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