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Purdue HORT 30600 - Early Humans and the Prehistoric Record

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1Lecture 2Early Humans and the Prehistoric Record: Human-Plant InteractionThe Prehistory of Humans The development of humans from primates is an area of intense study based upon hominid remains, tools, and other artifacts. The earliest evidence is found in Africa and there is fi rm evidence that this con-tinent is the source of human evolution (Fig. 2-1). There are remnants (bones and tools) of hominid wanderings to Asia at least 1.7 million years ago, to the Middle East about 1.5 million years ago, and recent evidence shows that Europe was entered about 1.2 million years ago (Fig. 2-2). Thus, tool making dates back to at least 1.7 million years ago and was fi rst associated with a species known as Homo erectus, with a brain capacity of about 1000 cc. Fig. 2-1. Africa is the source of human evolution. The dates given in this fi gure are the generally accepted dates for main migrations but recent evidence indicates initiation considerably earlier as shown in Fig. 2. Source: Time Magazine, Feb. 13, 1995.Fig. 2-2. Hominid fossils and tools date to 1.8 million years ago and there is some evidence of tools in Europe as early as 1.2 million years ago. An explosion of hominid remains appears in Europe about 500,000 years ago. Source: A. Gibbons, Science 291:1722 (March 2, 2001).2Lecture 2Paleolithic HumansThe Paleolithic period, which means “Old Stone Age,” has been considered to extend from 750,000 to 15,000 years ago. Paleolithic humans were hunters and gatherers. Their culture survives chiefl y though the remains of stone tools, which along with carbon dating can be used to determine chronology. Evi-dence is accumulating that there were waves of migrations. About 500,000 years ago, a surge of hominid expansion occurred from populations that had a brain capacity of 1100-1300 cc, a species now known as either archaic Homo sapiens or Homo heidelbergensis, after its discovery in Germany (Fig. 2-3). This new immigrant population fi rmly established itself in Europe with superb hunting skills as evidenced by weapons such as spears. This group gave rise to Neandertals, brawny and large-brained humans with short arms and a broad trunk, who appeared in Europe about 250,000 years ago. However, about this time a new African group, Homo sapiens or Cro-Magnon, spread to Asia and eventually reached Europe (Fig 2-4). Cro-Magnon man, up to six feet in height, with a cranial capacity greater (by 200 cc) than modern humans (1500-1700 cc) had a huge frontal lobe that some have suggested was “wired” for cognative thinking. By 200,000 years ago, Neandertals and Cro-Magnons came in contact and co-existed for several thousands of years. This encounter had a pivotal role in human evolution. The H. sapiens group, our direct ancestors overwhelmed the Neandertals who essentially disappeared about 25,000 – 30,000 years ago, although there is a possibility of some interbreeding. The evidence suggests that the Neandertals could not compete with Cro-Magnons, especially as the climate changed in the Ice Age. Note that the Ice Age came to an end about 15,000 years ago.Cro-Magnons dominated Ice Age Europe from at least 40,000 years ago. Remnants remain of their high culture including animal skin clothing and moccasins tailored with bone needles, highly effi cient fl int blades, and homes made from branches and, in the Ukraine, from mammoth bones. Evidence of the high culture of Cro-Magnons is found in their artistic legacy found in cave paintings which have been dated from 30,000 years ago. This art in its depictions of animals and hunting scenes indicates their complete involvement with the hunt (Fig. 2-5). This cave art was not a rare event; more than 200 late Stone Age caves bearing wall paintings, engravings, bas-relief decoration, and sculptures have been found in southwestern Europe alone. The most spectacular are the caves at Lascaux (dated 18,000 to 17,000 years ago) and recently at Chauvet (20,000 years ago).Fig. 2-3. One view of how various human species might have dispersed in space and time. Source Science 291:1724 (March 2, 2001).Fig. 2-4. Cultural diversity as modern humans (Cro-Magnons) and their sophisticated tools arise from Asia (red). Tools made by Ne-andertals (black) persist in Europe and Asia while transitional tools perhaps made by both kinds of people (purple), also appear at this time. Source: Science 291:1725 (March 2, 2001)3Lecture 2Early Humans and PlantsThere are indications that our ancestors increasingly interacted with plants. The actual evidence has been rare and ephemeral because of the perishability of plant forms. Consequently most of what we know of the past involves corroboration from durable material such as arrowheads and spear points emphasizing activity of males in the hunt, ignoring other members of the tribe such as woman, children, and the elderly. However there is Stone Age evidence of plant material. In burial sites 60,000 years ago, a high incidence of pollen associated with skeletons suggests fl owery funerals. Paleolithic representations of plants are scarce but one cave wall painting, 18,000 years ago shows what may be the fi rst representation of a plant, a Pa-leolithic image of plants has been found etched on a reindeer horn, and images of plants have been found drawn on pottery dating to 7000 years ago (Neolithic period) along with birds and humans holding hands and dancing (Fig. 2-6). 1. Plants as clothing. The most remarkable artifacts of human-plant interaction concerns the use of plants as clothing which demonstrates the ability to weave twisted plant fi bers into cloth as well as rope, nets, and baskets. These can be shown in early sculpted hand-sized representations of females bodies, sculpted 20,000–27,000 years ago. These sculptures, referred to as “Venuses” typically emphasize voluptuousness, suggesting a keen interest in woman’s fertility. Their clothing includes string skirts, elaborate caps, and halters (Fig. 2-7). The voluptuous fi gures and the clothing suggest a very modern interest in adornment Fig. 2-5. Paleolithic cave paintings showing the importance of the hunt. A. Portion of the “Hall of Bulls” in the Lascaux caves, France, showing superb drawings of bulls, horses, and stags. B. Bison and horses, C. Speared bison with extruded entrails; note the male fi gure with bird-like head; D. Hunting of stags with bow and arrow, Cueva de los Caballos, Albocacer, Castellon, Spain. Source: Singer 1954, Fig. 89.ABCD4Lecture


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