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Sapiens 3 Daily life in the Stone Age

Page history last edited by Ian Kimber 3 years, 7 months ago

 

 

3 Daily life in the stone age 

Segment 1    - 1 - Lesson 3- Daily Life in the Stone Age - Segment 1 [27_23].mp4

 

 

This lecture gives a deeper look at the the life of a hunter gatherer society.   This is important because that our current physical evolution is still at this stage because there has not been time for these physical changes to take place.  He introduces the concept of evolutionary Psychology.   For example our feeding habits.  Eat what you can while you can to survive better through food shortages.  Eat sweet high energy foods whenever you can find them because they are rare.   This is the driving factor of our current epidemic of obesity  

 

Social structure was almost certainly very different from the “modern” small monogamous family.  For survival, groups need to be quite large, and societies probably a mix of Chimps (single male dominated) and bonobos (Female group dominated). Members of the group would live in very close proximity and know each other intimately because there was no privacy.  

 

Sexual relationships much more free with uncertain fatherhood for children and the whole group involved in raising their young.  It is also likely that the concept that intercourse during pregnancy helped the growth of the baby and mixed intercourse was best to gain the advantages of interest and characteristics of more than one member of the group.  

 

The "modern" nuclear family is not likely to be the way our basic deep instincts work. Unfortunately the evidence of these aspects of society are very difficult to identify in archeological work.  A more important source is the way modern isolated hunter gather societies work, although this may also have changes due to other pressures.

 

The truth is that there were several different bands with different social structures based on their beliefs and local conditions.  Another important fact is that family groups in adjacent areas probably had their own languages and approaches to strangers or other groups they contacted.

 

There are however some generalisations that could be identified.

 

Segment 2   4 - 2 - Lesson3- Daily Life in the Stone Age - Segment 2 [43_59].mp4

 

The structure of society is difficult to reconstruct this from fossil evidence.  Hunter gatherer society was almost all human but soon included domesticated dogs from wolves as hunters and alarms. The dogs were the first animals to be domesticated.  The reason for this was was a two way street of help and communication.  Co-evolution has taken place to help with the domestication.

 

All members of the band knew each other very well and there was no privacy and intimacy.

 

Contact with adjacent bands of humans involved aggression, co-operation and trade.   The finding of "interesting" and useful artefacts great distances from their origins shows this.  Hunter gatherers are itinerant according to food sources and seasons.  This would be inside its home territory which is quite large because of the sparseness of the population.  Some larger and more permanent villages did develop at good locations for stable food sources.  A particular example is fishing on the coast at particularly good locations where quite large communities existed very early in human development. 

 

Most food was gathering rather than hunting locations would depend on the seasonal variations of food sources during the year.  The whole populations were incredibly fit physically fit  at the level of olympic athletes and skilled  in many technical skills and local knowledge in many ways as a result of many years of education and training from other croup members.  Nowadays this level of fitness and knowledge is not essential it is amazing how little we now need to know to survive plus a little specialised knowledge to allow us to earn our living.  The great knowledge of humankind nowadays is collective.    

 

There is good evidence that human brain size and skills have decreased since that time. 

 

Hunter gatherers and foragers in effect “worked” fewer hours than we do today.  They also had very much simpler but more varied lifestyles with few possessions.  The hunter gatherer approach resulted in a much more varied diet and generally better than later peasant societies dependant on a single main food crop who have a very restricted food varieties they were also less subject to risks of famine due to  conditions or crop failure and knew of emergency non-preferred foodstuffs.  

 

They suffered less form infectious diseases and parasites, most of these are associated with domesticated and herd animals and the close proximity of large groups.  

 

On the negative side life was harsh and unforgiving with greater risks of physical injury particularly during childhood a minor injury nowadays could result in death.    To be outcast from the group was a sentence of death.  An isolated individual cannot survive without contact from other humans unless the environment is free from predators.

 

It is important not to judge modern life from the position of a middle or upperclass modern lifestyle.  One must consider the life of the majority of people in all societies and this is hard work restricted knowledge and skills and poor diet in general.

 

Segment 3  4 - 4 - Lesson3- Daily Life in the Stone Age - Segment 4 [28_57].mp4

 

Looks at the mental and spiritual lives of these people.  This is very difficult because of the lack of hard evidence but there is evidence from primitive peoples today.   Spiritually they were almost certainly animists believing that all things even inanimate objects have spirits and feelings that had to be considered and possibly placated it was also possible to have agreements and deals.  They considered the animals and plants they used with respect and had to be thanked and considered.   There were also invisible spirits that affected the world which needed to be treated with respect.   All these items had their place and were not hierarchical.  Shamans were people who it was felt could communicate with the spirits.  The spirits were individuals and not a great and all powerful god   These ideas were very individual between groups and adjacent communities could have very different approaches.  There was no common or communicating fact about them other than the basic principles   Theist religions had not developed yet.  This came as part if the later agricultural revolution.

 

Is it possible to have any specific evidence of the detailed beliefs?   There are some artefacts and images they are isolated and fragmentary and inadequate to create a detailed world view and there is no written evidence of what people really thought.  Modern interpretations are as likely to be coloured by personal prejudices or current fashions as to contain real information about the thinking of the period.  One particularly interesting and revealing set of images is a set of images of hand prints of a group of individuals but it contains more evidence of the size sex and age of the people than what they were thinking about  or why they chose to do this other than possibly assert their individuality and identity.

 

Segment 4  4 - 4 - Lesson3- Daily Life in the Stone Age - Segment 4 [28_57].mp4

 

This segment considers politics and warfare in the period.  Scholars cannot agree on clear social structures.   Grave goods can be an indicator where there are burials of individuals with a great many possessions.  Other local graves contained fewer items of value.  This showed that there were some people who engendered greater respect for some reason.   This includes children and suggests that the children of high status individuals were also respected.  This was 30.000 years ago so this suggests some sort of social inequality. Many theories of these high levels of respect exist but the choice between them is personal and not based on any real evidence other than there were some sorts of hierarchical structures developing 

 

Was there warfare?  There is not much evidence.  Some scholars suggest that societies were violent and fought others suggest they were too isolated to bother and there were no significant possessions to fight about.  Modern observations of modern hunter gatherers may provide some evidence.  Many modern hunter gatherers are very isolated but there is some evidence from history in earlier more dense populations when modern first contact was made this suggests that violence could be possible. There is some modern 19th Century evidence that in Alaska and Australia at the times of first contact with the developed world there was significant feuding and conflict between bands of human hunter gatherers.

 

Some evidence of old skeletons  from Portugal and the middle east shows very little evidence of violent human originated death.   In the Danube valley evidence was higher at 5% of violent human originated deaths which is about the same as the 20th century a very violent century. nowadays in the 21st it about 1%  There are also some examples of mass graves in Sudan with a large number of violent deaths and massacres in Bavaria.  This indicates that there was a wide range of different societies from the peaceful to the violent.  It seems clear that life was as varied and eventful as life today.

 

Nowadays genetic evidence is also being used and we might be able to identify family lineages from mass graves.  This is something yet to be done.  It is always important to recognise what we do not know!  This is important because it helps us learn how we shaped the world and how we really interact with each other.  The knowledge of this early period is vital for us to understand our own evolution and drives to ensure we survive into the future.  Mankind changed life on the whole the globe greatly well before the development of agriculture.  This is presented in the next lecture.   The  "Anthropocene Age"  that is the age where mankind started to change the world ecosystems in a fundamental way started in the stone age and not with modern climate change.

 

 

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