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Cultural Evolution

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  1. Cultural Evolution The Paleolithic, the Neolithic, and the Rise of States

  2. Cultural takeoff • Cultural evolution parallels biological evolution for six million years, until the Late Paleolithic and cultural takeoff. • Biological evolution continues, and we see it the distributions of things like skin color and lactase deficiency. • But since the Late Paleolithic, most of human evolution is the story of rapid cultural change, independent of biological change.

  3. Early Paleolithic: The Oldowan • Early Paleolithic: about 2.6 mya – .2mya • Oldowan and Acheulian tools associated Australopithecus and H. habilis • Core tools with a single cutting edge. • Flake tools would certainly have been used, but there is no evidence that flake tools were made on purpose. • A tool was what was left over when you got through shaping a rock with a cobble.

  4. Core and pebble tools • The distribution of core pebble tools is widespread across African sites, attesting to the development of standardization, abstract thinking, and the sharing of culture. • Culture is learned and shared and cumulative and this all shows in the early development of tools.

  5. The Acheulian • The Oldowan lasted a very long time. • The transition to the Acheulian was accompanied by an increase in brain size and the rise of H. erectus. • Hand axes, named for St. Acheul in France, with a useful edge all around – hence, bifaces.

  6. Early Acheulian • 1.6mya – 1.0mya in Africa • 1.6mya – .5mya in Europe • More standardized, more variety, and more edge per kilogram of material.

  7. Middle Acheulian • 1.0mya – .6mya

  8. Migrations of H. sapiens • Migrations of H. sapiens

  9. The Late Early Paleolithic • The Late Acheulian .5mya – .1mya • Flake tools – from Oldowan to Later Acheulian • The baton and anvil method • Fire: perhaps controlled by .7mya – evidence at Kao Poh Nam rock shelter in Thailand. • Fire-cracked, imported basalt cobles with tools and bones of animals that have cut marks on them.

  10. Fire – .7mya? • The basalt cobbles are not native to the rock shelter and would have to have been brought from outside on purpose. • And though there was plenty of limestone in the rock shelter, it was not used for a fireplace, presumably because it is so inappropriate.

  11. Non-lithic culture in the Paleolithic • H. erectus began to live in houses. • 350kya in Bilzingsleben, Germany –3 circular foundations of large houses. • Clothing allows migration of H. erectus to colder areas – below 50 degrees • Social organization for hunting: 400kya Ambrona and Torralba in Spain: • Dismembered elephants, horses, red deer, wild oxen, and rhinoceroses. And thousands of tools.

  12. Wooden spears • First spears in Schoeningen, Germany at about 350kya. • Five spears, made of wood, and up to seven feet long, in association with butchered horses.

  13. Non-lithic culture • Learning to cross water: boats are inferred from Flores Island in Indonesia, 15 miles from Bali. • No physical evidence of rafts. • More standardization and evidence of purely symbolic materials: • Incised elephant bone at 350kya in Bizingsleben and red ocher (hematite) in Africa, Europe, and Asia to stain the dead.

  14. Burials • First figurines show up at ~250kya in Berekhat Ram (Golan Heights). • Yellow and red ocher at 130kya with deliberate burials. • Burials common by 100,000 years ago.

  15. Middle Paleolithic • Middle Paleolithic: 300,000ya – 35,000ya • Neanderthals and H. sapiens co-existed but at Qafzeh ( there may have been long-term mixing of both genes and culture

  16. The Levallois Technique • The transition to the Archaic H. sapiens during the Middle Paleolithic, around 300kya, brings the Lavallois technique of producing flake tools. • Africa, Europe, Middle East, China around 250kya.

  17. Edges and distance • The source of stone material for Acheulian tools is often no more than 15-20 miles from where we find the tools themselves • With the Levallois method, humans get a first crack at mass production and we find sources as far as 200 miles from the tools.

  18. The Levallois experiment • Two groups of 17 men made stone tools at Washington State University. • One group had verbal instruction, the other did not. • The two groups made Oldowan and Acheulian tools of equal quality. • Only the verbal group was able to make the Lavallois tools.

  19. Mousterian culture – The Neanderthals • The Mousterian assemblage is Neanderthal across the Old World, 150kya – 30kya. • In some cases, the Acheulian hand axes continue but the Mousterian complex includes multiple flakes from one core, retouching, and many new forms, including borers and gravers and smaller points. • First experiments that we know of with bitumen glue.

  20. Hunting and social organization • 70kya Würm glaciation in Europe • Günz, Mindel, Riss, Würm • Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin • Humans are now across Europe and we see more emphasis on the hunting of Pleistocene megafauna as people deal with colder climate • Pyrenees, France: 108 animals, including wild cattle stampeded over a cliff.

  21. Skilled hunters and overkill • We see this across Europe and then again in the New World Paleolithic. • It isn’t easy to catch an entire herd and move them to a spot where they will go over a cliff for easy dispatch. • This indicates sophisticated social organization and planning. • These were highly skilled hunters.

  22. Burials: the later Middle Paleolithic • Burial sites in Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East. • The Kebra Cave burial in Israel at 60kya (64–59kya) – 25-35 year old man with arms folded over his chest and stomach. • The Shanidar Cave burial in Iraq, also 60kya – bed and wreath of flowers. • Pollen analysis shows that the flowers were pollinated by bees, so the flowers were brought in from outside.

  23. Symbolic behavior • At Shanidar, more evidence of red ocher, bone and ivory ornaments, and paint made from manganese oxide. • Bone and ivory ornaments that have no utilitarian value, including 50,000 year-old section of a mammoth tooth in central Europe. • It was painted with red ocher and is polished from handling. Microscopic examination shows that it never had a working edge. It was pure ornament.

  24. Did Neandertal play music? • Slovenia – four holes, bear femur • 82kya – 67kya • This is controversial • Lau, B., Blackwell, B. A. B., Schwarcz, H. P., Turk, I., Blickstein, J. I., 1997. Dating a Flautist? Using ESR (Electron Spin Resonance) in the Mousterian Cave Deposits at Divje Babe I, Slovenia. Geoarchaeology: An International Journal. Vol. 12 No. 6. 507-536. •

  25. Upper Paleolithic and the blade technique • This accumulation of culture really takes off in the Upper Paleolithic with the invention of the blade technique. • Up to 30 feet of blade edge per kg of rock. • Mousterian methods: up to 6 feet of edge from the same amount of material. • H. erectus: 1 foot per kg • H. habilis: no more than 6 inches.

  26. Old World Stone Tool Timeline • Oldowan • Acheulean • Levallois • Blade

  27. Upper Paleolithic: The pace quickens • The atlatl (spear thrower), and the bow and arrow are developed in the Upper Paleolithic. • A spear thrown with no augmentative force: kill range is about 3 feet at best. • With the atlatl, the kill range increases 20 times, and with the bow and arrow, the kill range increases 60 times, • Highly skilled lithic technology

  28. Music and art • With the bow and arrow, there would certainly have also been the development of music – a one-stringed instrument. • Elaborate art: figurines, cave paintings in France and Spain beginning around 32,000 years ago. • Australian rock art precedes the European art florescence by 13,000 years. • original Dreamtime motifs on rocks at 45,000ya.

  29. Late Paleolithic Art • France and Spain, around 32kya • Australia around 45kya • Evolutionary – microevolutionary – events continue to this day, as we saw earlier, with sickle cell anemia in some populations exposed to malaria, and with lactase sufficiency developing in some pastoral populations in northern Europe. • But from this point on, the predominant environment of humans is culture.

  30. The New World Paleolithic • The Bering Straits land bridge at about 13kya • Clovis • Folsom • Paleoindian culture

  31. The Old World Mesolithic • 12–14kya, the Würm recedes in Europe and the Pleistocene megafauna go extinct • Focus on local plants and smaller animals at water sources • This transition period is the Mesolithic, between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic. • Microliths for small animals and the harvesting of wild grain with compound tools • Semi-permanent settlements – all without agriculture.

  32. Broad-spectrum collecting • Wheat and barley in the Anatolian highlands • Natufian culture: harvests and village life without agriculture • The case of the tough rachis – from about 12kya to about 10kya

  33. Selection for tough over brittle rachis in wild wheat • Wild grains have a brittle rachis – the attachment of the kernel of grain to the stalk – and a tough husk. • Brittleness maximizes the scattering of seed by wind at a moment when the seed is ripe and best able to germinate. • Native to hilly slopes, of the Zagros mountains, above the drainage of the Tigris River. • These slopes are not the best for farming, but are the site of ancient villages.

  34. Natufian culture • The key to civilization: silos • As people come to depend on plants, the people get planted • Zagros Mountain sites in Iraq and Iran 10kya: penning of animals (note the same in Peru at 6kya) • Complete villages of 50 houses

  35. This happened over at least 2000 years. • No one in any one generation could have known where it was all going. • By the end of the process, there were settled, agricultural villages, with walls around them – whole towns, like Jericho

  36. The Neolithic • The transition took place in different places and times – note the concept of cultural horizon • Fertile crescent 12kya

  37. Before agriculture Thailand • Spirit Cave in northwestern Thailand and also sites in south China • Domesticated pigs and intensive use of wild beans, peas, bottle gourds, and cucumber. • Pottery – all 9kya • Japan 13kya, Mexico 8kya, southern Africa 6kya, southern U.S. 5kya.

  38. Food production creates surplus • Jack Harlan showed that a family of four could harvest a kg of grain per hour • A few weeks of harvesting would produce enough for a year. • The equation seems simple: harvest a lot, eat better. • But … wild cereals not only have brittle rachis, they also have very tough husks that have to be removed.

  39. This requires soaking and milling and the tools for doing this are heavy. • Foragers could not carry the equipment needed. • Under population pressure and the drying conditions of the time, the solution was semi-permanent villages where all the technology of production could be stored and maintained.

  40. Storage • The problem of storage was solved with the invention of clay-lined pits around the houses of the Natufians. • Pottery may have developed when people figured out how to take those clay linings out of the ground. • And beer would have been a by-product of this activity long before leavened bread was invented.

  41. Domesticated anaimals • At Zawi Chemi Shanidar and other sites in the Zagros mountains of Iran and Iraq, we see the sex ratio of goats change dramatically around 10,000 years ago. • Large numbers of juvenile males killed. • At 6,300ya in Peru we see a large number of infant llamas, indicating the penning up of wild animals. • Enterotoxemia an early problem in penning animals.

  42. Village life develops… • Enyan site in Israel, three Natufian villages, one atop the next. • 700-sqm settlements – villages, with 50 circular pit houses, stone walls above ground and other indications of harvesting wild grain – and of storing it in sunken pits. • Burials became more complex: social inequalities. • Villages become more densely populated and the number of different foods increased. • There are processing areas and sickles – for right-handed people.

  43. The price of success • The technology of surplus-producing agriculture plants people. • Roasters, grinders and pit boiling and storage pits. • As people came to depend on plants, people got planted themselves. • As Kent Flannery asks: “Where do you go with a ton of wheat?”

  44. From experiment to states • From the early experiments with agriculture came settled agricultural villages. • Many had long histories, with population expansion and eventual incorporation of villages into larger political units until the development of the state – and what we commonly call civilization. • This sequence happened several times, entirely independently.

  45. Jomom period in Japan • One early transition, around 8kya, in the fertile crescent: Israel, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. • It began in Japan around 12kya and in Thailand around 10kya years ago with the development of rice. • Cord-marked Jomom pottery and polished stone tools. • More than 10,000 sites in Japan for the Jomom period (13kya – 2300ya).

  46. Same process: Africa and the NW • The process took place in Mexico and Peru much later, but the trajectories were the same. • The Würm retreated in the Old World beginning about 12-14kya. • Process complete by 8kya in Europe and Asia, and 6kya in Africa (when the Sahara had lakes and people hunted crocodiles and hippos) and in the Americas.

  47. Prehistory of the Americas • In the Americas, the process did not include the domestication of draught animals. • But by 5,000 years ago, people in Alabama and Kentucky, who hunted extensively in the game-rich forests, were focusing on smaller game and developing a broad spectrum adaptation.

  48. Cultural horizons • With the end of the Ice Age, the consequence was the same across the northern hemisphere: disappearance of the megafauna and broad spectrum focus on hunting and gathering, leading eventually to agriculture. • Humans across the world went through similar cultural horizons, though at different times.

  49. Myths about agriculture • Agriculture was not invented. It evolved. • Agriculture produced a surplus, but this did not lead immediately to the elimination of foraging. • Agricultural surplus did not get translated into less work, especially for women. • Agriculture did not produce a secure way of life, or a healthy way of life – at least not for a long time.

  50. Paleodemography • In fact, life expectancy goes down around the world when hunting and gathering is initially replaced by food production. • Surplus creates inequalities, long hours, little leisure, lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality. • Studies of modern hunting and gathering societies show that people spend less time in subsistence work, have more leisure, and live as long or longer than village agriculturalists, and practice birth control.