EARLY MODERN HUMAN LIFESTYLE AND CULTURE
Mark Stoneking of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig calculated that our human ancestors began wearing clothes about 114,000 years ago based on comparing the DNA of head lice, which have been around millions of years, and body lice (which are misnamed as they appear on clothing rather than the body), which are a relatively new species. His reasoning goes that a new species evolves when there is a new environment (in this case clothing for the body lice) and if he could figure when body lice branched off from head lice (which he did using by comparing the DNA of the two species) he could figure out when early man first wore clothes.
The Aurignacian (42,000 to 28,000 years ago), Gravettian (28,000 to 22,000 years ago), Solutrean (22,000 to 18,000 years ago) and Magdalenian (18,000 to 10,000 years ago) cultures are all named French sites. Each site has tools, weapons and adornment associated with it.
A lot of our information about early modern human culture comes from Europe, not necessarily because early man there was more culturally astute but because the region has been more intensively studied.
Around 37,000 years ago, when modern humans began arriving in Europe, glaciers covered most of Britain and Europe as far south as Germany. Animals included wooly rhinoceros, musk oxen, chamois, ibex, reindeer, saiga antelope, cave bears, horses, steppe bison, giant elk, wooly mammoths, red deer, lions, woodland bison, wild ass, salmon, fallow deer, ringed seals, and aurochs (large, long-horned wild oxen).
By 15,000 years ago the Ice Age was largely over, large of herds of animals roamed steppe grasslands and forests, salmon was abundant in the rivers and the Neanderthals were long gone. By 12,000 years ago wetter weather dominated, enough glacial ice had melted to swamp coastal areas.
Websites and Resources on Hominins and Human Origins: Smithsonian Human Origins Program humanorigins.si.edu ; Institute of Human Origins iho.asu.edu ; Becoming Human University of Arizona site becominghuman.org ; Talk Origins Index talkorigins.org/origins ; Last updated 2006. Hall of Human Origins American Museum of Natural History amnh.org/exhibitions ; Wikipedia article on Human Evolution Wikipedia ; Evolution of Modern Humans anthro.palomar.edu ; Human Evolution Images evolution-textbook.org; Hominin Species talkorigins.org ; Paleoanthropology Links talkorigins.org ; Britannica Human Evolution britannica.com ; Human Evolution handprint.com ; National Geographic Map of Human Migrations genographic.nationalgeographic.com ; Humin Origins Washington State University wsu.edu/gened/learn-modules ; University of California Museum of Anthropology ucmp.berkeley.edu; BBC The evolution of man" bbc.co.uk/sn/prehistoric_life; "Bones, Stones and Genes: The Origin of Modern Humans" (Video lecture series). Howard Hughes Medical Institute.; Human Evolution Timeline ArchaeologyInfo.com ; Walking with Cavemen (BBC) bbc.co.uk/sn/prehistoric_life ; PBS Evolution: Humans pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/humans; PBS: Human Evolution Library www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library; Human Evolution: you try it, from PBS pbs.org/wgbh/aso/tryit/evolution; John Hawks' Anthropology Weblog johnhawks.net/ ; New Scientist: Human Evolution newscientist.com/article-topic/human-evolution;
Websites and Resources on Neanderthals: Wikipedia: Neanderthals Wikipedia ; Neanderthals Study Guide thoughtco.com ; Neandertals on Trial, from PBS pbs.org/wgbh/nova; The Neanderthal Museum neanderthal.de/en/ ; The Neanderthal Flute, by Bob Fink greenwych.ca. Websites and Resources on Prehistoric Art: Chauvet Cave Paintings archeologie.culture.fr/chauvet ; Cave of Lascaux archeologie.culture.fr/lascaux/en; Trust for African Rock Art (TARA) africanrockart.org; Bradshaw Foundation bradshawfoundation.com; Australian and Asian Palaeoanthropology, by Peter Brown peterbrown-palaeoanthropology.net. Fossil Sites and Organizations: The Paleoanthropology Society paleoanthro.org; Institute of Human Origins (Don Johanson's organization) iho.asu.edu/; The Leakey Foundation leakeyfoundation.org; The Stone Age Institute stoneageinstitute.org; The Bradshaw Foundation bradshawfoundation.com ; Turkana Basin Institute turkanabasin.org; Koobi Fora Research Project kfrp.com; Maropeng Cradle of Humankind, South Africa maropeng.co.za ; Blombus Cave Project web.archive.org/web; Journals: Journal of Human Evolution journals.elsevier.com/; American Journal of Physical Anthropology onlinelibrary.wiley.com; Evolutionary Anthropology onlinelibrary.wiley.com; Comptes Rendus Palevol journals.elsevier.com/ ; PaleoAnthropology paleoanthro.org.
Population Trends Beginning About 100,000 Years Ago
100,000 Years Ago: Michael Balter wrote in Discover: Artistic Behavior Appears: Most researchers date the origins of Homo sapiens to between 200,000 and 160,000 years ago in Africa. Yet for their first 100,000 years, modern humans behaved like their more archaic ancestors, producing simple stone tools and showing few signs of the artistic sparks that would come to characterize human behavior. Scientists have long argued about this gap between when humans started looking modern and when they began acting modern. University College London archaeologist Stephen Shennan has proposed that cultural innovations were likely due to increased contact among humans as they began living in ever-larger groups. Shennan adapted Henrich’s Tasmanian model to much earlier human populations. When he plugged in estimates of prehistoric population sizes and densities, he found that the ideal demographic conditions for advancement began in Africa 100,000 years ago—just when signs of modern behavior first emerge.” [Source: Michael Balter, Discover October 18, 2012]
65,000 “Years Ago: Stone Tools Spread: Population size could explain why the same stone tool innovations show up at the same time across wide geographic regions. Lyn Wadley, an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, has worked at the Middle Stone Age site of Sibudu in South Africa, where she found evidence of two sophisticated tool traditions dating to 71,000–72,000 years ago and 60,000–65,000 years ago. Similar tools pop up all across southern Africa at around the same time. Wadley says early humans did not have to migrate long distances for this kind of cultural transmission to take place. Instead, increasing population densities in Africa may have made it easier for people to keep in contact with neighboring groups, possibly to exchange mating partners. Such meetings would have exchanged ideas as well as genes, thus setting off a chain reaction of innovation across the continent.”
45,000 Years Ago: “Homo Sapiens Takes Europe: A bigger population may have helped H. sapiens eliminate its chief rival for domination of the planet: the Neanderthals. When modern humans began moving into Europe about 45,000 years ago, the Neanderthals had already been there for at least 100,000 years. But by 35,000 years ago, the Neanderthals were extinct. Last year Cambridge University archaeologist Paul Mellars analyzed modern human and Neanderthal sites in southern France. Looking at indicators of population size and density (such as the number of stone tools, animal remains, and total number of sites), he concluded that modern humans—who may have had a population of only a few thousand when they first arrived on the continent—came to outnumber the Neanderthals by a factor of ten to one. Numerical supremacy must have been an overwhelming factor that allowed modern humans to outcompete their larger rivals.”
25,000 Years Ago: “Ice Age Exerts A Toll: By 35,000 years ago, H. sapiens appears to have had the planet to itself, with the possible exception of an isolated population of H. floresiensis—the “hobbit” people of Southeast Asia—and another newly discovered hominid species in China. But according to work led by University of Auckland anthropologist Quentin Atkinson, human population growth, at least outside of Africa, began to slow down around then, possibly due to the climate changes associated with a new ice age. In Europe, total human numbers may actually have declined as glaciers began to cover much of the northern part of the continent and humans retreated farther south. But population levels never dropped enough for humans to start losing their technological and symbolic innovations. When the Ice Age ended, about 15,000 years ago, population began to climb again, setting the stage for a major turning point in human evolution.”
11,000 Years Ago: “Farming Sparks a Boom: Farming villages first appeared in the Near East during the Neolithic period, about 11,000 years ago, and soon afterwards in many other parts of the world. They marked the beginning of a transition from the nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyle to a settled existence based on cultivating plants and herding animals. That transition helped catapult the world’s population from perhaps 6 million on the eve of the invention of agriculture to 7 billion today. Archaeologist Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel has surveyed cemeteries across Europe associated with early settlements and found that with the advent of farming came an increase in the skeletons of juveniles. Bocquet-Appel argues this is a sign of increased female fertility caused by a decrease in the interval between births, which probably resulted from both the new sedentary life and higher-calorie diets. This period marks the most fundamental demographic shift in human history.”
First Great Human Population Explosion: 60,000-80,000 Years Ago
Contrary to what had been previously thought the first human population explosion occurred with hunter-gatherers 60,000-80,000 years ago, not with the first farmers around 10,000-12,000, a genetic study suggested. Popular Archaeology reported: “The prevailing theory is that, as humans transitioned to domesticating plants and animals around 10,000 years ago, they developed a more sedentary lifestyle, leading to settlements, the development of new agricultural techniques, and relatively rapid population expansion from 4-6 million people to 60-70 million by 4,000 B.C. [Source: Popular Archaeology, September 24, 2013 \=/]
“But hold on, say the authors of a recently completed genetic study. Carla Aimé and her colleagues at Laboratoire Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie, University of Paris, conducted a study using 20 different genomic regions and mitochondrial DNA of individuals from 66 African and Eurasian populations, and compared the genetic results with archaeological findings. They concluded that the first big expansion of human populations may be much older than the one associated with the emergence of farming and herding, and that it could date as far back as Paleolithic times, or 60,000-80,000 years ago. The humans who lived during this time period were hunter-gatherers. The authors hypothesize that the early population expansion could be associated with the emergence of new, more sophisticated hunting technologies, as evidenced in some archaeolocal findings. Moreover, they state, environmental changes could possibly have played a role. \=/
“The researchers also showed that populations who adopted the farming lifestyle during the Neolithic Period (10,200 – 3,000 B.C.) had experienced the most robust Paleolithic expansions prior to the transition to agriculture. “Human populations could have started to increase in Paleolithic times, and strong Paleolithic expansions in some populations may have ultimately favored their shift toward agriculture during the Neolithic,” said Aimé. The details of the study have been published in the scientific journal, Molecular Biology and Evolution, by Oxford University Press.” \=/
Early Modern Man Society
In Europe, early modern men were highly skilled nomadic hunters. Following seasonal migrations, they used the atlatl, or spear thrower, which greatly enhanced their prowess, and perhaps bow and arrow. Reindeer was favorite prey. They lived in caves and rock shelters, formed groups with perhaps as many as 50 to 75 members, and cooked in stone-lined pits. [Source: Kenneth Weaver, National Geographic, November 1985 [┹] .
The assumption that early homo sapiens struggled to survive and lived "short, nasty and brutish" lives is probably a little misleading. Studies of apes have shown that chimpanzees and gorillas spend as much time relaxing, playing and grooming as they do foraging for food. Anthropology studies have shown that the Machiguenga, simple horticulturists from the Peruvian Amazon, and bushmen — hunters and gatherers who live in the harsh Kalahari desert — spend less than three hours per person obtaining food.
Hominin remains shows that some members of a community were better off others. There are 20,000-year-old burial sites with graves with large numbers of ivory objects, beads and teeth from animals such as lions and bears and other grave sites with graves with virtually nothing indicated there may have social stratification based on wealth and status.
One thing that makes modern humans what they are is their prolonged childhood. Studies of Neanderthal teeth indicate they matured faster than humans with growth lines in the tooth of an eight-year-year old Neanderthal being equivalent to that of a 10- to 12-year-old human.
Man, the Long-Distance Runner
One characteristic of modern humans that may have played an important part in their ability to endure and prosper during prehistoric times was his prowess at long distance running. While modern humana are terrible sprinters (they can be outrun by lions cheetahs, dogs, horses, rabbits and even squirrels) their ability as long distance runners — at least that of seasoned marathon runners — is unparalleled. Over distances of several miles man can outlast many animals, even gazelles and horses. Some bushmen in Africa and Aboriginals in Australia still hunt by injuring prey, such as a gazelle or kangaroos, and following them for hours even days until the animals collapse from exhaustion.
One of the primarily mechanism that allows man to run such long distanced and have such extraordinary endurance is the human cooling system. Many animals rely on panting as a cooling mechanism but that interferes with respiration. This not a problem for sprintingg but it is for distance running,. Humans in the words of Harvard evolutionary biologies Daniel Lieberman are “specialized sweaters” — able to dispense heat using its dense network of sweat glands.
In his book “Manthropology” , Peter McAllister argues that 20,000-year-old footprint from the Australian outback shows that prehistoric Aborigines could have outrun Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.
Early Modern Humans as Hunters and Gatherers
To gain insight into how early modern humans behaved and were organized, anthropologists have studied early hunter gather tribes such as bushman. In traditional hunter-gatherer societies the women and young usually gather roots, fruits, berries and plant food while men hunt for meat. Most of the calories come from the women's work. Men often come home empty-handed, which means that it falls to the women to provide much of the food. This kind of arrangement seems likely with early modern humans.
Early modern humans probably traveled in bands with 10 to 30 individuals, based on way modern stone age tribes behave. By diversifying tasks along gender and age lines and getting food from a variety of sources such groups were relatively flexible and adaptable. If one food source, for example, gave out they could easily find another. By contrast Neanderthal were specialized big game hunters and when big game gave out — possibly — so too did they.
Mary Stone of the University of Arizona told National Geographic, “By diversifying duties and having personnel who [did different tasks] you have a formula for spreading risk, and this is ultimately good news for pregnant women and for kids. So if one things falls through there’s something else.” More specialized individuals seem to have led to the organization of larger groups (her is evidence is the formation of larger groups as modern humans evolved) and the increased social activity led to more sophisticated language and brain development which in turn produced, the reasoning goes, a “culture of innovation” and longer life spans.
Fishing developed perhaps 20,000 years ago. It took some skill to make fish hooks. Before that took place early man may have used nets or driven fish into areas where they could be speared. There is no real archaeological evidence to back this up however. Large accumulations of fish bones and shells found at early man sites indicates early man ate fish and shellfish. Collecting clams and other mollusks isn’t very difficult and was probably one of the easier food sources that early man could exploit. Two Paleolithic harpoons, said to be at least 60,000 years old and decorated with geometric figures, were discovered at Veyrier near Geneva.
Mladec Caves, the World’s Oldest “Village”?
The Mladeč Caves is the Czech Republic is regarded by some as the world’s oldest “village.” Bones found there, dated to 31,000 years before present, are claimed to be the oldest human bones that clearly represent a human settlement in Europe. Located 10 kilometres from Hanácké Benátky, which is not far from the Morava river, the town of Litovel and the protected nature landscape area of Litovelské Pomoraví, the caves comprise a complex, multi-floor labyrinth of fissure passages, caves and domes inside the calcit hill Třesín. Some of the underground spaces are richly decorated. [Source: CzechTourism, Wikipedia]
The Mladeč Caves are located at an elevation of 343 meters (1,125 feet). The humans that lived there were early modern humans (Cro-Magnon) of the Upper Paleolithic period and Aurignacian culture. The site was discovered by Josef Szombathy and excavated in 1881-1882 and 1903-1922. It is currently managed by the Cave Administration of the Czech Republic Highlights include "Nature’s Temple" and the "Virgin Cave" but the caves associated with early humans are not open to the public. [Source: Wikipedia +]
The limestones in Mladeč Karst belong geologically to one of the belts of the Devonian rocks in the Central Moravian part of the Bohemian Massif (the Konice-Mladeč Devonian). The caves consist primarily of horizontal and very broken labyrinth of corridors, domes and high chimneys with remarkable modelling of walls and ceilings, and stalactites and stalagmites. There are numerous block cave-ins, with some steep corridors which extend even below the level of the underground water. +
They archaeological remains found in Mladec caves represent the oldest, largest and most northern settlements yet found of early modern humans (Cro-Magnon man) in Europe. These people lived here 31,000 years ago. The large number of bones from Stone Age human skeletons, Pleistocene vertebrates along with a large a number of fireplaces and stone instruments means that a fairly large number of people used the cave, making it an early settlement or “village.”
Szombathy recorded his visits and excavations to the cave in his diary, the sole source of information on the early excavations at the site. The first human fossil, the skull of Mladeč 1, was discovered during the first excavation in 1881. Other fossils discovered during this excavation include Mladeč 2, Mladeč 3, Mladeč 7, Mladeč 12-20 and Mladeč 27.] Mladeč 8, Mladeč 9 and Mladeč 10 were discovered during a second excavation in 1882. Later excavations revealed more human skulls and bones. In the early 20th century, large amounts of sediment were removed from the caves without the guidance of archaeologists, destroying a great deal of valuable potential information on the cave. Many of the discoveries at Mladeč have been lost or destroyed over time, due to unauthorized looting and excavations, disappearances into private collections, and the large destruction of artefacts stored at Mikulov Castle, which was set on fire by the Germans at the end of World War II. Ironically, the anthropological collection from the Moravské zemské muzeum, which included a large collection of fossil artefacts from Mladeč, had been moved to Mikulov Castle during the war for safekeeping purposes. Out of the 60 human fossils from Mladeč stored at Mikulov Castle, only 5 could be recovered following the fire. +
Forty bone points have been discovered at Mladec Caves but only a few stone artefacts were found. The bone points at Mladeč have been found at other Central European sites in an Aurignacian context. None of the bone points from Mladeč have a split base. Rather they have a massive base. These artefacts are referred to as Mladeč-type bone points or bone projectiles. When found at other sites with split base bone points occurring in a separate layer, the layer with Mladeč-type bone points is always found above the layer with split base bone points. The Mladeč-type bone points appear in an Aurignacian context after 40,000 BP. +
Other artefacts include 22 perforated mammalian teeth, likely used as pendants. Perforated animal teeth used as pendants are frequently found at Aurignacian sites. The perforated teeth from Mladeč came from wolves, bears, and uncommonly, beavers and moose. The few stone tools can clearly be ascribed as Aurignacian. The remains of carbonized rope were discovered in 1882 by Szombathy. In 1981, archaeologists discovered ochre-colored marks on some of the walls at Mladeč. A total of 632 bones from large mammals have been discovered at Mladeč. These come primarily from bovids (primarily steppe bison, but a few from aurochs), bears (primarily Ursus deningeri, but a few from Ursus spelaeus), reindeer, horses and wolves. +
More than 100 human fossil fragments were discovered at Mladeč. Researchers failed to extract usable DNA from the Mladeč human fossils for the purposes of aDNA analysis. However, two (out of twelve) of the Mladeč specimens, Mladeč 2 and Mladeč 25c, yielded a limited amount of mtDNA, which did not contain Neanderthal mtDNA sequences. Direct AMS dating of the human fossils from Mladeč yielded uncalibrated dates of around 31,190 BP for Mladeč 1, 31,320 BP for Mladeč 2, 30,680 BP for Mladeč 8 and 26,330 BP for Mladeč 25c.
Dolní Věstonice is another candidate for the world’s oldest “village” based on its age and the large amount artisanship and activity that went on there. An Upper Paleolithic archaeological site near the village of Dolní Věstonice, Moravia in the Czech Republic,on the base of 549-meter-high Děvín Mountain, it thrived 26,000 years ago based on radiocarbon dating of objects and remains found there. The site is unique and special because of the large number of prehistoric artifacts (especially art), dating from the Gravettian period (roughly 27,000 to 20,000 B.C.) Found there. The artifacts include includes carved representations of men, women, and animals, along with personal ornaments, human burials and enigmatic engravings. [Source: Wikipedia]
The stone-age men at Dolni Vestonice and Pavlov sites in the Czech Republic had textiles, ceramics, cords, mats, and baskets. Evidence of these things are impressions left on clay chips recovered from clay floors hardened by a fire. The impressions of textiles indicate that these people may have made wall hangings, cloth, bags, blankets, mats, rugs and other similar items.
Ancient men at Dolni Vestonice and Pavlov in the Czech republic ate a lot of meat. They cooked stews and gruel in pits lined with hide and heated with hot rocks. In October 2004, team of European and Israeli archaeologists announced unearthed the oldest known clay fireplaces made by humans at a dig in southern Greece have. The hearths, excavated from the Klisoura Cave, in the northwest Peloponnesus, are at least 23,000 to 34,000 years old and were probably used for cooking by prehistoric residents of the area, according to the archaeology journal Antiquity. The study said that remnants of wood ash and plant cells had also been found in the hearths. The discovery, experts say, helps explain the transition from the oldest known hearths, made of stone, to clay structures like the ones at Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic. [Source: Anthee Carassava, New York Times]
Most scholars argue that Dolni Vestonice is too small and too rudimentary to qualify as a village or town. In any case a number of important discoveries related to early man have been found there.
Dolni Vestonice Discoveries
Some of earliest known ceramics were found at Dolni Vestonice and Pavlove, hill sites in the Czech Republic that were the home of prehistoric seasonal camps. Thousands of fragments of human figures, as well as the kilns that produced them have been found in sites in Moravia in what is now Russia the Czech Republic. Some have been dated to be 26,000 years old. The figurines were made from moistened loess, a fine sediment, and fired at high temperatures. Predating the first known ceramic vessels by 10,000 years, the figurines, some scientists believe, were produced and exploded on purpose based on the fact that most of the sculptures have been found in pieces.
Dolni Vestonice is the site of the earliest known potter’s kiln. Carved and molded images of animals, women, strange engravings, personal ornaments, and decorated graves have been found scattered over several acres at the site. In the main hut, where the people ate and slept, two items were found: a goddess figurine made of fired clay and a small and cautiously carved portrait made from mammoth ivory of a woman whose face was drooped on one side. The goddess figurine is the oldest known baked clay figurine. On top of its head are holes which may have held grasses or herbs. The potter scratched two slits that stretched from the eyes to the chest which were thought to be the life-giving tears of the mother goddess. [Source: mnsu.edu/emuseum/archaeology/sites/europe/dolni_vestonice]
Some of the sculpture may represent the first example of portraiture (representation of an actual person). One such figure, carved in mammoth ivory, is roughly three inches high. The subject appears to be a young man with heavy bone structure, thick, long hair reaching past his shoulders, and possibly the traces of a beard. Particle spectrometry analysis dated it to be around 29,000 years old. [Source: Wikipedia]
The remains of a kiln was found on an encampment in a small, dry-hut, whose door faced towards the east. Scattered around the oven were many fragments of fired clay. Remains of clay animals, some stabbed as if hunted, and other pieces of blackened pottery still bear the fingerprints of the potter.
Dolni Vestonice was located on a swamp at the confluence of two rivers near the Moravian mountains near present-day the village of Dolni Vestonice. In 1986, the remains of three teenagers were discovered in a common grave dated to be around 27,650 years old. Two of the skeletons belonged to heavily built males while the third was judged to be a female based on its slender proportions. Archaeologists who examined her skeletal remains found evidence of a stroke or other illness which left her painfully crippled and her face deformed. The two males had died healthy, but remains of a thick wooden pole thrust through the hip of one of them suggests a violent death.
The female skeleton was ritualistically placed beneath a pair of mammoth scapulae, one leaning against the other. The bones and the earth surrounding it contained traces of red ocher, a flint spearhead had been placed near the skull and one hand held the body of a fox. This evidence indicates that this was the burial site of a shaman. This is regarded as the oldest evidence of female shamans.
Cheddar Man and Humans Who Lived in Britain 20,000 to 10,000 Years Ago
Ian Sample wrote in The Guardian: “In 1903, field researchers working in the cave’s entrance uncovered Cheddar Man, the oldest complete skeleton in Britain at more than 9,000 years old. A painting of a mammoth was found on the wall in 2007. Other artefacts from the site include an exquisitely carved mammoth ivory spearhead. [Source: Ian Sample, The Guardian, February 16, 2011 |=|]
“Cheddar Man would have lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, making sharp blades from flints for butchering animals, using antlers to whittle harpoons for spear fishing and carving bows and arrows....Individuals inhabiting Gough’s Cave 5,000 years earlier... appear to have performed grisly cannibalistic rituals, including gnawing on human toes and fingers – possibly after boiling them – and drinking from polished skull cups. |=|
“The cave dwellers were among the first humans to return to Britain at the end of the last ice age. The island was unpopulated and almost completely under ice 20,000 years ago, but as the climate warmed, plants and animals moved across Doggerland, a now submerged land bridge that linked Britain to mainland Europe. Where food went, early humans followed and brought art, craft and toolmaking skills with them. |=|
“The ages of the remains at Gough Cave suggest it was home to humans for at least 100 years. The cave is well-sheltered and, with skin flaps over the entrance, would have made a cosy abode, Stringer said. The residents were ideally placed to hunt passing deer and wild boar, while up on the Mendip Hills roamed reindeer and horses. In the 1900s, several hundred tonnes of soil were removed from the cave to open it up as a tourist attraction, a move that may have destroyed priceless ancient remains. The skull cup and other bones unearthed in 1987 survived only because they were lodged behind a large rock.” |=|
Homes of Early Modern Humans
Modern humans generally didn't live in caves, it is thought, because they were too dark although cave mouths may have been used for shelter. Caves, archaeologist contend, were used primarily for religious and artistic purposes.
There is evidence that around 400,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers, probably members of the species Homo heidelbergensis, constructed a camp with huts on a beach at Terra Amata, now a suburb of Nice, France. The largest hut was about 10 meters feet long, and consisted of an oval-shaped arrangement of saplings stuck in the ground, held up stones. Presumably on leaves or skins were placed to form a roof. A break in the ring show where a door of some sort must have been. Just inside here was a hearth. [Source: Ian Tattersall, Nautlius, December 5, 2013]
It has been theorized that modern human families lived in small settlements made up of moss-covered huts during the winter and carried reindeer skin tents with them when they followed game during the summers. Families may have slept under bearskin bedding and children may have been rocked to sleep in reindeer-skin cradles. Their equivalent of hot chocolate may have reindeer fat mixed with boiling water. [Source: John Pfieffer, Smithsonian magazine, October 1986]
Mammoth Bone Huts and Skin Dwelling from 30,000 to 10,000 B.C.
Archaeological evidence from 30,000 to 10,000 B.C. shows that early homo sapiens built 40-foot-long and 12-foot-wide animal skin dwellings in southern Russia. Winter dwellings found in Czechoslovakia that back to 10,000 B.C. had round plans, animal-skin rugs, beds and hearths made with bones and animal dung.
A 15,000-year-old modern human hut was excavated in the Ukraine southeast of Kiev at the junction of two Dnieper River tributaries. About eight feet high and the size of a small bedroom, it was held up with a retaining wall made of stacked mammoth bones. This is the oldest example of human's living in a shelter other than a cave. [Source: John Pfieffer, Smithsonian magazine, October 1986]
Four 15,000-year-old huts made from mammoth bones and tusks near the village Mezhirich in Ukraine were quite sophisticated. The walls were made of leg bones and skulls piled one another. The roof was made of tusks likely covered by hide. They contained the mandibles or more than a hundred mammoths, probably taken from a nearby mammoth "graveyard." Some have described them as proto yurts. Pits were dug in to the permafrost nearby may have been used to store frozen meat for a year-round meat supply. The site is viewed by some as an early village.
77,000 Year-Old Bed Found in South Africa
In 2011 scientists announced that they had discovered the oldest known bedding — sleeping mats made of mosquito-repellant evergreens that are about 77,000 years old — in a South African cave. The use of medicinal plants in this way, together with other artifacts at the cave, showed how clever our human ancestors could be, the scientists said. The findings were detailed in the December 9, 2011 issue of the journal Science.[Source: Charles Q. Choi, Live Science, December 8, 2011]
Charles Q. Choi wrote in Live Science: “An international team of archaeologists discovered the stack of ancient beds at Sibudu, a cave in a sandstone cliff in South Africa. They consist of compacted stems and leaves of sedges, rushes and grasses stacked in at least 15 layers within a chunk of sediment 10 feet (3 meters) thick."The inhabitants would have collected the sedges and rushes from along the uThongathi River, located directly below the site, and laid the plants on the floor of the shelter,"said researcher Lyn Wadley, an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. The oldest mats the scientists discovered are approximately 50,000 years older than other known examples of plant bedding. All told, these layers reveal mat-making over a period of about 40,000 years. "The preservation of material at Sibudu is really exceptional," said researcher Christopher Miller, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany.
“Many of the plant remains are species of Cryptocarya, evergreen plants that are used extensively in traditional medicines. The beds appeared to be mostly composed of river wild-quince (Cryptocarya woodii), whose crushed leaves emit insect-repelling scents. Sidudu Cyperus sp. Spikelet about 73,000 years old, a plant fragment from the ancient mattresses. "The selection of these leaves for the construction of bedding suggests that the early inhabitants of Sibudu had an intimate knowledge of the plants surrounding the shelter, and were aware of their medicinal uses," Wadley said. "Herbal medicines would have provided advantages for human health, and the use of insect-repelling plants adds a new dimension to our understanding of behavior 77,000 years ago."
“Microscopic analysis of the bedding suggested the inhabitants repeatedly refurbished the mats. Starting about 73,000 years ago, the site's inhabitants apparently also burned the bedding regularly, "possibly as a way to remove pests," Miller said. "This would have prepared the site for future occupation and represents a novel use of fire for the maintenance of an occupation site." These mats were used for more than just slumber. "The bedding was not just used for sleeping, but would have provided a comfortable surface for living and working," Wadley said. “Beginning about 58,000 years ago, the layers of bedding at the site became more densely packed, and the number of hearths and ash dumps rose dramatically as well. The archaeologists believe this is evidence of a growing population, perhaps corresponding with other population changes within Africa at the time. By approximately 50,000 years ago, modern humans began expanding out of Africa, eventually replacing now-extinct forms of humans in Eurasia, including the Neanderthals.
“The age of the oldest mats are roughly contemporaneous with other South African evidence of modern human behavior, such as the use of perforated shell beads, sharpened bone points likely used for hunting, bow and arrow technology, the use of snares and traps and the production of glue for attaching handles onto stone tools. "These discoveries show the creativity and diversity of behavior that these early humans practiced," Miller told LiveScience.
Fire and Debate about Which Hominins First Started Cooking
Fire was used for heat, light and cooking. Fires and torches were the first forms of light. The first lamps, found in caves and dated to around 30,000 years ago, were hollowed and shaped and filled with animal grease and a natural fibre wick. There is some evidence that modern humans may have used lamps made of a fibrous wick fueled by animal fat as far back as 50,000 years ago. The first use of fire dates back to homo erectus around 1 million years ago but the there considerable debate about for what and how extensively it was used by homo erectus and the hominins that followed.
L.V. Anderson wrote on Slate.com: According to Harvard primatologist Richard Wrangham, “H. erectus must have had fire—just look at their anatomy! H. erectus had smaller jaws and teeth (and smaller faces in general), shorter intestinal tracts, and larger brains than even earlier hominins, such as Australopithecus afarensis, for instance, who were boxier, more apelike, and probably duller. Wrangham argues that H. erectus would not have developed its distinctive traits if the species hadn’t been regularly eating softer, cooked food. [Source: L.V. Anderson, Slate.com, October 5, 2012 \~/]
“If H. erectus didn’t bring fire mastery to Europe, who did? Archaeologists Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands and Paola Villa of the University of Colorado Museum found evidence for frequent use of fire by European Neanderthals between 400,000 and 300,000 years ago. Roebroeks and Villa looked at all the data collected at European sites once inhabited by hominins and found no evidence of fire before about 400,000 years ago—but plenty after that threshold. Evidence from Israeli sites put fire mastery at about the same time. H. sapiens arrived on the scene in the Middle East and Europe 100,000 years ago, but our species didn’t have a discernible impact on the charcoal record. Roebroeks and Villa conclude that Neanderthals must have been the ones who mastered fire. \~/
“One of the beautiful things about the archaeological record is that archaeologists are always willing to debate about it. Attributing fire to Neanderthals is an overly confident reading of the evidence, according to archaeologist Dennis Sandgathe of British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University. Of course the number of campsites with evidence of fire increased between 1 million and 400,000 years ago, he says—the number of campsites, period, increased during this time in proportion with population growth. But that doesn’t mean the use of fire was universal among European hominins—there are plenty of Neanderthal campsites out there that show little or no evidence of fire, and Sandgathe has personally excavated some of them. What’s more, Sandgathe told me when I asked him about Roebroeks’ and Villa’s data, “We actually have better data than they do when it comes to Neanderthal use of fire.” \~/
“According to Sandgathe and his colleagues, hominins didn’t really master fire until around 12,000 years ago—well after Neanderthals had disappeared from the face of the planet (or merged into the human gene pool via interbreeding, depending on your view). Sandgathe and his colleagues excavated two Neanderthal cave sites in France and found, surprisingly, that the sites’ inhabitants used hearths more during warm periods and less during cold periods. Why on earth would Neanderthals not build fires when it was freezing outside? In “On the Role of Fire in Neandertal Adaptations in Western Europe: Evidence from Pech de l’Aze´ IV and Roc de Marsal, France,” Sandgathe advances the hypothesis that European Neanderthals simply didn’t know how to make fire. All they could do was harvest natural fires—those caused by lightning, for instance—to occasionally warm their bodies and cook their food. (This explains why Sandgathe found more evidence of fire from warm periods: Lightning is far less common during cold spells.) \~/
“Roebroeks and Villa think Sandgathe’s reasoning is flawed: After all, there isn’t evidence of fire at every modern human campsite, either, when you look at sites from the Upper Paleolithic period, which concluded about 10,000 years ago. “However, nobody would argue that Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were not habitual users of fire,” they wrote in a response to Sandgathe et al.’s criticism of their work. Wrangham, meanwhile, thinks both Sandgathe et al. and Roebroeks et al. ignore some critical nonarchaeological evidence: his point that contemporary humans can’t survive on a diet of uncooked food. Accepting Sandgathe’s hypothesis, Wrangham wrote in an email, “means that the contemporary evidence is wrong, or that humans have adapted to need cooked food only in the last 12,000 years. Both suggestions are very challenging!” \~/
DNA Adaptation Helped Early Humans Deal with Toxic Fumes
In a study published in Molecular Biology and Evolution in 2016 scientists said early humans may have developed a genetic mutation that shielded them from the harmful cancer-causing hydrocarbons fume from campfire smoke and this gave them an advantage over Neanderthals. Naomi Stewart wrote in The Guardian: “Researchers at Pennsylvania State University looked at what is called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor gene which plays a role in the breakdown of certain noxious substances. When organic matter such as meat or wood is burned it releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can mutate DNA and cause cancer, as the World Health Organisation cautioned against in 2015. The PAHs are absorbed when we eat grilled meats or breathe in smoke. Once inside the body, their presence triggers aryl hydrocarbon receptors into producing enzymes that break them down so they can be flushed out. [Source: Naomi Stewart, The Guardian, August 2, 2016]
“But according to the research’s author Gary Perdew , when we breathe in too many toxic substances, just as we would in smoky caves, enzyme production goes into overdrive. The extra enzymes create a slew of toxic by-products that Perdew describes as “uber-toxicity”. The mutation Perdew and his team identified appears to slow down enzyme production to a rate that limits the risk of this toxicity. They theorise this may have made humans less sensitive to smoke’s harmful effects, allowing them to be around fires more often and offered an evolutionary advantage. Neanderthals, who appear to lack the mutation, would have struggled with more smoke-related respiratory infections, fertility problems, and mortality. “We prospered because of this mutation,” Perdew said. “I wouldn’t say Neanderthals died out because of it, but it could have been a contributing factor.” |=|
“The forerunner of modern humans and Neanderthals, Homo erectus, learned to control fire for warmth and cooking at least 1.9 million years ago in Africa. Both picked up the practice from this common ancestor, but with fire came greater exposure to smoke in enclosed caves. “They weren’t the greatest cooks,” said Perdew. “And it wasn’t easy to start a fire, so they might have kept a little fire burning all the time. They were probably burning grasses, whatever they could get their hands on.” |=|
“The scientists studied the gene in nine modern humans, including one from 45,000 years ago, three Neanderthals, and one member of the related but mysterious Denisovans in Siberia. The mutation was not present in the Neanderthals or Denisovan, but it was found in all of the modern humans. If the claims hold up it would be one of the first examples of human evolution in response to environmental pollution. However, given the small sample size of Neanderthals and the threadbare fragments of their DNA, the hypothesis is still tentative. |=|
“David Wright, an archaeologist at Seoul National University and the University of York, was cautious about the interpretation, and said that historical evidence does not seem to line up with the theory. “Neanderthals were the ultimate cave-dwelling fire users. If there was some selective disadvantage against this, then they would have died out a long time before they did. But they were actually one of the more successful stories in human evolution and lasted a really long time compared to other hominins,” he said. “That somehow Homo erectus and Neanderthals and dozens of other hominin species couldn’t handle sitting around a fire, it doesn’t make any sense to me,” he added. “The problem is it’s really difficult to test, because we can’t take a Neanderthal and sit them next to a fire to see how they react.” |=|
“Emily Monosson, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst said: “It wouldn’t be unexpected that being exposed to a contaminant that makes you sick would be a selective pressure on humans.” However, she agreed with being cautious: “You’re talking about one helpful adaptation against one chemical, but there’s a lot of other harmful particulates in smoke.” |=|
Lamps, Boats and Early Modern Human Possessions
Ancient men at the 24,000-year-old Dolni Vestonice and Pavlov sites in the Czech Republic had textiles, ceramics, cords, mats, and baskets. Evidence of these things are impressions left on clay chips recovered from clay floor that was hardened by a fire. The impressions of textiles indicate that these people may have made wall hangings, cloth, bags, blankets, mats, rugs and other similar items. Small items tha have been recovered from modern humans sites include drilled animals teeth, cloak pins and horse figurines.
In October 2004, team of European and Israeli archaeologists announced unearthed the oldest known clay fireplaces made by humans at a dig in southern Greece have. The hearths, excavated from the Klisoura Cave, in the northwest Peloponnesus, are at least 23,000 to 34,000 years old and were probably used for cooking by prehistoric residents of the area, according to the archaeology journal Antiquity. The study said that remnants of wood ash and plant cells had also been found in the hearths. The discovery, experts say, helps explain the transition from the oldest known hearths, made of stone, to clay structures like the ones at Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic. [Source: Anthee Carassava, New York Times]
No boats or rafts from the period when people arrived in Australia — around 60,000 years ago — have been found. Remains of boats found in Australia, Sardinia and Crete show that men have been crossing seas for more than 10,000 years. The oldest known boat is a dugout found in Denmark dated to 6000 B.C. The oldest known vessels with planks were found in Egypt and date to about 3000 B.C.
Possible Make-Up Used by Humans 164,000 Years Ago in South Africa
In an article published in Nature in 2007, researchers found evidence of reddish pigment from ground rocks — along with harvested and cooked seafood and early tiny blade technology — at Pinnacle Point overlooking the Indian Ocean near South Africa's Mossel Bay dated to between 176,000 and 152,000 years ago. The reddish pigment could be used for paint or body adornment it was presumed. "Together as a package this looks like the archaeological record of a much later time period," said study author Curtis Marean, professor of anthropology at the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University. [Source: Seth Borenstein, Associated Press, October 17, 2007]
Seth Borenstein of Associated Press wrote: Marean found 57 pieces of ground-up rock that would have been reddish- or pinkish-brown. That would be used for self-decoration and sending social signals to other people, much the way makeup is used now, he said. There have been reports of earlier but sporadic pigment use in Africa. The same goes with rocks that were fashioned into small pointy tools.
“Seafood harvesting, unlike other hunter-gatherer activities, encourages people to stay put, and that leads to more social interactions, he said. Yet 110,000 years later, no such modern activity, except for seafood dining, could be found in that part of South Africa, said Alison Brooks, a George Washington University anthropology professor who was not associated with Marean's study. That shows that the dip into modern life was not built upon, said Brooks, who called Marean's work "a fantastic find." Similar "blips of rather precocious kinds of behaviors seem to be emerging at certain sites," said Kathy Schick, an Indiana University anthropologist and co-director of the Stone Age Institute. Schick and Brooks said Marean's work shows that anthropologists have to revise their previous belief in a steady "human revolution" about 40,000 to 70,000 years ago.”
Earliest Weaving and Textiles
The oldest known clothe is a 3-by-1½-inch, 9000-year-old piece of fabric found in southeastern Turkey in 1993 and partly fossilized. Evidence that textiles was invented between 20,000 and 30,000 years ago include bone needles and other sewing tools and impressions of interlaced fibers on clay shards found at Upper Paleolithic sites. Braided fibers found in a pit in Lascaux, France hints not only of thread but also rope, cord, fishing lines, and perhaps woven garments and baskets.
Becky Wragg Sykes wrote in The Guardian: “People were already making finely worked bone needles 20,000 years ago, probably for embroidery as much as sewing animal skins, like the thousands of ivory beads and fox teeth that covered the bodies of a girl and a boy buried at Sunghir, Russia, around 28,000 years ago. And at Dzudzuana Cave in Georgia, 30,000 year old spun plant fibres were found which had been dyed: pink, black and turquoise blue! [Source: Hadley Freeman, fashion expert, Becky Wragg Sykes, The Guardian May 20, 2013]
Weaving is an ancient textile art and craft that involves placing two sets of threads or yarn called the warp and weft of the loom and turning them into cloth. The earliest evidence of weaving comes from the Czech Republic – impressions of textiles and basketry and nets on little pieces of hard clay, dating from 27,000 years. The 26,000-year-old Venus sculptures found in Willendorf, Austria and Brassempouty have what look like knotted hair. Anthropologist Olga Soffer of the University of Urbana-Champaign has suggested the hair on statues may in fact be replicas of hats.
The earliest known evidence of ceramics and textiles have been found at the Doiní Vestonice and Pavlov hill sites in the Czech Republic that were the home of prehistoric seasonal camps. Evidence of these things are impressions left on clay chips recovered from clay floor that was hardened by a fire. The meshlike impressions of textiles indicate that these people may have made wall hangings, cloth, bags, blankets, mats, rugs and other similar items. It is We don't actually know for sure that these were used for clothes, but the materials weren't heavy duty, and the variety in weaving styles suggests a long tradition.
Early Modern Human Clothes
Mark Stoneking of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig calculated that our human ancestors began wearing clothes about 114,000 years ago based on comparing the DNA of head lice, which have been around millions of years, and body lice (which are misnamed as they appear on clothing rather than the body), which are a relatively new species. His reasoning goes that a new species evolves when there is a new environment (in this case clothing for the body lice) and if he could figure when body lice branched off from head lice (which he did using by comparing the DNA of the two species) he could figure out when early man first wore clothes.
The discovery of bone needles indicates that ancient men probably sewed together hide and fur garments. This helped them expand into colder climates. Sewing and needles also allowed the creation of water-resistant clothing and the ornamentation of clothes with beads, animal teeth, and shells.
The first needles appeared about 20,000 years ago and the earliest garments were probably form-fitting animal-skin tunics, leggings and boots stitched together with linen thread. A teenage boy and girl found at a 20,000-year-old site called Sungir near Vladimir and Moscow, Russia were buried with clothing with 3,000 ivory beads attached to it. The arrangements of the beads indicates that the boy wore long pants, a cape, short cloak, and knee-high boots. A hat and belt were decorated with Arctic fox and cave lion teeth.
Early Modern Human Ornaments
During the Aurignacian cultural period (about 40,000 to 28,000 years ago), modern humans wore rings, beads, pendants, anklets and necklaces made from bear, fox, or lion teeth interspersed with seas shells or ivory beads and other carefully-crafted personal adornments made of ivory, soapstone, bone, marine and freshwater shells, fossil coral, limestone, schist, talc-shistlignite, hematite, pyrite, teeth from other animals and the fossilized shells of extinct squids. [Source: Randal White, Natural History, May, 1993]
Early modern humans was very choosy about the materials chosen for ornaments. Only teeth of certain animals were selected. Of the thousand or so shell species available only a dozen were chosen. Facsimiles of shells and animal teeth were sometimes made with soapstone. Beads were sewn into clothing and carnivore teeth were used in belts and headbands.
Ivory was used almost exclusively to create adornments, not weapons or tools. Modern humans developed various techniques for working ivory, including drilling, gouging, carving and polishing it with metallic abrasives such as hematite. Some items have been found hundreds of miles from their sources, which seems to indicate that some form of trade existed.
The inhabitants of the Russian site of Sungir made elaborate personal ornaments of ivory and schist that often were in the form of abstract geometric designs. These include a wheel-like carved ivory disk, found in the 28,000-year-old grave of two children. See Burials
Beads found in France, dated to between 33,000 and 32,000 years ago, were made in several steps. First pencil-like rods were fashioned from ivory or soapstone and then inscribed and broken off in half-inch to three-quarter-inch sections. They were then perforated — by gouging the top of the section from both sides and meeting in the middle — and ground and polished into a bead with a hematite abrasive.
At a 36,000 year-old site in the Don Valley of Russia, archaeologists found beads from an amber-like mineral called belemnite that had been drilled from each side. Experiments have shown that each bead took about an hour to make. At a 20,000-year-old site called Sungir near Vladimir and Moscow, Russia an adult was buried with 3,000 beads and a child was found with 5,000 beads, representing between 3,000 and 5,000 hours of work. Scientists have speculated that beads buried with the child either were an expression of extreme grief or an indication of the child's high status.
World's Oldest Jewelry
Becky Wragg Sykes wrote in The Guardian: The earliest examples of jewelry “keep getting pushed back in time: they currently stand at about 75,000 years ago, and maybe as much as 100,000 years ago. At one site in South Africa, we even have the first evidence of style as we know it, with a shift in the way shell beads were strung together over time.” [Source: Hadley Freeman, fashion expert, Becky Wragg Sykes, The Guardian May 20, 2013]
The earliest known jewellery was found in caves on the slopes of Mount Carmel in Israel. Alok Jha wrote in The Guardian: “Dated to around 100,000 years ago, the ancient shells and beads had similar holes made into them, which would have allowed them to be strung together into a necklace or bracelet. They represent an early comprehension of symbolic behaviour – wearing jewellery sends messages of identity and self-expression to those around us.” [Source: Alok Jha, The Guardian, November 15, 2012 |=|]
100,000-Year Perforated Shells from Israel and Algeria: the World’s Oldest Jewelry?
In 2006, scientists said 100,000-year-old beads from sites in Algeria and Israel may represent the oldest known attempt at self-adornment. The beads, made from shells with holes bored into them, are 25,000 years older than similar beads discovered in 2004 ago in South Africa, the scientists reported in a June 2006 issue of the journal Science. "Our paper supports the scenario that modern humans in Africa developed behaviors that are considered modern quite early in time, so that in fact these people were probably not just biologically modern but also culturally and cognitively modern, at least to some degree," said study co-author Francesco d'Errico of the National Center for Scientific Research in Talence, France. [Source: Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press, June 22, 2006 /*]
Randolph E. Schmid of Associated Press wrote: In the past some researchers have argued that the ability to use symbolism did not develop until people had migrated to Europe some 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. Alison Brooks, head of the anthropology department at George Washington University, said the new find reinforces that people developed behaviors gradually. That this find is older than the beads uncovered in South Africa "does not surprise me," she said in a telephone interview. "There were no revolutions in human behavior, there was a gradual accumulation of behaviors." The perforated shells from Blombos in South Africa and those now coming to light are of the same genus, Nassarius, she noted. "So, the question is, is this a single cultural tradition? Probably not," she concluded. "Clearly it's learned behavior."/*\
“By the time people were populating Europe, behavior had continued to develop and beads were being made from teeth, bone, stone, "every sort of material," said Brooks, who was not part of the research team. "It just is improbable that that sprang from nothing, and this is a logical antecedent." Sally McBrearty, an anthropology professor at the University of Connecticut, also was pleased with the find extending the time range for such symbolic activity. "It's the category of object that everybody is willing to accept as being something that signals modern behavior," McBrearty said. "It's not quite as wonderful as Blombos ... but it is fairly securely dated." McBrearty was not part of the research team. /*\
“The new find involves just three shells, two from Skhul in Israel the researchers said were about 100,000 years old and one from Oued Djebbana, Algeria, estimated to be 90,000 years old. The researchers said the shells were found many miles from the sea, indicating they were brought to those locations deliberately, most likely for beadworking. Brooks agreed, adding that the shells are too small to have had any food value. "I think we're looking at symbolic value ... it's very exciting," she said. D'Errico had been part of the group that found the earlier perforated shells at Blombos and he and other scientists were trying to find similar beads in other locations. /*\
“The newly identified shells were found in a study of museum collections. The shells from Skhul were excavated in the 1930s. The researchers were able to date them by comparing sediment stuck to one of them with layers containing human skeletons that were 100,000 or more years old. The Algerian site was excavated in the 1940s and the researchers said the date of 90,000 years is based on the technology and style of the stone tools found there. /*\
82,000-Year-Old Shell Jewelry Found in Morocco Cave
In 2007, archaeologists announced that they found tiny shells coated in red clay, dated to 82,000 years ago, in the Grotte des Pigeons at Taforalt in eastern Morocco. They were described as one the oldest known forms of human ornamentation. Kate Ravilious wrote in National Geographic: “Each shell has a hole pierced through it and a covering of red ochre, an ancient pigment made from clay. "The fact that they are colored and have deliberate perforations indicates that they were used as ornamentation," said Nick Barton from the University of Oxford in England, one of the archaeologists on the team. Some of the shell "beads" show signs of wear inside the perforation, indicating that they were strung together as necklaces or bracelets. "They were definitely meant to be seen," Barton said. [Source: Kate Ravilious, National Geographic, June 7, 2007 |]
“The shells come from a genus of marine snail called Nassarius, which is not found along the Moroccan shoreline today. The nearest place where the snails live is an island off Tunisia that lies more than 800 miles (1,280 kilometers) away. "It is possible that these beads were brought here from Tunisia and were very special objects," Barton said. In a paper published in the June 2007 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the archaeologists suggest that the beads mark a shift in human development and the beginnings of modern cultural behavior. "We think that they were capable of thinking symbolically and able to use one thing to represent another," Barton said. Possibly the beads were used to establish group identity and indicate where certain people belonged. Similar cultural signs, such as specialized tools and personal decoration, didn't arrive in Europe until around 40,000 years ago. |
“The Moroccan find is not the first example of ancient Nassarius shells that might have been beads. In June 2006 the same team reported that snail shells found at sites in Israel and Algeria were likely to be the world's oldest bead jewelry. Initial analysis of the shells from Israel indicated them to be between 100,000 and 135,000 years old, while the Algerian shells were determined to be more than 35,000 years old. |
“For their latest study the team established the Moroccan shells' ages using four different dating techniques. This means the beads qualify as the world's oldest, they say, because the shells are the only ones to be dated so conclusively. Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, from the Moroccan Institute of Archaeology, and colleagues found the shells in the Grotte des Pigeons alongside burnt stone remains in well-layered soil. The team has also uncovered similar shells at other sites in Morocco and are currently awaiting dating results. "Shells from other sites may turn out to be even older," Barton said, "and we may well be looking at ornamentation beyond a hundred thousand years ago."” |
Early Man Hygiene, Diseases and Health Problems
There is evidence that men shaved as far back as 20,000 years ago. There are cave drawings with beardless men, Sharpened flints and shells have been found in graves that may have been used as razors.
Diseases like malaria were probably not as much of problem during Paleolithic times as they are today because hunter-gatherers at that time seemed to have preferred dry, open habitats to wetlands and rain forests. Also people lived in scattered groups which makes it much more difficult to pass on infectious diseases. Infant mortality rates were very high. Even so, some scientists have hypothesized that since infectious diseases were less of threat than in ancient urban areas if early modern humans managed to emerge from childhood unscathed they could look forward to a longer lifespan than Greeks and Romans.
Many diseases and health problems that affect humans today — diabetes, hypertension and obesity — are partly the consequence of natural selection that took place long ago in a world that was far different than the one we live in today. Remnants of extinct retoviruses that infected our ancestors millions of years ago make up about 8 percent of our DNA. Scientists at the Aaraon Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York have recently put together pieces of one prehistoric virus — the 45-million-year-old HERV-K — creating an active, replicating retrovirus. They did this by comparing the genomes of 10 versions of the virus, identifying mutation in each, and deducing what a healthy virus must have looked like. They then assembled that version, tested it, and found it was able to replicate and infect cells in the lab.
Over the past 10,000 year several mutations have been “naturally selected” to protect humans from malaria. Behind the changes is the Darwinian concept that any mutation that protects a victim from an early death will allow them to reproduce and spread the mutation. Africans have developed a number of genetic mutations that protect them against malaria that became widespread even though they also caused sickle cell anemia , thalassemia and G6PD deficiency. Mutations that fight the disease have also been found in Thailand and New Guinea, where malaria is also prevalent.
The first known dental work was done 9,000 years ago at Mehrgarh, a Neolithic villages in present-day Pakistan. Nine individuals from a sample of 300 buried in graves dating from 5500 to 7000 B.C. Had holes drilled in their molars. David Frayer, a professor of anthropology from the University of Kansas, wrote in Natural History, “This is certainly the first case of drilling a person's teeth. But even more significant this practice lasted 1,500 years and was a tradition at this site. It wasn't just a sporadic event." The oldest recorded dentistry before the discovery was found in Denmark and dated to 3000 B.C.
The discovery was reported in an article in Nature by Roberto Macciarelli of the University of Pontiers in France. “Four teeth show signs of decay associated with the hole, indicating that the intervention in some cases could have been therapeutic or palliative," he said. No evidence of a filling was found but it is possible that there could have been something that decayed away.
The drilling was done to molars in both the upper and lower jaws to adults. In four of the cases the teeth appeared to have been drilled where the teeth had rotted but in the other cases no tooth rot was present. The holes were between a half millimeter and 3.5 millimeters deep. They appear to not have been done for aesthetic reason because the holes way out of view.
The drilling is believed to have been performed with a flint point spun with a bow. An experimental reconstruction of the probable method involved a small thin piece of flint attached to a bone.
Judging from the angle of the holes they were not self made and because the people who had the dental work were performed on them were not buried in special graves it appears that dentistry was available to anyone and was not just the provenance of the rich. One of the individuals had three molars drilled. Another had one molar drilled twice.
Cro-Magnon versus Modern Human Tibia An excavation of a 6,900-year-old tomb at Butheirs-Boulancourt, about 65 kilometers south of Paris, revealed a man with an amputated forearm. To perform such an operation would require a high degree of skill and knowledge about the human body an infection.
According to the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research, the patient seemed to haven been anaesthetized, the conditions were aseptic, the cut was clean and the wound was treated. Scientists believe that very sharp flint tools were used to do the cutting, which included cutting through bone, and plants such as sage may have been used to clean the wounds and as an anaesthetic.
There is also evidence of Neolithic amputations being performed in Germany and the Czech Republic. It had been known for some time that Stone Age men performed trephinations, cutting holes in the skull, but these are the first evidence of amputations.
The elderly amputee lived during the Linearbandkeramik period, when European hunter-gatherers began settling down to agriculture stockbreeding and pottery. A schist axe, a flint pick and other iams of a young animal, thought to be a sign of high status was found in the amputee's grave.
Five Caveman Desires Than Remain with Us Today
Addressing was the consequences of living in the modern world with a Stone Age body, Harvard evolutionary biologist Jason Lieberman said during a public lecture in 2013 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. "Like it or not, we evolved to be sweaty, fat bipeds that are furless and big brained. We evolved to crave sugar, starch and fat. We evolved to be physically active, but we also evolved to be lazy." [Source: Laura Poppick, Live Science, November 12, 2013]
Laura Poppick wrote in Live Science: “During the talk, Lieberman described some of the ways that instincts humans inherited from the Stone Age — also known as the Paleolithic Period, stretching from between 2.6 million to about 10,000 years ago — now conflict with modern life and contribute to increasingly common lifestyle-induced diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Humans crave high-energy foods, like fats and carbohydrates, because such food was hard to come by in the Stone Age, but can now be consumed in great abundance to the detriment of the body. Meanwhile, humans typically opt out of energy-intensive habits, such as walking to destinations, because people also inherited brains hardwired to want to save energy. Here are five day-to-day decisions modern humans face that are made complicated by their Stone Age bodies.
“1) Stairs or escalator: The sight of a flight of stairs next to an escalator probably strikes up a similar internal dialogue within most people. "Hmm, stairs … yeah, I'll take the escalator. Although, I could probably use the exerci … no, I'll take the escalator." One study that measured the percentage of people in the United States who chose stairs over escalators when both were available side by side found that only 3 percent chose the stairs, Lieberman said. But a habit that modern people might view as lazy would have been considered smart by humanity's ancestors: Hunting and gathering was energy-intensive, and short breaks of inactivity offered the rare chance to save hard-earned calories. "If there were escalators in the Kalahari Desert, they would be using them too," Lieberman said during his talk, referring to human ancestors. "And it makes sense that they would."
“2) Walk all day or sit all day: Humans evolved to be a walking species. Whereas chimps walk an average of about 2 to 3 kilometers per day (1.2 to 1.9 miles) — spending most of their time foraging and chomping on vegetation — hunter-gatherers are thought to have walked 9 or more kilometers (5.6 miles) every day, Lieberman said. "We evolved to walk, run, climb, dig and throw," Lieberman said. "That's how hunter-gatherers got their dinner every day." Walking keeps humans healthy by stimulating blood flow and flushing oxygen through the body. But today, modern civilization thrives largely on long-term sitting, to the detriment of physical and mental health. People do have the option to exercise, and take time out of the day to work those muscles that were built to be used. But this conscious decision to burn excess energy is not a decision the human body evolved to need to make.
3) Shoes or no shoes: Humans lived thousands of years walking barefoot and developing calluses that would protect their feet from twigs and stones, before eventually inventing protective soles that are now called shoes. This protection came with a price: flat-footedness. Flat feet have become a common phenomenon in modern society, and can lead to knee problems and other complications with age. Based on skeletal remains, researchers believe flat-footedness was far less common during the Paleolithic Period, when barefoot walking allowed protective tissues to build up around arches, Lieberman said.
“4) Read or don't read: Nobody would argue that reading is bad for human health. But Lieberman pointed out that myopia — also known as nearsightedness, when far-away objects look blurry — has increased substantially with the advent of writing and reading. This is because the eye muscles, which are not made for prolonged up-close vision, must strain to look at things close to the face, and eventually they stretch and elongate to the point that they no longer function properly. Increasingly longer hours spent inside office buildings and homes, rather than visually stimulating landscapes like forests and other natural spaces, can also lead to sight problems, Lieberman said. But humans take this risk, and manage to get by fine with glasses.
“5) Sugar or veggies: Some estimates suggest the Paleolithic diet consisted of 4 to 8 lbs of sugar per year. Today, the average American consumes more than 100 lbs (45 kilograms) of sugar per year, Lieberman said. This drastic increase had been partially implicated in the rise of heart disease and diabetes as leading causes of death in the country over the past several decades. But cavemen weren't watching their calories; they just didn't have access to the huge quantities of sugar available today. Modern technology allows humans to extract sugar from a wide range of sources — including sugar cane, maple trees, beehives and corn stalks — and ship that sugar around the world in huge quantities and at unprecedented speeds. If given the chance to gorge on candy bars, Paleolithic children probably would have wanted to just as much as modern children do, Lieberman said. But they just didn't have that option. "That kid had no option but to eat healthy food and to exercise, because that is what she did every day," Lieberman said. "Now we have to teach our children to make choices for which we are not really prepared for from an evolutionary perspective."
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons except Blombos Cave objects from Blombos Cave website
Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Nature, Scientific American. Live Science, Discover magazine, Discovery News, Ancient Foods ancientfoods.wordpress.com ; Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last Updated July 2018