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Prehistory. What is “history”? “ Historia ” from the Greek Meaning: inquiry by examination of evidence History deals with human presence Documentation of some kind is necessary Written records Archaeological discovery. Prehistory to the beginnings of agriculture.

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  • What is “history”?
    • “Historia” from the Greek
    • Meaning: inquiry by examination of evidence
  • History deals with human presence
  • Documentation of some kind is necessary
    • Written records
    • Archaeological discovery
prehistory to the beginnings of agriculture
Prehistory to the beginnings of agriculture
  • interest in the past is a relatively new phenomenon
  • it was long assumed that everything that one needed to know could be found in what we now recognize as religious texts, which are not “history”
  • we know more about the past than any preceding generation
age of the world
Age of the World
  • 6000 years old (4004 B.C.)???
    • No, this is a religious, not historical idea
    • based upon textual marginalia which many believe is actually part of the Bible
    • Bishop Usher
  • Actually, the world is about 4.5 to 5 billion years old
  • significantly younger than the universe
  • which is at three to five times that old
    • Ask you astronomy teacher for a full explanation of this
the sun
The Sun
  • around 10 billion years old
  • a very small, minor star
  • in a backwater on the galactic rim
  • which you should keep in we go
beginnings of life on earth
Beginnings of Life on Earth
  • first appeared about 4 billion years ago
  • small, single-celled creatures
  • evolved in to larger, multi-celled creatures like seaweed and jellyfish
  • followed, eventually, by such things as vertebrates
  • that is, things with “backbones”
  • You can see all of this on the Discovery Channel series about dinosaurs, if you wish to rent or buy them, or you can take the appropriate biology class
adaptation to land
Adaptation to land
  • about 300 million years ago, vertebrates and some invertebrates and plants
  • began to adapt to land
  • first successful adaptees: amphibians
  • followed by: reptiles
  • 60 million years ago, mammals became the dominant life form
  • following the destruction of the dinosaurs
    • probably by the impact of an large asteriod
    • although there are other theories such as disease, massive volcanic eruptions, and so for. Not floods, however. We’ll get to that later.
natural selection
Natural Selection
  • The process where by life forms become increasing complex is called natural selection
  • it is also known as “evolution” or “biological evolution”
  • a theory first advanced by Charles Darwin in the mid-1800’s
    • Other theories of origination are roughly equivalent to those who still believe in a “Flat Earth”, or those who tortured Galileo
    • If you are interested in a full discussion of this, sign up for the course in the Biology department
  • What is a “theory”?
  • It is not just an “idea someone has”.
  • A “theory” is a scientific position which has been repeatedly tested and which the results of repeated testing continue to support:
    • Ex. The Theory of Relativity
  • People who dismissively say “Evolution is just a theory!” don’t understand and are using the word incorrectly.
humans as mammals
Humans as mammals
  • humans belong to the animal kingdom
  • Humans are mammals
  • At least most of them *-)
the order primata
The Order: Primata
  • humans belong to the order Primata
  • along with tree shrews, lemurs, tarsiers, monkeys, and apes
variation within the human family
Variation within the human family
  • early anthropoid types: hominids
  • consistent evolution away from early hominidtypes
  • natural selection (Charles Darwin)
  • toward a more modern type
genetic studies
Genetic studies
  • including mitrocondrial DNA,show decisively that great apes and human share a common ancestor
  • gorillas splitting from the common line: 5 million years ago
  • chimpanzees--sharing 99+% of your DNA--3 million years ago---and use language, tools, and live in complex societies
differentiation in humans
Differentiation in Humans
  • six or seven ice ages ago
  • Pleistocene era
  • product of natural selection
earliest hominids
Earliest hominids
  • in Africa
  • 4 to 4.5 million years ago
  • on the Savannah's
  • used simple tools and weapons
    • choppers, bashers, smashers, and sharp edges
earliest hominids cont
Earliest hominids, cont.
  • similar to modern humans
  • smaller brains--1/3 current size
  • upright posture—app. 3 feet tall
  • capable of tool-making and speech, affecting development of the brain
the savannah s
The Savannah's
  • a good place to start
  • warm (Naked is Good)
  • food (Whatever We Can Scrounge: Weeds and Lots of Dead, Rotten Things that are Real Slow)
  • shelter (Trees, Taller the Better)
  • mushrooms (Remember What the Door Mouse said....)
  • earliest hominid types
  • lived for over 2 million years (fairly successful)
  • lived with other hominid types
  • evidence is increasing, and theories are currently being modified to take new evidence into account
    • Again read a book on this or take the appropriate biology class
  • Discovery of skeleton AL-288-1, north of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
    • Nicknamed “Lucy”
      • Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
  • 4’6”, 55lb., bipedal Brain 500 cc (modern human: 1400 cc), limited speech but opposable digit
  • Estimated date of death: 3.5 million years ago


Australopithecus afarensis

3.2 million years ago

other hominids
Other Hominids
  • Ramapithecusand Afarensis
  • descended from afarensis:
    • africanus, habilis, erectus, sapiens
    • In other words, “US”
development of hominids
Development of Hominids
  • Animals adapt themselves to environment
  • Hominids adapt environment to themselves
    • Use of tools
    • Language
    • Complex cooperative social structures
modern humans
Modern Humans
  • immediate ancestor: Homo erectus
  • 500,000 years ago
  • first to use the hand axe and other stone tools
  • began the process of wiping out all other life-forms
social organization of early humans
Social organization of early humans
  • hunting groups
  • requiring sophisticated verbal communications
  • first evidence of metaphysical ideas
    • reverence for the dead
    • Neanderthal ritual burials
  • use of fire
dispersion of humans
Dispersion of humans
  • use of fire allowed dispersion from the savannahs
  • to cooler areas during the ices ages
  • also increased the potential food supply greatly
  • cooking helps liberate proteins and carbohydrates
    • Proteins mean bigger bodies and bigger brains
current evolution
Current evolution
  • thought to have reached it current point about 40,000 years ago
  • appearance of homo sapiens
    • if Neanderthals are considered to be homo sapiens, then the time-frame increases considerably
  • relationship to Neanderthal?
    • none, based on recent DNA studies
    • mtDNA (mitrocondrial DNA)

Homo sapiens


important transition
Important Transition
  • previously: adaptation to environment
  • process of mutation and natural selection
  • genetic processes adapt the life form to the environment
human control of environment
Human control of environment
  • with fire, humans could adapt the environment
  • potentially entering a third stage, NOW
  • when both genetics and environment can be controlled
life as hunters and gatherers
Life as Hunters and Gatherers
  • most of human history as been as hunters and gathers
  • development of tools
  • particularly “blade technology”
  • blades, slings, bows, arrows, spears, etc
  • Paleolithic Age (Old Stone Age)
big game hunting
Big Game Hunting
  • Evidence of intelligent coordination of hunting expeditions
    • Development of weaponry
    • Animal-skin disguises
    • Stampeding tactics
      • Lighting of fires, etc. to drive game into kill zones

Requires planning, communication

social organization
Social Organization?
  • how do you know?
  • comparisons with surviving hunters and gatherers?
  • archaeology?
social organization con t
Social Organization,con’t
  • no formal religious structures
  • no formal political structures
  • small groups of twenty to fifty persons
  • depending on the environment
  • food acquisition methods still very simple
division of labor
Division of labor
  • men: hunting animals
  • women: hunting plants
  • both task are equally important to survival
  • division of labor is based on physical strength and endurance
  • average work week: 15 hours
  • family groups
  • kin-ship ties
  • conflict between groups?
  • low population and simple technology
  • cooperation between the members of the group, for the survival of the group
competition and power
Competition and power?
  • little between group members
  • each did what they did best
  • and what the group needed
  • The Gods Must be Crazy
private property
Private Property ?
  • constant movement vs. personal possessions
  • inability to carry many things
  • basically a community of property
romantic interpretation
Romantic interpretation ?
  • morally superior and peaceful ?
  • ruled by women ?
  • more “in touch” with the cosmos ?
  • simple, virtuous people ?
  • life-style and technology, inhibit war and avarice
origins and development of religion and metaphysics
Origins and development of religion and metaphysics
  • absolutely no explanation for any phenomena in the physical world
  • causes the development of religion and magic, which are the same things
    • a method of explanation

“Some force with intelligence and intent did this thing.”

    • a “technology” for control

“If we do (or don’t do) what this force wants, it will help us, or not harm us.”

  • ex. Bodo, the Nose-Picker
  • sees the whole world as supernatural
  • Shamanistic in “religious” practice
  • no priests (in the usual sense)
  • concept of an afterlife
the natural environment
The Natural Environment
  • By 13,000 BCE Homo sapiens in every inhabitable part of the world
  • Archaeological finds:
    • Sophisticated tools
      • Choppers, scrapers, axes, knives, bows, arrows
      • Cave and hutlike dwellings
      • Use of fire, animal skins
the natural environment1
The Natural Environment
  • Humans hunted many mammal species to extinction
      • Climactic change may have accelerated process
      • The process continues to this day as hundreds of animal and plant go extinct each decade, directly due to human actions
books on the subject
Books on the Subject
  • Donald C. Johanson and Maitland A Edy. Lucy: the Beginning of Humankind
  • Richard E. Leakey. The Making of Mankind
  • Tim M. Berra. Evolution and the Myth of Creationism
  • Richard Dawkins. The Blind Watchmaker
  • Richard Dawkins. The Selfish Gene
  • Richard Dawkins. The River of Life
  • Stephen J. Gould. …anything
books continued
Books continued
  • Christopher Stringer and Clive Gamble. In Search of the Neanderthals.
  • Christopher Stringer and Clive Gamble. African Exodus. The Origins of Modern Humans.
  • (I forget). Mapping Human History
  • Jared Diamond. The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of Humans
  • Lauren Ristvet. In the Beginning: World History from Human Evolution to the First States.
  • Eugenie C. Scott. Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction