Allopatric speciation may have kicked in: • In isolated populations, evolutionary change can occur rapidly [allopatric speciation] • The key changes: • Slight changes in brain structure • May have given some individuals linguistic skills • That enabled them to survive much better than others • So their genes rapidly spread • To create a new species: Homo sapiens
Pt. 3: African Genesis: The Appearance of Homo Sapiens • There is still some debate about where and when humans evolved, but this is the best current story: • Genetic evidence: Comparing the genes of humans today shows: • We are very similar genetically, so we probably had a common ancestor about 250,000 years ago • Greatest genetic diversity is in Africa, so that is probably where we evolved • Archaeological evidence: African remains of early humans and their artifacts suggest that: • Our common ancestors lived in Africa • For the first 100,000 years of their existence
New materials, new techniques Exchanges of information Shellfish: new lifeways Pigments imply symbolic language Improved stone tools Early Archaeological evidence of Collective Learning? McBrearty & Brooks, ‘The Revolution that wasn’t’, 2000
How did collective learning change human culture? for example, Blombos Cave At first, changes in technology were slow. After about 100,000 years ago, the pace of change began to increase. Evidence appears from about that time of humans in east, central, and southern Africa • making more advanced and varied tools • experimenting with body decoration and abstract symbols.
View looking out of Blombos Cave to the Indian Ocean Bone points from the cave Ochre piece with scrape marks. A person may have scraped the ochre to get powder to use to make body paint. Blombos Cave c. 90,000 years ago The people who lived in this seaside camp … • made sharp stone spear points using methods that appeared in Eurasia only 50,000 or more years later. • made objects from bone, the earliest use of this material known. • scored bits of bone and ochre with marks that may have had symbolic meaning. Photos: Arizona State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences http://clasdean.la.asu.edu/news/images/bone/
Pt. 4: Accelerating Change:The last 100,000 years • From c. 100,000 years ago evidence of change gets clearer • Collective learning is leading to increasing skills and increasing ability to adapt irving.lps.org/.../ Paleo/pages
Chimp range Range of Early humans Migrations demonstrate increased ability to adapt
The engraved horse panel in the Cave of Chauvet-Pont-D’Arc in southern France. The image is about 31,000 years old. (http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/arcnat/chauvet) Venus of the Kostenki I site in Russia dated to about 23,000 years ago. This stone female head is wearing headgear of woven basketry. (New York Times, Dec. 14, 1999. Photo: Bill Wiegand, University of Illinois.) More rapid technological and cultural change Archaeological evidence shows faster and faster cultural change and increasing complexity. Humans began to • create both naturalistic and abstract art. • make more specialized tools. • weave and knot fiber. • decorate clothing. • make jewelry. • build semi-permanent structures.
An early calendar? Engraved mammoth tusk c. 25,000 years old Czech Republic
Lascaux, France (c. 13,000 years ago)
Mastodon hunting, 10,000 ys ago: What these points were used for? Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
A dangerous speciesOur impact on other species? • As humans migrated into more and more environments, they displaced • other species of hominines (e.g. Neanderthals), and • other types of animals • Driving them to extinction Our arrival marks a fundamental turning point in the history of life on earth!
Pt. 5: The‘Paleolithic Era of Human History’ • Literally, the ‘Old Stone Age’ • i.e. technologies dominated by stone tools • Paleolithic Era of human history: C. 200,000- c. 10,000 years ago • Often neglected in World History, but • It is when we were formed as a species • It is when we became what we are • It is the foundation of World History, so we have much to learn by studying it closely • Everything else in history starts here • It includes c. 95% of human history!
Main events of the Paleolithic Era • Climatic Changes: the Ice Ages • Extensification, i.e.: • Spread of humans around the world as they develop • New technologies for new environments : climate.uvic.ca/.../ afanning-glaciation.html
Climatic Changes • In the last million years, there have been • Regular ‘Ice Ages’ • Each lasting c. 100,000 years • With warmer ‘interglacials’ lasting c. 10,000 years in between • The last ice age began c. 110,000 years ago • The last ‘interglacial’ began c. 11,500 years ago • We’re overdue for a new ice age!
Looking Down the Fox Glacier
Extensification • an increase in the range of humans, without • any parallel increase in the average size or density of human communities, and • consequently, with little increase in the complexity of human societies i.e.: there’s a lot going on in the Paleolithic even if we don’t see any cities or governments
‘Extensification’ II • Collective learning is evident in • New tools and technologies • Art • Migrations • New technologies allowed humans to settle in new environments • So human populations grew • But the size and complexity of human communities did not increase www.museums.org.za/ sam
New technologies for new environments • Some of the major changes: • Desert technologies—arid regions • Forest technologies—forest regions • Sea-going technologies—sea crossing • Cold-region technologies (fire, improved hunting techniques, tailoring)—zones affected by ice age glaciation
Migrations: Adapting within Africa Learning to live in deserts Learning to live in tropical forests The human homeland: Savanna lands
13,000 Ys ago Many new technologies required 40,000 Ys ago New hunting techniques; adaptations to cold 60,000 Ys ago Sea-going technologies Chimp range Range of Early humans The Main ‘Event’ of the Paleolithic: New technologies allowed Global Migrations from 100,000 BP
Pt. 6: How did people live in the Paleolithic Era? • We have no written evidence and no names for 95% of human history: • What evidence is available? • Archaeological Remains: • Bones • Tools • Living sites • Analogies with modern societies most like Paleolithic societies • But both forms of evidence can be misleading
‘Foraging’ as a way of living • Foraging means • gathering foodstuffs and other needed materials from the environment • Foragers need a large territory to support themselves • So populations were small • Foragers live in • Tiny, family-sized groups from 10-50 people in size • Sometimes splitting into smaller groups • Sometimes meeting in larger groups www.museums.org.za Rock painting of San Hunter-Gatherers
Living in small groups:Do it yourself! • There was no government to take care of things • Everything had to be done within the family • Most people met less than 500 people in their lives • Family was ‘society’ • Justice, education, eating, ceremonies, all took place in small groups Aboriginal ‘family’ group migrating in Central Australia www.artsci.wustl.edu
Living in small groups • Gift-giving was a vital way of holding groups together • Ceremonies were equally vital • Contacts with neighboring groups were made at regular meetings and rituals, where • gifts and information were swapped and • marriages made • Justice was personal • No police meant ‘Do-it-yourself’ justice www.dam.brown.edu Apache Ritual
Do-it-your-self death penalties: Justice among the ‘San’ ‘Twi had killed three other people, when the community, in a rare move of unanimity, ambushed and fatally wounded him in full daylight. As he lay dying, all the men fired at him with poisoned arrows until, in the words of one informant, ‘he looked like a porcupine.’ Then, after he was dead, all the women as well as the men approached his body and stabbed him with spears, symbolically sharing the responsibility for his death.’ Would you do the same if a murderer was on the loose and there were no police and no courts?
The importance of large gatherings • Where resources were plentiful (eg Bogong moths) • Foragers gathered for periodic meetings (e.g. ‘corroborrees’), at which: • Gifts were exchanged • Marriages were made • People moved from group to group • Ideas were exchanged • Rituals were held and games played • Paleolithic equivalents of Parliaments or the Olympic Games! www.hockin.org/ ~thockin/australia/
Foraging ‘technologies’ • To modern eyes, foraging technologies appear simple • But to live from them, you need immensely detailed knowledge of your environment • And a very wide range of skills What would I need to survive as a Paleolithic forager?
Living in cold climates in the recent past Inuit hunting whales from ‘kayaks’ & ‘umiaks’: Special clothing, special equipment Painting from the 1830s
Living in cold climates: Mezhirich: Ukraine, 20,000 BPA mammoth bone house Bone needle with an ornamental head, probably used to fasten garments, found at the Mezhirich site.