Archive for the 'Early man' Category

13
Jan
14

On Hiatus

I’m working on my scientific fiction book. I’ll be back in a while…

09
Oct
13

Why Are People Right-handed?

Twining ivy

Twining ivy

Plants are left or right-handed. Look at them. They grow toward one direction, not

necessarily due to the sun. You’re probably most familiar with plants that have tendrils, or twine their way up a post  or fence. If you look more closely, you’ll notice that they form consistent right- or left-handed helices as they climb.

Non-human primates are balanced as far as handedness goes–some left, some right–as were Australopithecines. But when our genus Homo arrived, we became more likely right-handed.

Why? Take a guess before you read the article below. Defense? Hunting? Some requirement of balance with our upright position? Maybe a relationship between the right hand and left brain?

Read on.

The Origins of Handedness – Origins

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26
Sep
13

The How and Why of Early Man

So many questions about our past are debated because of the lack of  written records. Before man put proverbial pen to paper, we had only bones and teeth, soil contents, paleo-geology and -geography and -climate, to intuit what might have been.

This, despite the fact that we know for a fact that written records are always from the writer’s perspective. They are only trustworthy to the point we trust the writer–like a Leakey, Donald Johansson, Chris Beard, Jane Goodall. These interpretations–albeit highly trained–of primary sources (Earth’s record) are given more credibility than the primary source itself (an action I’m sure discouraged by Leakey’s and Johnasson’s and Beard’s and Goodall’s teachers as they pursued their research). Why? The reason is simple: It takes a PhD to interpret Earth’s story. Continue reading ‘The How and Why of Early Man’

01
Aug
13

47 Must Read Books That Explain Human Evolution

homo habilis

Lucy: Her Story of Survival

Here’s a well-rounded list of books that will tell you the basics of mankind’s evolution from primate to modern man. It includes books on the paleoanthropology, archeology, paleo-everything, primate behavior, evolution of those features that characterize our human-ness and more. I’ve read every book on this list, keep most of them in my library. I wish I could read each one again for the first time:

  1. Allen, E.A., The Prehistoric World: or, Vanished Races Central Publishing House 1885
  2. Brown Jr., Tom, Tom Brown’s Field Guide: Wilderness Survival  Berkley Books 1983
  3. Caird, Rod  Apeman:  The Story of Human Evolution  MacMillan  1994
  4. Calvin, William, and Bickerton, Derek  Lingua ex Machina: Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the Human BrainMIT Press, 2000
  5. Carss, Bob and Birch, Stewart The SAS Guide to Tracking Lyons Press Guilford Conn. 2000
  6. Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca and Cavalli-Sforza, Francesco  The Great Human Diasporas: The History of Diversity and Evolution   Perseus Press  1995
  7. Conant, Dr. Levi Leonard The Number Concept: Its Origin and Development  Macmillan and Co. Toronto 1931
  8. Diamond, Jared  The Third Chimpanzee   Harper Perennial  1992
  9. Edey, Maitland  Missing Link  Time-Life Books  1972
  10. Erickson, Jon Glacial Geology: How Ice Shapes the Land   Facts on File Inc. 1996
  11. Fleagle, John Primate Adaptation and Evolution  Academic Press 1988 Continue reading ’47 Must Read Books That Explain Human Evolution’
19
Jun
13

How Did Homo erectus Differ as a Species 800,000 ya?

He seeks out Lucy out of duty to his band

He seeks out Lucy out of duty to his band

Once Homo erectus left Africa and began his journey to the disparate biomes and habitats of the planet, he evolved from the phenotype that populated Africa 1.8 mya. His behavior adapted to  new climates and that begat variations in tool use, food consumed and cultural norms. His group size, home base characteristics, survival techniques started to vary across the planet.

More than that, Homo erectus‘ (variously called Homo erectus, Homo ergaster and Homo antecessor depending upon where they lived) physical characteristics evolved to suit the environ, be it what we consider ancient China, Java, Dmanisi Georgia, Israel or Gran Dolina Spain. I’m sure man’s genotype remained within what would be considered Homo erectus, but culturally and physically, the bands differed greatly.

Let me take a step back for a moment. There is a difference of opinion as to when mankind’s ‘culture’ began. I spent quite a bit of time researching the definition of ‘culture’ as well as its roots without finding a definitive answer. Therefore, I’ll call the lifestyle elements that are based on environmental conditions like geology, geography, climate, ecosystems ‘culture’. From reading the research of the experts, I’ve come to believe our forebears developed ‘culture’ the moment they used their powers of reasoning to adapt their actions to their surroundings.

Why do I care about all this? Primarily, I am curious about my ancestors. Homo erectus is the first species of the genus Homo to portray the wanderlust so important to modern man’s occupation of every corner of the planet. Nothing seemed to stop him. He adapted, invented and survived. This is eerily familiar to modern man.

To better understand how these long-gone individuals lived their lives, I set out to tell their story a decade ago. What were their daily activities? How did Homo erectus survive the unforgiving hand of nature? What led to inventions like fire, clothing and Acheulian tool making (the latter arrived hundreds of thousands of years apart depending upon whether erectus lived in China or Israel. Why?)  To make sense of these questions, I invented characters and dropped them into settings with crises I reasoned they likely would have faced in their world. This gave me the required elements of a paleo-historic novel.

Continue reading ‘How Did Homo erectus Differ as a Species 800,000 ya?’

29
May
13

Great Quotes About the Evolution of Man

credit: San Diego Museum of Man

Lucy: Her Story of Survival

I’m writing a novel about paleo-historic man. As such, I’ve spent an inordinately long period of time researching early man. Here are some of the best quotes I’ve run across on the

evolution of our species:

  • Future changes of any note will be in our minds, and what we do with them.  –Phillip Tobias
  • “But I’m not dancing alone,” he said. “I am dancing with the forest, dancing with the moon.” Then, with the utmost unconcern, he ignored me and continued his dance of love and life. The Forest People: A Study of the Pygmies of the Congo — Colin Turnbull
  • Impossible is relative –Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. –Charles Darwin
  • When primeval man first used flint stones for any purpose, he would have accidentally splintered them, and would then have used the sharp fragments. From this step it would be a small one to break the flints on purpose and not a very wide step to fashion them rudely. –Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man
  • Fossils are like truth. They are not where you look for them, but where you find them. –GHR Von Koenigswald
  • I learnt from Flo how to be mother. Flo was patient, tolerant. She was supportive. She was always there. She was playful. She enjoyed having her babies, as good mothers do.  –Jane Goodall, referring to a mother chimp she’d studied for years.
  • Chimps are unbelievably like us – in biological, non-verbal ways. They can be loving and compassionate and yet they have a dark side… 98 per cent of our DNA is the same. The difference is that we have developed language – we can teach about things that aren’t there, plan for the future, discuss, share ideas… –Jane Goodall
  • (Man’s) greatness does not consist in being different from the animals that share the earth with him, but in being…conscious of things of which his environment has no inkling. –GHR Von Koenigswald
  • A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.  – Greek Proverb
  • Words require little energy to produce; they are ‘cheap tokens’ and can be used with little or no risk or cost to deceive, just as easily as to inform.  Body language is much more reliable for most animal purposes. — Derek Bickerton
  • Continue reading ‘Great Quotes About the Evolution of Man’
15
May
13

Book Review: Singing Neanderthals

The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and BodyThe Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body

by Steven Mithen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have avoided this book in the past because my personal interest extends to an earlier time than Neanderthals, but I shouldn’t have. The title is misleading in that he extends to man’s earliest Homo habilis days, not those relatively-modern Homo neanderthalensis times. He explains the importance of music to man’s ability to use symbols, to express ideas without the vast lexicon we currently possess. He shares his definition of music as ‘human sound communication outside the scope of language’ (borrowed from Bruno Nettl) and describes a believable scenario for the co-evolution of music and language. All in all, a well thought-out book with lots of factually-based opinions.

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Discover the sizzle in science. It's not that stuff that's always for the smart kids. It's the need to know. The passion for understanding. The absolute belief that for every problem, there is a solution. The creative mind seeking truth in a world of mystery. The quest for the Holy Grail.

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Documents

Books I’m Reading

Great Science Books

Assembling California
Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant
The Forest People
Geology Underfoot in Southern California
The Land's Wild Music: Encounters with Barry Lopez, Peter Matthiessen, Terry Tempest William, and James Galvin
My Life with the Chimpanzees
Naked Earth: The New Geophysics
Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
The Runaway Brain: The Evolution of Human Uniqueness
Sand Rivers
The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body
The Tree Where Man Was Born
The Wildlife of Southern Africa: A Field Guide to the Animal and Plants of the Region
The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior: An Autobiography


Jacqui's favorite books »
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RSS Fact and Fiction about Early Man

  • Meeting Prehistoric Man October 4, 2014
    author: Unknown Author 896 name: Jacqui average rating: 5.00 book published: 1492 rating: 5 read at: 2014/10/04 date added: 2014/10/04 shelves: early-man review: Meeting Prehistoric Man by GHR Von Koenigswald is a journey throughout the world in discovery of early man as paleoanthropologists understood him during VonKoenigswald's time, circa 1950's […]
    Unknown Author 896
  • Letters from the Field, 1925-1975 September 13, 2014
    author: Margaret Mead name: Jacqui average rating: 4.19 book published: 1977 rating: 5 read at: 2014/09/13 date added: 2014/09/13 shelves: early-man review: If you didn't read my last week's post, you may wonder why I am so excited about Margaret Mead's eye-opening book, Letters From the Field. Even if you read me last week, you may wonder--I […]
    Margaret Mead
  • The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention January 12, 2014
    author: Guy Deutscher name: Jacqui average rating: 4.18 book published: 2006 rating: 3 read at: date added: 2014/01/12 shelves: early-man, research review: Dr. Deutscher has done a scholarly, thorough discussion on the roots of language, but I believe he started too late in time. I'm of the persuasion that language involves more than the spoken word. I […]
    Guy Deutscher
  • She Who remembers November 3, 2013
    author: Linda Lay Shuler name: Jacqui average rating: 4.12 book published: 1988 rating: 4 read at: date added: 2013/11/03 shelves: early-man review: […]
    Linda Lay Shuler
  • The Runaway Brain: The Evolution of Human Uniqueness July 25, 2011
    author: Christopher Wills name: Jacqui average rating: 4.14 book published: 1993 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: science, early-man review: In my lifelong effort to understand what makes us human, I long ago arrived at the lynchpin to that discussion: our brain. Even though bipedalism preceded big brains, and we couldn't be who we are […]
    Christopher Wills
  • The Origin Of Humankind July 25, 2011
    author: Richard E. Leakey name: Jacqui average rating: 3.95 book published: 1981 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, history review: If you're interested in man's roots, there are several authors you must read: Birute Galdikas Dian Fosse Donald Johanson GHR Von Koenigsman Glen Isaacs Jared Diamond Ian Tattersell Lev Vygots […]
    Richard E. Leakey
  • Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind July 24, 2011
    author: Donald C. Johanson name: Jacqui average rating: 4.10 book published: 1981 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, science review: I read this book when I was writing a paleo-historic drama of the life of earliest man. My characters were Homo habilines, but they cohabited Africa with Australopithecines, so to understand the co-st […]
    Donald C. Johanson
  • Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe July 24, 2011
    author: Jane Goodall name: Jacqui average rating: 4.27 book published: 1990 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, science review: I have read every book that Jane Goodall wrote. She has an easy-going writing style that shares scientific principals easily with the layman. Probably because when she started, she was little more than a no […]
    Jane Goodall
  • In the Shadow of Man July 24, 2011
    author: Jane Goodall name: Jacqui average rating: 4.31 book published: 1971 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/23 shelves: early-man, science review: I read Jane Goodall's In the Shadow of Man (Houghton Mifflin 1971) years ago as research for a paleo-historic novel I was writing. I needed background on the great apes so I could show them acting appr […]
    Jane Goodall
  • Timewalkers: The Prehistory of Global Colonization January 29, 2011
    author: Clive Gamble name: Jacqui average rating: 3.50 book published: 1993 rating: 4 read at: 2010/02/07 date added: 2011/01/28 shelves: early-man review: It's a difficult question. Why did earliest man leave Africa and migrate to new areas. Mostly, animals evolve suited to their environment and they don't stray far. They may have several areas th […]
    Clive Gamble
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