02/7/13

The Age of Myth – Chapter Four

Cro-Magnon, the first anatomically modern man, began to move into Europe about 40,000 years ago, with the skeletal remains of one of its population, found in the cave Pestera Cu Oase, in Romania, and radiocarbon dated to 37,800 years ago. They had broken away from the main group of Homo sapien survivors of the eruption of Mt Toba, 30,000 years previous, who had come out of the Ethiopian highlands and had replaced survivors of the earlier species, Homo erectus, throughout Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. And though they had also made their way to Australia and the Far East, the majority of the Cro-Magnon population lived around the lakes of the Mediterranean basin, which was not a sea yet, North Africa, the Canary Islands, and the Eastern Mediterranean. They had become highly specialized hunters and gatherers and had developed speech, and soon, their own languages, while the environment of wherever they had ended up on the planet would dictate the race of human they would become, with random mutations in our DNA providing the basis of variation.

Moving north Cro-Magnon began to run into the Neanderthal, who would eventually be pushed to the edge of their world, with the last few Neanderthal tribes’ remnants found in Western Spain and Gibraltar. Before Cro-Magnon, the Neanderthal population was perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 individuals, living between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains and though the Neanderthal species would perish, it was not their complete extinction, for many were undoubtedly assimilated into the newer species. Some theories suggest the contributing factor in the Neanderthals demise was simply, “when limitless imagination replaced robust physiques.”

Just recently, Swedish archeological geneticist Svante Paabo completed mapping the DNA of the Neanderthal and found that many people today, except for most all African descendents, have about 3 to 5 per cent of their DNA in common with Neanderthals. Interestingly, but then considering the harsh environment in which the Neanderthal lived, the genes we share with them are all in the parts that make up our immune system.

With the demise of Neanderthal, the Upper Palaeolithic period (40,000 to 10,000 years ago) began and represented a gigantic step forward in our species consciousness and abilities.

Illustration by Zdenek Burian Early modern-humanCro-Magnons were taller than other Homo sapiens and the earlier species, with a more erect posture, prominent nose and chin, lower brow ridges and unlike the Neanderthal and Erectus’ backward sloping skulls, had a rounder skull, with a more vertical forehead. Thus a bigger brain, which was crucial, considering being stupid usually got you killed, while ingenuity and intellect was needed for survival. And with a higher forehead, more muscles formed in the face, with more control of eyebrows and forehead skin, which aided in communication.

They wore clothes of softened leather sewn with bone needles and thread from an animal’s gut and wore lots of necklaces, bracelets, and amulets made from shells, flowers, teeth, and bones. Their quilts were animal pelts and they often lived in pit-huts, similar to North American natives’ tepees. During the winters they would live in semi-permanent settlements, usually in narrow valley bottoms or caves, while over the summers, and using lightweight, portable tents, they would follow the herds of their prey. Their campsites contained oil lamps and hearths that were very complex in themselves, with much forethought made every time they camped. For instance, each tent would typically face the east, to catch the morning sun’s warmth. They had developed many tools which could work bone, antler and hides. They had darts, harpoons, fish hooks, rope, eyed needles, and hunted with spears and javelins. Unable to store or keep food they were typical hunters and gatherers, constantly on the move.

Over time, family size groups of these earliest modern humans, perhaps ten to twelve individuals, would grow to thirty to forty people. With the group replenished most often with arriving males from other tribes. Eventually leaders would arise within these larger groups and were either dominant males and females or elders who held wisdom in the form of the collective memories of the group. Their basic, isolated way of primitive life began to change and would evolve into the hierarchy system, and because the populations of many areas had grown, for the first time groups started coming into closer contact with each other, intruding on each other. But at the same time the increased interaction between groups also meant the sharing of ideas and exchange of raw materials.

A leader and other strong members of the group would become the most active in protecting their particular group, as well as settling any squabbles within their own group and between others. This is the time many believe early man began to fight each other. Mostly for two reasons, to establish dominance in a group or to establish territorial rights over a particular piece of ground. But if fighting ever did break out, very rarely did anyone die.

As to the individuals with psychopathic natures, which does not necessarily mean violent, but individuals who would attempt to steal, cheat or bully were suppressed by a consensus process amongst the tribe, which had the power to ostracize, banish or even kill. Any psychotic behaviour had to be controlled, because to survive, the cohesion and stability of the group needed cooperation amongst its members to exist. Only after farming was developed, thousands of years later, would psychopaths no longer be held in check and would rise in power, right up to the present day.

Though over time the whole life of a tribe would revolve around its leader, these earlier humans had become more co-operative hunters, and the leaders of these ever growing groups found out that often times dominant authority had to be curtailed somewhat to retain the loyalty of the group. Each member was just as strong as the next, with the dumb, weak and frail rarely surviving into adulthood. Even the children, who of course were not passively entertained by video games, television, their phone and movies, would spend their waking hours actively doing something, such as talking, playing, learning to hunt, and helping out in gathering. Constant interaction with nature and each other, they had much more childhood stimulation and activity than most children today, which promoted mental development, confidence and better health.

Having to get along with more and more people within the group, as well as with other groups, a leader could not be feared so much anymore and instead, had to get everyone on his or her side by getting them to want to help him or her. Eventually as the populations grew, with everyone having their say, leaders had to become just another member of the group, because they could no longer command unquestioning support, obedience and/or influence. But with the groups growing into ever larger populations there was still needed an all powerful figure who could keep the group under control and over time there came the invention of a god.

Early modern man did not fear nature or feel helpless against it, but instead made the forces of nature into things with whom they could associate with and even regard as equal. They all thought very independently and yet were never intimidated by each other’s intellect, and did not feel submissive to anyone or anything. There were few illusions and most all instinctual impulses they would have, never disregarded the relationship of any other individual to them. These early peoples focussed more on living in equilibrium with their environment. Assured that their existence in the world was the same in the past, and would be unchanged in the future.

Symbolic behaviour would become ever the more prominent and was linked to animism, humanity’s oldest belief system, the belief that natural objects were conscious forms of life, and that they affect humanity. They viewed the forests, mountains, oceans, even the wind, as spiritual forces, and displayed a reverence for the natural environment. They believed a soul or spirit existed in every object, living, as well as inanimate and that in a future state, an object’s soul exists as part of an immaterial and universal soul. These early beliefs were based on instinct, emotion and intuition. Most tribal religions, even today, are different in form and ritual, but all seek to explain the mystery of life by insisting that nature is animated by spirits. Though these early peoples began to have supernatural beliefs, they did not serve to justify any central authority, transfer of wealth or maintain peace between unrelated individuals. Nature and humans were to be respected equally and would live in complete harmony with one another. Humans at this time did not feel separate from nature that belief would arise later with the first civilizations.

But the ego was rapidly developing, along with language, the first signs of abstract thought, finely made tools, the concept of fishing, and the understanding of bartering. Anthropologists, through ethnographic research studies of hunter-gatherer societies suggest that with some tribes, individual status was based on how generous a person was who has acquired wealth, while other groups remained egalitarian and non-hierarchical societies, sharing their food and materials. Art and jewellery also became prevalent, as did game playing, music and ceremonies for their dearly departed.

Besides the development of more complex hunting strategies, sophisticated planning, and social structure, certain aspects of a human’s life became more sacred, such as births, deaths and the passage to adulthood. Symbols and rituals became more elaborate. And as projectile points, engraving tools, knife blades and drilling tools evolved, so did art, with the first signs of art appearing in fossil records, 50,000 years ago, in Africa. The earliest known cave paintings, found in France, are dated 34,000 years ago and picture rhino, bison and horses, done in black charcoal and red ochre. A lion-headed figurine carved out of a mammoth tusk found in Germany, is from the same time. In Czechoslovakia, fired clay figurines and woven baskets have been found dating back 27,000 years, and proving music was also evolving, a bird-bone flute found in France is 23,000 years old.

These early peoples lived in an age with no reason, and relied on their feelings to make any decisions. With much of what they thought about each day driven by their emotions. Any problems were dealt with instinctively, thus quickly. Other problems would evolve when, much later, humans would first start experiencing reason. Reason was still thousands of years in the future and really did not last very long when it did arrive, since today we have already abandoned it and replaced it with ideology. Besides, when we cut off our feelings and ignore our gut feelings, only then does decision making become difficult. And as we have now come to realize, life is all about decision making, in fact, to somewhat prove the point, though our brains only makes up about 2 per cent of our body weight, the electrochemistry within it, when working hard on making a decision, will burn up a fifth of the food and oxygen we consume.

What was also evolving was our social behaviour. Most humans were still intimately connected to the rhythms and signals of the natural world and lived and responded instinctively. Life was still a routine of searching for food, getting along with our band members and accepting levels of power to the physically stronger, the more attuned or the group as a whole. Whatever accepted hierarchy, the constant tragedies, challenges, and difficulties of daily life were without reflection. With no ego, there was no jealousy or greed, or temper tantrum because something didn’t go one’s way. But over the next hundreds of millennia, certain individuals began to grow restless with the challenging daily routines of life. When someone died, they began to ask why and then wonder how the death could be avoided in the future. More and more individuals began stepping back from their automatic responses and started examining the full scope of existence and looking at the big picture. Aware that life endured through cycles of the sun, moon, and seasons, lifestyle, food sharing, division of labour, and cooperation became more important to one’s daily life. Where once the tribes were relaxed in their daily lives and everyone knew their place, they began to be afflicted with the concept, which we are still trying to figure out today, of simply how to get along with our neighbours. It was the birth of self awareness, and lead humans to understand the important need, not only of physical survival, but of the need for psychological survival as well. To be understood, affirmed, validated and appreciated within social worlds which would became incredible more complex.

As mentioned earlier, the first signs of art appear in fossil records dated 50,000 years ago, in Africa. By 30,000 years ago, when art was becoming more prolific and we began to decorate things more, there was the rather sudden appearance of a symbol set painted on the cave walls throughout Europe. Whether it was developed somewhere else or was a local phenomenon but used materials that did not survive over the millennia, or we simple haven’t found yet, we do not know.

Anthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger has found that, while surviving examples of the earliest art was of animal and human imagery, by 30,000 years ago a core set of 19 symbols, with distinct shapes began to appear in Europe and eventually outnumber any imagery of either animals or humans. These geometric signs would be repeated over the next 20,000 years, with the same symbols moving across the earth with the expansion of humans. The same symbols would also be found in Australia, first inhabited by humans 50,000 years ago. Over the next millennia these original symbols would rise to 26 distinct shapes, the same as the English alphabet.

The numerous evidences of fertility figurines, cave painting and petro-glyphs shows the importance symbolism became in human development, especially with language and writing. Symbolism allows the mind to see intuitively – to see what is not directly visible in the material world. It is what engages the right side of the human brain, while the left side of our brains is bound by rational or linear thought, like language and writing. And this is why the first written languages were developed out of hieroglyphs, which is basically art that is inseparable from the script that goes along with it.

No matter where hieroglyphs have been found, they are all very similar, even the Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphs in particular, though separated by an ocean. In most of these places the script was used for inscriptions covering tombs, temples, obelisks, and sculpture, then would eventually be written on papyrus, bark, or paper, for ritual and sacred text. The first written language would be developed by the Sumerians, more than 5,000 years ago, to keep track of goods and materials.

These Middle Eastern and Egyptian scripts were eventually replaced with a new form of hieroglyphs, known as “popular script.” The Phoenicians would then spread these first written languages, which included signs for the consonants, all over the Mediterranean, where they would eventually be adopted by the Greeks and Romans. Over the next couple of centuries, the script would evolve with Greek letters to write the Egyptian language, and then during the Roman era, a Greek-based alphabet called “Coptic” appeared, and would become the dominant alphabet of Europe. Though hieroglyphs would remain the most widely used scripts until 392 A.D., at which time the Holy Roman Church would ban all non-Christian worship, and hieroglyphs immediately began to disappear.

The oldest language known is the Khoisan, in Southeast Africa, which is made up of clicking sounds, and is probably more than 50,000 years old. Up to this day the Niger-Congo region has more than fourteen hundred languages, 25% of the languages in the entire world. Cautious estimates suggest that more than 10,000 languages eventually existed globally. While over half of the six thousand languages currently spoken, are unlikely to survive the next 100 years. The Pueblo natives of North America believe different languages were created “so it wouldn’t be easy for humans to quarrel.”

The Upper Palaeolithic period also represents the birth of modern man, and specifically his mind. Physically, a Cro-Magnon standing in a crowd today and dressed, you would be hard pressed to pick them out. Same build, same mind, which is why symbolism was as important then as it still is today. Because, though we hate to admit it, humans are a biological species, being operated by a large brain, which has separate right and left hemispheres in the cerebral cortex, which we call today, right brain and left brain. We have possessed such a brain for over 40,000 years, yet today we apparently use only about 10% of our brains. As to the other 90%, is it that we have forgotten how to access it or is it the parts we haven’t yet reached?

In fact, the biochemical processes of the mind are also closely linked to our health, emotionally and physically. Mentioned in both, Eastern philosophy and the Old Testament, is how important the brain is to our immune system, and that the spleen, thymus, bone marrow, glands, liver, lungs, kidney, and heart are all connected, with much control of the brain resting with the organs. It is why there are intense, emotional and spiritual aspects of serious illnesses, and why if you grow up believing showing emotion is a sign of weakness you are sick a lot and have a shorter lifespan. It shows that besides the importance of being honest with others, we must also be honest with how we feel ourselves.

The right brain is totally in the present, and is voiceless, speaking through symbolism, instinct, and dreams. It deals with spatial and abstract relationships, and the subconscious. It cares about compassion, integrity context, peace, love and being supportive. It focuses on our similarities and the big picture that all humans are connected. While the left brain talks a lot, and which is what we have become.

We mange from the left, because it is logical, thinks linearly and literally, and is where our intelligence lies. It judges, punishes and deceives, living in the past and the present. It focuses on our differences and is critical of those unlike ourselves, thus is the root of bigotry, prejudice, and fear or hate of the unfamiliar. Today it keeps us busy in our day to day lives, yet no matter what awards of our society it achieves, it never makes anyone truly happy or satisfied. It loves routine and running on automatic, dreading having to shift gears. The left brain defines our boundaries of who we are and understands language but has a problem with its limitations, compared to the gut feelings and intuition of the right, which remember has no voice. And this is the trouble we find ourselves in today, because the reality of life is it is not just logical, it is also emotional, with symbols, words, texting and tweeting, too often holding us back in describing what we should instead be sensing and feeling.

The peoples of the Upper Palaeolithic period minds evolved gradually as did all things human, especially their social worlds and day to day living, though it was undoubtedly hardly felt by each generation, for it was a naturally slow process. Unlike today where instead of natural progressions lasting thousands of years, they now speed by seemingly on a weekly basis. It’s no wonder why mental illness has become the number one affliction of our species, with day to day living becoming all about simply being a good consumer and how to afford it, and that we are much more than just a biological species. Far from it we boast, unbelieving.

However, genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology have taught us that organisms, which we are one, do not and cannot evolve because they need or want to, that natural selection cannot create mutants to serve its purposes, and that inheritable variation is random, with any genetic variation arising or not arising strictly by chance. Before the advent of modern transportation, not so long ago, human populations were scattered all over the planet and had very little contact with each other, thus we rarely exchanged genes. Over the course of human history, through random changes in the genome and natural selection, our species has developed many different traits, such as skin color, eye shape and immune systems. And even though such genetic diversity differentiates each individual from every other person in the world, most of our genes are not segregated among the traditional races of Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid. Thus our shared genetic heritage unites us all as one species.

Meanwhile, humanity slowly made their way through their ever evolving lives, still believing they were a part of nature, which genetics proves they were, and not above it as we believe we are. While at the same time the earth was also naturally progressing and forever changing, not caring about whom or what lives on its mantel.

After taking tens of thousands of years to cool down, peak glaciations of the last great ice age was reached about 18,000 years ago. Much of Europe, Asia – down to the Himalayans, and North America –  down to approximately the mid point of America, was covered in glaciers more than 3 km high, while Antarctica had crept northward and brushed upon South America. The temperatures near the ice sheets had fallen by at least 15.5 degrees C (60 F) and between 21 and 27 C (36 – 48F) in the tropics. The sea levels had dropped to 130 m (425 ft) below modern levels, exposing thousands upon thousands of square miles of the continental shelves of all the continents. In some areas these gently sloping gradients would have had our present shorelines, dozens of miles out to sea, while the edges of these shelves drop off very quickly, in fact the edges of the continental shelves are the highest and most extensive escarpments known on earth, with their average drop being 3657 m (12,000 ft) and in some cases, 9140 m (30,000 ft), straight down. The Bering Sea was a dry land, the Mediterranean’s basin a group of lakes, the English Channel a vast dry valley, and the Indonesian Galapagos united in one vast land of mountains and valleys. Today’s Venice, Italy, was about 200 miles from the nearest shoreline, while the Atlantic shoreline of North America was at least 60 miles to the east of where it presently is today. But then the glaciers began to retreat, the ice began to melt and the temperatures began to climb.

According to the latest research, and the most distinguished geneticist, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, human gene frequencies; the gradual change of a character or phenotype in a species over a particular geographical area, show that there were three areas of human expansion during the Upper Palaeolithic era. One was centered on the Sea of Japan and its archipelagos and expanded out along the shorelines, and by boat to the western coast of North America, starting from the Solomon Island group, then out over the Pacific Islands. Eventually becoming the ancestors of many west coast North American native peoples, most notably the Haida Gweii. They also migrated back into Southeast Asia.

Another group was centered over Northern Eurasia and Siberia. This group migrated south and to the east over the Bering land bridge into North America. They would be the ancestors of the Clovis and all the other peoples who would eventually inhabit North and South America.

The third expansion came out of Arabia and the Middle East area and moved into Europe, the Mediterranean and northeast Africa. There is debate over whether Cro-Magnon had expanded along the ice age shoreline of Europe, Greenland and then south along the North American east coast.

Many of these migrations would soon cease though as the ice continued to melt, and would have left many groups of peoples isolated. Within 5,000 years after peak glaciations the world’s sea levels rose 20 m (66ft). The great glacial lakes in North America, which were once massive sheets of ice, began to flood off the continent and about 11,500 years ago, according to fossil remains of coral beds, there was an abrupt rise in sea levels of another 24 m (79 ft) and once again the earth’s surface was changed, and all the species upon its surface would have to adapt along with it to survive, with many sites of human habitat flooded over, as the Mediterranean continued to fill and the shorelines of most of the continents were disappearing beneath the water. More and more, groups of people had to move to higher ground, leaving behind what culture they did have, to the rising seas. Though these transitions often times took generations, in the northern regions, changes were more drastic, in that from a glacial environment it was becoming forest, the land being exposed by the retreating glaciers would have been compressed flat by the immense weight of the ice as it slowly crept northward, and had ripped out huge gouges in the earth, which today, are the fjords of northern Europe, Hudsons Bay and North America The ice melting also would have exposed seasonal rivers and lakes, with great forests arising over the now barren lands. By 13,000 years ago the tundra-glacial hunters were being replaced by Mesolithic forest and coastal hunters and gatherers. And with new technologies such as the bow and arrow, they began to devastate any big game still remaining.

In North America much of the north and central regions became grass land. And with a north-south corridor opening up through the melting ice sheets, and the Bering land bridge slowly disappearing, another wave of peoples began to fan out over the continent. They would become known as the Clovis people.

The North American natives, the Northern Paiute, of present day California, Nevada, and Oregon have an interesting legend, about their ancestors who had come from the north, “Ice had formed ahead of them, and it reached all the way to the sky. The people could not cross it . . .  A Raven flew up and struck the ice and cracked it. Coyote said, “These small people can’t get across the ice.”  Another Raven flew up again and cracked the ice again. Coyote said, “Try again. Try again.” Raven flew up again, broke the ice, and the people ran across.

The first wave of humans had migrated down the western coastline earlier, as far south as Santa Rosa Island, off the Californian coast. The bones and remains of “Arlington Springs Man” were found there, and are dated to 13,000 years ago. At peak glaciations 18,000 years ago, the four Channel Islands, that lay up to 26m (42km) off the state of California was one big island called Santa Rosae, and was only five miles off the coast, not so isolated as they are today, separately. The earliest documented settlement on the Queen Charlotte Islands of Canada’s west coast, has been found to have been used more than 11,000 years ago. Coinciding with sites found on the east coast of North America dated to about the same time.

Though they were not the first, nor the last humans to reach North America, the Clovis people thrived from about 14,000 years ago. North America before this time was much the same as Africa as far as mega-fauna (large mammals) goes, with many species. From herds of mammoths and horses, to lions, cheetahs, camels, and great grand sloths, North American Llamas, musk ox, giant beaver, short-faced bears (bigger than grizzlies), American mastodon, giant bison, and saber-tooth tigers roamed the landscape. But after peak glaciations many of the bigger mammals weighing more than 40kg (88 lbs) began to die out. Though the ice age itself was the cause of thousands of extinctions of creatures, humans entering the scene would have a profound impact on these animals.

Over the last 50,000 years, thirty-three of the largest mammals in North America have become extinct. Many of these species, as well as the Clovis peoples themselves, would soon disappear and become extinct 12,900 years ago. Some scientific evidence has suggested that a swarm of comets roared through the atmosphere at that time and broke up into hundreds of fragments, hitting North America like the pellets out of a sawed-off shotgun. The effect on the climate was sudden, as a huge dust cloud expanded outwards. In less than two years the temperature dropped -7 C (18 F). And within a couple of a hundred years after the devastation from the initial impact, changes in the environment and the hunting capabilities of the Clovis people, fifteen species of the largest mammals could not adapt or survive, and soon went the way of the dinosaur, and were no more.

More recent and perhaps more accurate data suggests that indeed the earth cooled at this time in what has been named the Younger Dryas, though it was not due to a meteorite but actually a cooling period caused by an abrupt change in the complex of the global climate. The same thing was happening in Europe and by 15,000 years ago the woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, European Hippo, Irish elk, cave lion, European Jaguar, cave bear, hyena, steppe bison and the interesting elasmotherium, which were similar to a Rhino but with longer legs, all became extinct. The elasmotherium 2 m (6 ft) high and over 6 m (20ft) long and upwards of five tonnes, had a single two meters long horn, was a fast runner and had teeth similar to a horse. But soon the hunting prowess of humans alone decimated most all these animals and with most of the larger game gone, smaller forest animals, such as deer would replace them.

Meanwhile the Indonesian landmass was becoming a group of separate islands once more, with New Guinea even more isolated, and the Australian continent was turning into a desert, with most all of the big game once there already driven to extinction 20,000 – 30,000 years previously by the first archaic inhabitants. The descendants of these first inhabitants of Australia would find themselves ever more isolated in a barren land, nearly devoid of animal life.

The people of the Japanese archipelago would become perhaps the first sedentary people in the world, with the Jomon period starting at least 16,000 years ago. They seemed to have been very skilled coastal and deep water fishermen. Pottery found in Japanese archaeology sites have been dated to about 15,000 years ago. There are theories that these seafaring people had made their way around and along the edge of the glaciers that protruded down from the Bering land bridge, before it had melted back northwards, and had extensively explored down the west coast of the North American continent.

All this expansion of populations of humans covering the earth’s landmasses would have a profound effect on the future of all living things. Population would become an issue, as well as the un-evolving needs of food and water, and the new primary quandary of our species, how do we get along.

 

 

Image – An artist’s conception of an early modern human. Credit: Illustration by Zdenek Burian.

http://www.stoneageinstitute.org/

 

 

12/2/12

The Age of Myth – Chapter Three

In review, since discussing the development of language, speech and social progress waylaid the timeline of the evolution of humans somewhat, hundreds of thousands of years before such things as Homo sapiens, Homo erectus had gradually made their way up the Great Rift Valley and out of Africa. Around 400,000 years ago they would be joined by another group of humanoids slowly making their way out of Africa, Homo neanderthalensis, who instead of spreading out through the Middle East and Southeast Asia as Erectus had done, the Neanderthal would make their way their more northwards, in the direction of North Africa, Europe and central Asia.

The Neanderthal’s adaptations were a low brow skull, which was much larger than Homo erectus, and were slightly taller, shorter limbed, barrel-chested, strong, thick bodied and possessing incredible endurance. The reasons for such adaptations were because the Neanderthal became a cold-adapted people, surviving, often times, in a harsh and brutal environment upon an extremely cold landscape.

With no material comforts to speak of, they travelled in small bands of perhaps a dozen in number and were scavengers, hunters and gatherers. And though early humanoids are deemed by our present society as dim-witted cavemen, the realities of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is the punishment for stupidity was more often than not death.

With the land used jointly with other bands, they never really had any permanent place of residence and would move about seasonally. There was no economic specialization except by age and sex for everyone had to help out and forage for food. They survived with no laws, police or treaties to resolve conflict, were egalitarian, with no formalized or hereditary leadership and no distinction of a lower or upper class. Leadership was informal, based on character, personality, strength, intelligence and hunting skills. Indeed they fought, but there was no such thing as war. If fighting ever did break out, very rarely did anyone die. It was all about showing threat signals like posturing, yelling, and basically creating a scene, much like most all other animals, and as soon as the enemy has been subdued or has walked away it ceases to be a threat.

Considering the dangerous world in which early species of humans lived in, their social world existed entirely on the relationships within their family, indeed most all small bands of early humans would only encounter perhaps a couple dozen or less fellow humans over their entire lifetimes, with each band living in solitude for sometimes hundreds of generations. And though they had no slavery, luxury goods, architecture, nor real language, they were highly resourceful, organized, social and intelligent humans. For indeed what has truly driven human, and primate, brain evolution more than other norms is the complexity of our social world. It still does, though today at a much quicker pace than the normal rate of evolution of our social worlds, which was tens of thousands of years.

Tens of thousands of years, time which is hard to fathom and incomprehensible in its vastness. Especially to us today when we think we have advanced, and evolved, so incredibly much in the past 100 years. There are many I’m sure who believe they and their world around them have advanced and evolved in leaps and bounds just in their own generation, on many levels perhaps. But then there are also many humans today still living in hunger and a dirt shack or cave, if they are lucky. It is hard to get perspective when talking about eons of years, especially when a human generation, the average period between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring, is about 35 years. So to further confuse, ten thousand years represents over 285 generations.

Though having no formal speech yet, the Neanderthal communicated using eye contact, body language, tone and other forms of non verbal communication, and most specifically and important to their survival, by being intuitive and acting by instinct. They might have been able to sense the energy levels of all living things for all we know. Perhaps squat in the forest or upon the tundra and sense things on the wind, listening for a distant sound, smelling the air, the feel of the ground, looking up and studying the sky, clouds, and the position of the sun and moon, noting the behaviour of their fellow humans and the animals around them, sensing the differences and changes in the earth’s energy levels and of each other. Which we can still do today, but such senses are now controlled by others, numbed and dumbed down, or taught to be ignored and not trusted.

But even with such senses, life was still very brutal. Most all Neanderthals never made it past thirty years of age. They hunted large, dangerous animals so they had to work as a group and have a plan, especially since this was before the bow and arrow, and since they had not yet grasped the concept of projectiles, thrusting was the norm, not throwing. Their injuries seem to point this out, with most being to their arms, torso and head, because they had to get up real close to their prey en mass and start stabbing. Four out of every six Neanderthal skeletons found show many of the bones deformed by disease and injury, and perhaps exhibiting that the Neanderthal possessed empathy, many of the skeletons found had injuries that showed signs of healing, which means the lame and crippled would have had to have been taken care of, fed, protected and helped to move by others. They also gave special treatment to their dead in their burial, with the earliest known burial sites dating back 100,000 years.

About 170,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens would begin to drift out of Ethiopia. With a straighter forehead and smaller brow ridges than Neanderthal, they were equally robust, strong, solid and slightly taller, with the oldest fossils of anatomically modern humans found in Ethiopia and dated from 196,000 years ago. Homo sapiens would slowly spread out and as they migrated out of Africa, like all the others before them they would encounter previous human species and rather than destroying them into extinction, most times they were simply assimilated into the newer species.

The warmest time before the last ice age was 125,000 years ago and is known as the Marine Isotope Stage 6.  The planet was covered with coniferous, temperate, deciduous, and rain forests, but also, especially in Africa, much larger deserts. The sea levels were 6-9 m (20-30 ft) higher than modern times while the world’s conditions had begun to deteriorate. Much the land became uninhabitable, forcing the humanoid species still in Africa to migrate. The Neanderthal would settle in Central Asia and Europe, the Archaic Homo sapiens and remaining Homo erectus in Asia, around 90,000 years ago, and after taking over 35,000 years to accomplish it, Homo sapiens sapiens would also finally make their way out of Africa. They would move into the Nile valley, Sinai and the Middle East, with Homo sapiens fossils found in the Middle East and dated from 92,000 years ago.

Ninety thousand years ago the planet began to cool and over the next thousands of years, with the temperature continually dropping and the environment changing, the evolvement of humans continued its snail’s pace advancement. As with social progress, most evolutionary advancements took tens, and in many cases hundreds of thousands of years. The planet Earth also continued to evolve and change, though it had not a care in the world for social progress, the life forms living on its surface or their feelings. And as it often happens, nature makes itself known in not as so subtle means but with changes that are more dramatic, instant, and many times, having a much more profound effect on all things on its surface than anything we humans could ever come up with, though today that could be debated.

According to a theory proposed in 1998 by Stanley H. Ambrose of the University of Illinois, and which today is a much respected explanation for many of the paradoxes of the evolvement of all living things, the super-volcanic eruption 71,000 years ago of Mount Toba, in present day Sumatra, Indonesia, would alter the dynamics of human evolution drastically.

Mount Toba is accepted today as being the earth’s largest volcanic eruption. For context, when Krakatoa, also in Indonesia, erupted in 1883, 11,000-12,000 people were killed instantly; eventually an estimated 36,417 people would also die. With an ash cloud covering about 200 cubic kilometres, the explosion immediately destroyed over two-thirds of Krakatoa Island, sent out an enormous tsunami, and caused the worst global famine of the 19th century.

Sixty-eight years earlier in 1815, and also in the Indonesian archipelago, Mount Tambora exploded with four times the energy of the eruption of Krakatoa. Its explosion could be heard over 2600 km (1600 miles) away. If it had erupted in Vancouver, British Columbia it would have been heard in Mexico. Killing 71,000 people, Tambora is the deadliest volcano to date. A ring of smoke and ash 600 km (370 miles) outwards from the mountain’s summit cloaked the land in total darkness for over two days. The pyroclastic flows travelled 20 km (12 mi). The eruption column reached the stratosphere. Thick ash fell for a couple of weeks while the finer ash stayed in the atmosphere from a few months up to a few years. Before the explosion, Mount Tambora was approximately 4,300 m (14,100 ft) high, after the explosion it was only 2,851 m (9,354 ft) high. Tambora is the largest observed eruption in recorded history.

About 70,000 years before Tambora, Mount Toba erupted, instantly hurling up a sulphuric ash cloud which covered at least 800 cubic kilometres (500 cubic miles). It spread northwest across India blanketing some places by as much as 6m (18ft) deep, and because its location was only two degrees north of the equator; it would have made the dispersion more global. For an eruption’s plume to reach the stratosphere and blanket the entire world with its ash, it would have to be at least 10 km (6 mi) to 50 km (30 mi) high. Mount Toba’s plume reached twice this height. A highly reflective sulphuric acid haze enveloped the earth for six years and a volcanic winter descended over the earth. Sea temperatures cooled, with the global temperature dropping by at least 6C (9F) in the first few years. This cooling period lasted for perhaps a thousand years, with the temperatures colder than even at the peak of the next ice age that was to follow. It likely caused the complete deforestation of SE Asia. How much of Mount Toba disappeared in the explosion? Mount Toba is now called Lake Toba, 100 km (62 mi) long and 30 km (18 mi) wide, 505 m (1666 ft) deep at its deepest and at a surface elevation of 900 m (2953 ft), it is the largest volcanic lake in the world.

The populations of Europe and Northern China were nearly completely eliminated. It is estimated that the planet lost 60-75% of its populations, with the extinction of all human species except for Neanderthal and Homo sapiens. Survivors found relatively safe havens in isolated pockets, mostly in tropical, equatorial Africa and Northern Europe. The human species, as well as many other species of animals, were decimated. Supported theory and genetic evidence suggests that only perhaps 10,000 adult humans survived, maybe less; this is an estimate of ancestors, not of total human population. Isolated human populations that eventually died out without descendants may have also existed in numbers but cannot be estimated by geneticists. Wherever on the planet early humans and other animals lived dictated if they would perish or survive, and rather quickly humanity was thrown into a population bottleneck, which is perhaps the reason people look so different today. A population bottleneck is when a large population is broken up into smaller groups, and causes a “founder effect”, where small, new populations begin to appear and through genetic drift, inbreeding, and local adaptations produces rapid changes to that group’s gene pool, creating similarities only amongst that particular group, with low genetic variation. This is followed by an eventual rapid population increase, innovation, progress and migration. Genetic evidence suggests that all humans alive today, despite apparent variety, are descended from these small populations that survived the eruption of Mount Toba, estimated to be anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs of humans.

As genetic studies have proven, all humans today are descendants of a woman in SE Africa, called Mitochondrial Eve, around 140,000 years ago; mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from one’s mother, with Y-chromosomal Adam, (from one’s father), added to the gene pool about 60,000 years ago. This can be seen in the native population of North America, in that of all the thousands of humans that had migrated there more than 15,000 years ago, only 72 descendants’ lineage has moved on into modern times.

As with all biological bottlenecks, the remaining, separated and isolated group’s development would bring about significant changes which enhanced human fitness, the ability to survive and reproduce. The survivors of Mount Toba’s eruption, once the climate and other factors permitted, began to fan out from Africa and elsewhere. Travelling in small groups they became ever more isolated from one another and would evolve separately. Some would cross the Red Sea, which was not much of a sea at the time, into the near-East, and from there moving along the exposed areas of the continental shelves. With an ice age underway glaciers had formed, crushing the forests and all that lay before them as they slowly crept along. While both, the temperature and the sea levels continued to drop. Obstacles such as the Mediterranean Sea and the English Channel would be easier to cross because they were valleys, with perhaps a river running through them and scattered lakes strewn about the valley floor, same for the Black Sea.

By 65,000 years ago the glaciers had covered about 17 million square miles, with the polar ice caps expanding over the globe, covering much of present day Europe, Britain, Canada, and parts of Asia, including the Himalayas. By 60,000 years ago bands of humans had made their way along the shorelines of Arabia, India and South-East Asia and by 40,000 years ago, some of them had made their way to Australia, others into North-East Asia and China. With Australia and New Guinea always having been isolated by water, even during an ice age, evidence suggests early Australoids were the first to develop some form of boat building.

By the time before or after peak glaciations of the last ice age, 18,000 years ago, other groups had finally made their way into the American continents, and as the ice melted would become separated from the main race and develop in geographical isolation as well, becoming American Indians. These groups of people would eventually spread southward to South America reaching the last place on the planet to be colonized by humans, Cape Horn, around 8,000 years ago.

When the first explorers reached this most southerly point of South America and the islands of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, which is separated from the continent by the Strait of Magellan, they were shocked to find that there were four separate peoples that inhabited these islands and that each group looked different from one another and that they spoke two different languages. It is still a mystery how these original peoples had got there, and from where.

Besides the original Negroid race of human species, the people that had made their way to the north would become the Caucasoid and the ones who ventured into Asia would become the Mongoloid. By 45,000 years ago these three races could be defined as the main races of humans and would attain nearly complete specialization in their respective environments. The early inhabitants of Australia had developed from an earlier, less developed race in isolation from this specialization of the main races and became the Australoids. Thus, from human variation through physical adaptation to their climatic conditions, the races of mankind would form.

In the northern regions, with less and weaker sunlight, humans would eventually become more pale, though the actual process would take about 20,000 years. Our biological body takes vitamin D from the sun’s energy to aid in the proper growth of bones. Living in the northern latitudes where there is less sunshine the skin has to lighten to let more sunshine through. Just like people in equatorial latitudes who get sunshine nearly all the time and whose bodies, needing protection from UV rays, secrete melanin, the body’s natural sun screen, and which we all have, into the skin to darken it. The differences between the races are very much “skin deep”, with the most recent adaptations to our species occurring about 20,000 years ago, and include the parts of us that interact with the world around us; skin colour, immune system, and metabolic changes due to the digestion of unique foods, amongst each race. And because we are one species, originally evolving in Africa, this ensured that racial and ethnic groups were and are biologically equivalent, no matter where they ended up on the planet.

Human genetics prove that any racial superiority is a myth, because intelligence is not a single trait; it’s a huge entourage of abilities. Each race has an ancestral environment that favoured a different set of talents, with each race best adapted to their unique environment. We are all fundamentally different, thank god, and regardless of where one is born, each and all individuals are deserving of the same rights and opportunities. Every one of us brings different strengths and talents to the table, and this is why the most democratic, invigorating, and creative places on the planet are multi-racial cultures.

Some 40,000 years ago, a more complex human culture had spread and sustained itself in Africa, then Europe and Western Asia, and by 30,000 years ago social change had reached south east Asia and Australia. It was the dawn of consciousness, with modern human behaviour slowly emerging, in different regions at different times. Besides changes in human behaviour within a more complex culture, one of the more significant things to alter human history also emerged about 40,000 years ago; now having a larger size brain, the human mind, along with its ego, began to unfold itself.

According to Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), there are two functions of our brain that make up our unconscious mind, the Id and the super-ego, and along with the ego, which is our consciousness, are the three divisions of the mind. Though some of Freud’s psychoanalytic theories have largely been marginalized today, mostly because most of his subjects were rich, middle-aged, aristocratic, pent up women, his concepts of libido, drives, the unconscious, and his ideas that we repress or bottle up our feelings, and that our family relationships when we are children determine our adult relationships, have made important contributions to neuroscience. Though the actual benefits of intensive psycho-therapy have been controversial in the past; seeking clues into the unconscious roots of disorders today experts report that such therapy can be effective against chronic mental problems such as anxiety and depression.

Freud believed the Id is the uncoordinated, instinctual structure of our ego and includes selfishness and the need for instant self gratification. It is unconscious and represents the mind of a newborn. It consists of our basic drives, such as food, water, and basic impulses. It is where our libido, the instinctive drive to create comes from. It is amoral, egocentric and ruled by the pleasure-pain principle. It does not have a sense of time, is completely illogical and infantile in its development.

The super-ego is also mostly unconscious and is the organized part of our personalities. It contains our individual ideals, spiritual goals and our conscience. It always strives to act in socially appropriate behaviour. It is what controls our sense of right and wrong and guilt, and allows us to fit into our society in socially acceptable ways. Through symbolic internalization of the father figure, male or female, and cultural regulations, it becomes a part of our personality and conditions us to conform to society’s expectations. The super-ego maintains our sense of morality and prohibits us from cultural taboos.

The super-ego and the ego are the products of the state of helplessness of childhood; for we are born ego-less and have no distinct being, apart from the world around ourselves. This lasts until we are about five years old. At which time our ego and libido begin to develop. What Freud would call the Oedipus complex, the unconsciousness, repressed feelings and ideas we have that are centered around the desire to please the parent of the opposite sex and ignore the parent of the same sex is either, rapidly repressed or not, by how powerful the Oedipus complex was. From about five years onward, by the influence of authority, religious teaching, schooling, and reading, as well as how deeply the repression of the Oedipus complex is, the stricter the super-ego will be over the ego, in the form of having a conscience or an unconscious sense of guilt.

The ego acts according to the reality principle. Its task is to find a balance between primitive drives and reality. Because the Id’s drives are usually unrealistic, instant and short-term, and most times filled with grief, the ego seeks to please these drives of the Id in realistic ways that will benefit long term instead. The ego separates what is real and organizes our thoughts and tries to make sense of them. It also tries to make sense of the world around us and is modified by influence of the external world, reason and common sense. The ego will become defensive if the Id’s behaviour conflicts with reality, society’s morals, norms and taboos, or other individuals who believe in these rules of a culture and expectations.

Many of our problems today are because everything is moving too fast. Where once changes in our social worlds would take thousands of years, generations or decades, today there is simply no time to reflect and ponder. As to our minds, our self-gratification via consumer culture is travelling at an ever quickening pace which is not a problem for the Id. It can easily keep for it does not understand time, while the super-ego is being ignored and left behind in the dust, with the ego simply along for the ride.

After 40,000 years the ego has decided today to be more loyal to the Id than the super-ego, which makes it dysfunctional. Thus, here lies our current state of affairs. The norm has become instant self-gratification of all our desires. We are completely defined by our culture, while early humankind’s culture was the family and there was no time other than the present. Early humans might not have had much of a personality, but they were living in the moment, emotionally, like a child in many ways with nearly no ego to speak of. But as time marched on and became civilized, the ego began to gloss over the fine details of reality to minimize conflicts with the Id, while only pretending to have any regard for reality. Because the super-ego is always watching the ego, it has been punishing it with feelings of guilt, anxiety, and inferiority. To overcome the beating it is taking the ego fights back using denial and displacement; transferring the focus of an emotion to something else, intellectualisation; where reason is used to block out any emotional stress or conflict, regression, fantasy, control, or dissociation; splitting off from main body of consciousness, and in some cases; hysteria, suppression and substitution.

The main two functions of our brain, the duality of the id and the super-ego and their interactions, could have been the basis for religion being invented a few thousand years ago. The sum total of all the sacred scriptures, of all the organized religions combined, is basically about two gods, good versus evil, though in reality and hidden behind some bushes, they are really talking about the two sides of who we are, our nature and the mechanics of the mind; the representations of the human soul.

Within most organized religions there are usually two gods, one being a benevolent, pure in thought, righteous, just, honest, who possesses grace and is humane, kind, and compassionate, promises hope and an afterlife, and is capable of establishing a new heaven and earth. This god is usually all-knowing, an infinite spirit, without limitations, eternal yet everywhere and all-powerful, in other words, a human of good character.

The flip side is of a malevolent god, who is filled with intense, often vicious ill-will, spite and hatred and is selfish, highly jealous and immoral, who grows proud, and desires to be God, who has a flawed ambition, is greedy, egotistical, self-satisfying, who is known as a tempter, accuser, murderer, liar, and a enemy and who is related to inhabitants of bottomless pits, dragons, destruction, ruin, fire, violence, racism and hell; basically a hindrance on society, and an asshole.

Both of these gods are not dwelling in a heaven or in an underworld, or standing towering over us, they are not supernatural beings to be feared and to worship, they are actually residing within each one of us and are the functions of our minds. Earlier humans inherently knew the authority to create and destroy, to either reject or punish, to demonstrate both ecstasy and terror, love, and hate was theirs alone, and understood the responsibility of it and how one’s actions affected others in their group. Organized religions would take this authority and responsibility away from humanity and would become the authority itself, to dictate its own perceived morality and beliefs.

What has changed the most since organized religions took power over us, within the formation of civilizations, is in our personal and collective unconsciousness. Our collective unconscious is the deepest level of who we are and is the accumulation of inherited experiences, while our personal unconscious is the reservoir of material that was once conscious but has been forgotten or suppressed over the millennium, meaning we now live almost totally embedded within our mentally constructed realities, our minds filled with continuous streams of thought and fantasy. It is interesting that of the world’s religions and their concern over our hearts and minds, Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sufism and Zen, all place much importance on getting past such mental behaviours of the ego and its refusal to live in the present moment and instead try to understand the truths behind them through meditation and reflection, while Western religions and cultures believe that a state of continual mental distraction is just the natural order of things. But before we get too carried away yet once again, we must return to the discernability of 40,000 years ago, and the birth of modern man.

 

 

Photo: Neanderthal man – Dna-humans-genome

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/may/06/neanderthals-dna-humans-genome

 

 

 

 

11/12/12

The Age of Myth – Chapter Two

The Great Rift Valley of Africa runs 5,600km (3,500miles), from the Red Sea and Ethiopia in the north, south to Lake Victoria where it splits off, and from Uganda continues south as far down as present day Mozambique. The Great Rift is where two plates of the earth’s crust are separating and is also where our human ancestry seems to have begun.

The earliest traces of man have been found in the valleys of Lake Turkana in Kenya and the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, between Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti Plain. The Olduvai Gorge itself is a 30-mile long gash in Tanzania’s Serengeti Plain. The area is considered the primary host of all other cultures. Why this is so will be explained as we go.

Evidence of the earliest Humanoids has been found and dated from 4 to 1.6 million years ago in Tanzania, 700,000 years ago in Java, and 420,000 years ago in China. From sites found in the Olduvai Gorge in Africa and elsewhere, these early peoples favoured lakeside camps, rock overhangs and caves for protection from predators and the weather. Their camps were most always near water availability, like rivers and lakes, and close to herds of game and vegetable foods. They would stay in each camp for a few days or weeks before moving on to better land. Many of these sites also contain bones of smaller animals, species less powerful than these early humanoids.

Hunting seems to have been more running down and grappling their quarry to the ground, with scavenging the more important means of getting food, with their weapons most often being made out of wood. These early humanoids were opportunistic hunters, picking over carcasses from predator kills and gathering wild vegetables. At the time, the larger animals were kept at a distance and avoided, for they were not afraid of man yet, indeed to many of the larger predators, early man was inconsequential and often the prey.

These early humans were bipedal, had an upright posture, a high vertical forehead and rounded skull, were about 1.5m tall, and became the species, Homo erectus. For when earlier species had first moved out of the trees and the forests and onto the grasslands they had begun to walk upright, to see over the grass. By about two million years ago, Homo erectus had spread out over Africa, Asia and Europe, with their descendants thought to be the first humans to use fire.

From watching fellow creatures they would eventually develop memory and foresight, and by mimicking the behaviour of the other living things around them they would assimilate such things as trapping; from the spider, basketry; from birds, burrowing from rabbits, dam building from the beaver and the art of poisons from snakes. These early peoples did not think themselves as being different from the rest of the animal world. With no language, they grunted and squawked like everyone else. From copying the other creature’s diets, mostly fruits and vegetables, to watching how they would get their food and how they would store it, they became very adept at exploring their surroundings and keeping a memory of which plants, insects and small animals one could eat and which ones were to be avoided. Their reality was a world of animal, vegetable and human spirits interacting with each other. They could not tell the difference between material and immaterial, imaginary or real, animate or inanimate. With no idea of self, there was little difference of skills, and having no idea about the concept of surplus there wasn’t much difference in status distinction between each other. The sensations that bombarded them daily needed an immediate response, so life was lived very much in the moment with not much thought about past or future. One’s life was determined by one’s actions to what was happening at that moment, at that time.

Because of their intimate connection with the earth, they expressed great care for its well being, for they believed that they were simply one part of the earth’s body and did not distinguish themselves from everything less in nature, thus they did not possess the sense of self, only the concept of their groups survival. Their culture consisted of a father, mother, siblings and extended family members, perhaps a dozen individuals, whose only concern was each day’s survival as a group.

Everything in nature represented a spirit or demon, depending on whether looked at as friend or foe, with animals and trees considered human but simply in another form. And because they did not see themselves as finite mortal beings they did not believe that people died, but rather they went to sleep and their spirit entered a netherworld and/or parallel existence. As to birth they also had no idea, they did not make the connection that sex had anything to do with the birth of a child, instead believing a spirit would enter a female’s body and then be brought forth, with a baby thought of as being half spirit and half human, who remained in contact with the world it came from until which time it grew up and then, sometimes over years, would have to pass through various rites of passage to become a part of the community. Because having too many babies would prove to be a hindrance to the tribe’s survival of having to be always on the move, a woman could only carry one child at a time and until that child could keep up on its own to have another was no doubt forbidden. Biology took care of this issue; women would breast feed their child for two full years, thus enabling suckling to be the contraceptive technique that it is, by repressing the menstrual cycle. The average reproductive cycle of most of the women, over an average life span of about thirty years, was perhaps 10-15 children, though of course we do not know an actual fertility rate.

The evolution of all species is all about natural selection, with many similarities in all living things. For example, creatures known as vertebrates – having a backbone – all share the five digits, skeletal structure of a hand. This appears not only in humans but also in apes, raccoons, cats, bats, porpoise, whales, lizards, turtles and a plethora of other creatures. Dolphins are able, as we are, to call each other by name. At the same time it is curious why many male mammals, including humans, have nipples. All animals share the same basic bodily functions and feelings, such as pleasure, pain, breathing, eating, drinking, defecating, sleeping, the drives to find a mate and procreate, birth, and death. For humans especially, history has followed different courses for different peoples because of different environments, not because of any biological differences between the peoples themselves.

The fact of the matter is, all humans have the same facial grammar; everyone smiles the same, frown the same, uses the eyes to convey cognition or flirtatiousness the same. A laugh is a laugh, anywhere on the planet and when one is angry, everyone knows they are. Don’t you find that human beings are very good looking people when they smile, and so disgustingly ugly when angry? But it’s much more than that, for instance, when people smile, the mouth doesn’t convey the whole truth. A true smile appears in the eyes and it’s no wonder the majority of a human’s muscles are in our faces, which seems to prove how important expression is in inter-personal communication. Then there is the tilt of the head, arch of the eyebrow or where the eyes are looking when communicating that further convey what one is thinking and trying to say or feel. Without eye contact we never truly know what someone is saying because we are not getting the whole story. The eyes are truly the windows into our soul. Even people that don’t understand what each other are saying can look at each other and communicate more than words could possibly describe. In Donald E. Brown’s excellent “Human Universals” he finds that there are about 400 specific behaviours that are invariant among all humans, with the facial expressions of basic emotions truly universal, and shared by many other animals besides humans, whether it is anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise or contempt.

About 150,000 years ago the evolutionary pace quickened when our skull and its contents evolved to the point where we became able to plan more for specific projects or definite purposes. At about the same time the development of speech and a symbolic system of language began, which allowed future cultures a much quicker way to share ideas that enabled them to cope with their environment. As language became more complex it allowed the ability to remember, transmit, and exchange information much more quickly and it allowed for such knowledge to be passed on through the ages, where myths through oral traditions would form, though it would not be until 50,000 years ago that language and culture would really begin to change who we were and who we would become.

Language would eventually give us the ability to create worlds of memories and life histories, and unfortunately, it would make us self-conscious. Before language we could only live in the moment and react to the shifting patterns of our environment, but language brought us the awareness of oneself, in terms of what others expect; humans who sense they are being evaluated and perhaps sensing a negative attitude towards themselves become self-conscious. While being conscious is being aware of oneself and subjectively experiencing each moment and having memory control; where we can think of something and then replay it in our head to examine what we had just thought. Yet we cannot both, think of something and also be self-consciously aware of what we are thinking. Conscious experiences also include inner feelings and thoughts as well as being aware of self and others. Other animals are simply conscious and not self-conscious at all. Yes they are highly intelligent and very aware of the world around them, but they do not look inward and observe the process of consciousness at work. They are not self aware, nor have imaginations, independent will or a conscience, because they are programmed by instinct, genetics and/or training.

There are many views on the origin of language. While it is true that all animals communicate in some way, human language would eventually become associated with the human way of using symbols and speech, while human nature is thinking, feeling and acting, which all humans have in common. Some views state that language is an extension of speech, which all humans have within themselves, with reason the most primary characteristic of human nature. Some believe language developed first, before reason, perhaps explaining many of the negative aspects of human communication. Others believe language and reason co-evolved. While still others believe that reason was developed out of the need for more complex communication, when more sophisticated social structures came about by the gains made by language and/or reason. It is surmised that more sophisticated human behaviour and basic speech both appeared about 164,000 years ago in southeast Africa, beginning with grunts and clicks, with language then evolving at a pace with cultural growth.

Speech evolved from non-verbal mood vocalization signals such as a cry of pain, a scream or a laugh. Other nonverbal forms include the expression of silence, hugging, touching and looking into someone’s eyes. Non-verbal communication is all about tone. While the tone of one’s voice is how the earliest humans signalled one another, speech brought cooperative exchange of information and allowed early humans to refer to objects in their environment. Non-verbal vocalization signals are still very important to us in being able to communicate; in fact they are everything, no matter what the media technology toys of our age tells us. When we cry out in pain, anyone listening can usually tell how severe it is; though with speech we now also add a few choice words along with the cry of pain, adding expression to the experience. Tone of voice is also the reason one can travel to another land and not knowing the language of that part of the world, can still get a reaction and communicate with other animals, even pets, which live there.

The evolution of speech was also connected to the development of the human vocal tract; it’s development allowed a far larger range of sound and the ability to speak more quickly. Our speaking rate has always been connected to the brain, which needs the body to take a breath about every five seconds. The earliest humans that began to speak could say maybe four to five words in five seconds. Today we can get off twenty to thirty-five words in five seconds, in fact a typical human today has a speaking rate of more than two hundred words a minute; three girlfriends chatting could raise this rate exponentially.

Language and speech would alter our brains. In order to operate, the brain needs to understand the inside world of the body and a view of the world outside, to act intelligently and make decisions. Before speech and language the brain relied on the senses. The sense organs would see, feel, hear, and taste to build a consciously experienced picture of the outside world. Sensations such as hunger, pain, and thirst told the brain what it should do to satisfy the demands of the body and because early humans operated on mostly instinct and intuition, the brain allowed rich areas of knowledge to surface in the conscious plane, which early humans would envision, and then do the images that were presented.

Among all animal species we are the only ones who tell stories. Living by the narrative in our communication is important to us because by listening to each other’s stories we are given to needing each other’s companionship and inclined to intimacy, affection, relationships and sociability. Language and speech would indeed change the way we lived and how we were to evolve socially, but at the same time it was when, ever so slowly, we would begin to lose focus on the present moment.

An animal’s mind operates by perception, recognition, simple thought association and environment, and is led by being aware of the moment, much like early humanoids but with language the human mind began operating not only by perception but also with memory, imagination, and more complex habits of thought such as inner-driven attention and self awareness. As humans we are responsible for our own lives, with our behaviour a function of our decisions, not our conditions. The traits of behaviour which sets humans apart from other animals’ starts with self awareness and the ability to think about our thought process, and possessing an imagination, where in our minds we can create other realities. We also have independent will; the ability to act based on our self awareness, and finally we have a conscience, an inner awareness of right or wrong, which we gain from internalizing the moral standards of behaviour of the social group we live in.

Meanwhile, the original groups of perhaps a dozen humans eventually became nomadic bands, basically large family groups of about 25-30 people. Living as hunters, gatherers and foragers, each group would need about 250 square miles (400 sq. km) to support itself. A small band would only have to travel a few miles every couple of weeks, or maybe led by the full moon, move to a new campsite about every four weeks. Most of their travels were just moving back and forth to familiar areas according to the season. In fact for over 95% of our human existence we have lived this way, as foragers and on occasion, hunters. We lived off of what the earth gave us, within daily and annual routines that matched the rhythms of the changing seasons and progressions of each day. Time would be measured only by the sun, the seasons, and the generations.

Most of these early hunters and gatherers diet was made up of nuts, fruits, edible roots, shellfish, insects and eggs, and were dependant on knowing which ones could be eaten and where to find them. To survive they had to depend on their intelligence and knowledge of the land and nature. When available, meat was a welcome addition to their diet whether by spearing big game, snaring small animals, scavenging carcasses left by bigger predators or from fishing. At first they would have had an easy time living off the land; most groups would have been able to gather the food they needed that day in only a few hours.

Beginning with simple wooden clubs, hunting and tool kit technologies would develop further when small game could not sustain the growing populations. These advancements in technologies allowed early humans to go after bigger game. Like the earliest tools, they were still often made from stone, but now would become finer and lighter, with the sharp flakes, broken and chipped from stone, and being used not only for hunting but also for cutting and sawing. As far as hunting, early man found that they could literally walk up to many of the larger animals, for they were not afraid of man. Though during the first million years of our evolvement, early humans were nowhere near being the predator they would one day become. It would take thousands of generations for the larger animals to develop the sense to run or attack when they see or sense a human. As early humans found ever more lethal ways to kill, scavenging was less needed and with the advancement of their tool technologies they were able to start processing the meat and using more of the carcasses such as the skin and bones, to further their advancement along even more and ensure their survival.

Instead of being centred on and preoccupied with oneself and the gratification of one’s own egotistical desires, early humans were more altruistic, where they were unselfishly concerned for and devoted to the welfare of their family. The group needed to be organized and work as a group; even in the pairing up of certain men and women into stable and perhaps loving couples for the better survivability of the child. But then most all animals possess this trait, where the behaviour of an animal, though it might not be exactly to its advantage and perhaps is life-threatening, benefits others of its kind, most often its family. While making up simple tools took a great deal of thought, testing and refinement and was a turning point for human’s evolvement, learning how to get along with our fellow human beings would prove more difficult.

With language and speech, the human ego began to develop and time began to take over our lives. Our thoughts eventually became only concerned with the past and the future. We would begin to rely on our past for our identity and sense of self, while we looked to the future for our fulfilment. This state of consciousness brought forth fear, anxiety, expectation, regret, guilt, and anger into our lives, while our cultures and environments would form whom we have become today, shaped personalities, with our brains filled with a continuous stream of thought. But we should not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Early humans were formed from interaction between only a few people, mostly all family members, the surrounding environment, and their unconscious mind; where the mental phenomena of feelings, perceptions, intuitions, thoughts, habits, and desires, exist. Being an exploratory species by nature, as their populations grew and enough room to forage became intruded upon they would have to move more often, with generation upon generation slowly making their way farther out of Africa.

By about 400,000 years ago, Homo erectus had been joined by another species of humanoid, Homo neanderthalensis and between them had spread throughout Africa, Asia and Europe. Around this time another species would also evolve and enter the mix, Archaic Homo sapiens. Then about 170,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens would arrive on the scene.

First appearing in Ethiopia, these more modern humans slowly replaced all the other populations, while language, speech and more sophisticated human behaviour began to appear, and evolution, brain size and myth would take another slow step forward, though self awareness, lives filled with an almost constant state of mental distraction, and such things as an ego, were still thousands of years away.

 

 

 

 

10/30/12

The Age of Myth – Chapter One

“They must find it difficult . . . those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.”   G. Massey, Egyptologist.

 

The basic truths of human nature are the principles within us, which are the natural laws of the human dimension and include fairness, integrity, human dignity, service, and potential. These are the guidelines for human conduct. We all possess these truths and are creatures subject to all the basic laws of animal behaviour, because morality was inherent in humanity long before we achieved reason.

Too many of us think we are above these biological controls. That somehow thousands of years of genetic legacy is now beneath us because we think we have evolved so much, just in the past few hundred years, that we now reside above all those who came before us. Yet many people today are living unfulfilled lives because of such grandiose new motives and self-conceited ideas, which try to make us seem to be so much more than just a biological species. Our day to day lives get acted out, but it often seems something is missing, yet many of us feel we are more powerful, more innovative, smarter, and more financially well off than every other creature on the planet that has ever been. Our attitude has changed to where we now feel that reflecting on the past as being somehow offensive and hurtful. Meanwhile our character, the spirit within us, is being replaced by personality. We think we are growing and developing, but find ourselves ever the more disappointed and frustrated. We stopped listening to whom we are sometime in the last century and have become ignorant to our human nature.

Even before civilizations and organized religions, we knew that to attain love one must give their love to others to know what love is. That one could only be creative if they shared their creativeness with others; that only through the act of giving of something could one experience having; and to kill a fellow human being was wrong, no matter the reason. These are the fundamental truths that have guided us but are now being held suspect, by fear, faith, consumer-capitalism and even ourselves. Slapping one’s knee and shouting “I knew I shouldn’t have said that!” or “I knew that was going to happen” are cop-outs. We ignore our gut instincts and allow them to be shaped by others. Reality is we are an exploratory species now living in sedentary tribal groups, which stultifies our growth because our cultures and religious beliefs follow rigid patterns of behaviour and thought, thus restricting development and only promoting more needing and wanting. Such suppression of our fundamental urges is what is currently eating away at our souls and making us physically, mentally and morally sick. So much fear, spin and doubt has been cast into our hearts and minds that it keeps us illiterate functionally and spiritually.

Civilization has become a consumer and corporate world, with many religious beliefs continuing to hold onto the premise that their God is a supreme being who created the world in six days and who is to be feared. If indeed this is the case and that creation was the final goal, why was it not reached right away, all at once? Why was perfection not realized at the beginning? It could be because God is not a supreme being at all but instead is simply a word representing the definition of life.

If the adage “by our nature we are moral beings” is true, when did it all start to go askew? Perhaps when we stopped listening to the basic principles within ourselves and instead focused on the voices in our heads. Many believe, everything started to get confusing at the dawn of civilization and the invention of writing, five thousand years ago. It was a time when the human ego and the ability to view oneself apart from nature began to develop even more, where our mental processes started to separate from instinctive ones. Communication and dissemination of knowledge became symbolic and took the form of myth; though within these myths lay absolute truths concerning the processes of the natural world.

A myth is not always a lie, it also expresses something fundamental about how we perceive the world and human life as it really is. It also communicates to us our values and how we should live in the world and finally, myths show how we do in fact live in our worlds, through our lifestyles. Prominent anthropologist Clifford Geertz, formulates that a myth, in effect says “we live (or ought to live) the way we do because the world is the way it is. And because the world is the way it is, living as we do (or ought to) is uniquely satisfying and fulfilling.”

With civilization and the written word we became citizens and workers, and our villages became cities. And because politics, art, religion and even history are conscious, self mediating processes, they each dwell between the realms of spirit and life, idea and reality, just like our personal worlds do.

Pre-history, before the written word, is where our cultural origins are found, through science, archaeology and oral traditions, and is where the collective cultural heritage of all of humankind lies. Up until the mid 19th century some believed the Bible’s version of the world to be about 6,000 years old. By the end of that century the first humans were believed to be about 100,000 years old. Today, according to modern scientific archaeology, natural sciences, geneticists, and geology, and using radiocarbon, radiation exposure, and potassium argon dating techniques, we emerged in East Africa at least 2.5 million years ago, while the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, with the first life-form appearing on its surface within a billion years.

The dedicated work of anthropologists; studying humanity and it’s culture, archaeologists; systematically studying the lives and cultures of ancient humankind through the use of scientific and controlled techniques, physical anthropologists; studying the evolution, behaviour and biology of humankind and geneticists; opening up new doors nearly every day concerning what we are made of, where we are from and that we are all related, have all combined in teaching us much of our collective past, and with the laws of association and superposition, are revealing many truths of our history. Like Newton, Da Vinci, Hugo, Galileo, Einstein and all the others that came before and since, they believe that the importance of seeking truth is not in the divinity, but rather in the belief of the supremacy of direct knowledge over faith. What has come more into the light is the importance of culture as the distinctive adaptive system used by humans to evolve. It is humankind’s way to adapt to our varied environments, instead of being rigidly held in check and suffering.

All animals, including humans, adapted to their environments through biological evolution. If it adapted it survived, if unable to, it evolved into a new species, moved away or died. With humans, culture is the traditional system of belief and behaviour that is understood by an individual. Culture is both, our own version within a social group and the version shared by everyone collectively as a group. When animals die, their experience dies with them, with humans, when we die our experience continues on in our culture. The ongoing phenomenon of culture usually changes very slowly over time, which is what has allowed us as a species to adapt and evolve. Today, culture has reached such a fast pace that we, as a species, are finding it ever more difficult and confusing, because we can no longer adjust or keep up to it.

Though the strides in scientific, psychological and social disciplines in the last ten years have been incredible, we should be moving quickly to retrieve what knowledge we may find of our past before we continue to blindly, and at an ever quickening pace, “pave over paradise” amidst a global climate crisis.

In the first century AD, the most valuable library in the world was in Alexandria, in the north central part of Egypt, on the delta of the Nile River. It held more than half a million papyrus scrolls, in several temples which contained much of the wisdom and science of the previous thousand years, including the works of the Egyptians, Babylonians and the writings of the Greek philosophers. A Christian bishop entered these greatest of libraries and put them to the torch, destroying everything, because he thought himself to be expelling paganism. From 16th century Catholic missionaries destroying all records of the history and cultures of the peoples they exterminated in the Americas, to today’s industrial activity, road construction, urban sprawl, strip mining, deforestation, archaeological looting, bulldozer, crane and plough, we are erasing untold truths and more comprehensive knowledge of our past. In 2001, the Taliban destroyed two statues of the Buddha, both more than 38 meters tall and carved into the side of a mountain, nearly two thousand years ago, at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. It seems curiosity about our past will always outstrip our ability to find out more as time goes on, and more is lost.

Archaeology in the past few decades has made some truly “worthy of belief” discoveries. Advancements made via technology are opening chapters of history that we did not know about, with archaeology finally reaching depths that we have not reached yet, raising new answers of what we know of our past. This is why history is important. If we forget or not try to understand what the past tells us, it has been proven time after time, like a big carousal, we will continue to make the same mistakes.

The Achilles heel of archaeology is that only a tiny fraction of all organisms leaves fossil traces anywhere. Most fossils of Hominoid specimens come from sediments dating back a few million years ago, but in many areas where fossils may be, their access and discovery are blocked because of the continuing movements and cracks of the earth’s surface. There is also much evidence hidden beneath dense plant growth, forests, jungles, and man-made structures, and considering that at the height of the last ice age, 13,000 years ago, sea levels were about 350 feet lower than today means many traces of human presence is deep underwater. Finally, there is the reality that anything from the past, if it wasn’t a rock, has dissolved back into the earth.

As to human fossils, they give us evidence of size, proportion, and muscular development. Studying fossils has given us an understanding of the three most important phases of human evolvement; walking upright, a mandible thumb and increased brain size. What they cannot give us, and is based on an informed hypothesis, are facial features and how they thought, which is the most important to us.

To understand the evolvement of humans spiritually and culturally, one has to look back farther than when we first became citizens of civilizations, back to when we were still small families of hunters and gatherers and eventually farmers. Back to a time when the wisdom we desperately crave today, was ripe and fertile. Back to where everything that happened and existed was born of the same energy. Life was moment to moment, where a human being was not separate from creation but one with it and held great respect for nature; where life was brutal but not necessarily portrayed as such, for it was life. Back to the time before the development of the human ego, where a newborn child, a flower and a shiny rock still brought smiles to our faces and we were not criticized for doing so, nor did we feel guilty.

To be continued………..