Humanity 100,000 Years Ago - Life In The Paleolithic

Humanity 100,000 Years Ago - Life In The Paleolithic

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It's so late right now but I am  determined to finish this video today. *super cool intro scene* Undoubtedly the biggest difference between our  time and and 100,000 years ago was that there   were six distinct human species around. I've  put species in inverted commas there because   modern genetics and and the evidence we have  for interbreeding has really complicated our   definition of species but it's still the  most convenient term to use. Homo sapiens,   that's me, that's you that's Kim Jong-Un, we  were restricted to two regions at this time.   Africa, which as we evolved there is no big  surprise, but also the middle east. As evidenced  

by various finds but most interestingly for me  these are preserved footprints from the Nefud   desert in Saudi Arabia. I absolutely love a  preserved footprint, a handprint on a wall,   there's something so personal so intimate about  them. This is roughly, very roughly about 30 to   40,000 years before the big expansion of homo  sapiens outside of Africa. I know the middle   east is not in Africa but nature does not care  about the nice tidy categories that we try to   impose on it. Further north in Eurasia lived our  old friends the neanderthals. Distant cousins,   part-time lovers, at this point in time they  extended across a huge swathe of the continent.   How far east and how far south exactly they  extended though is a big subject of debate.  

Two of the most eastern examples we've found so  far come from Teshik Tash cave in Uzbekistan and   Denisova cave in Russia. As you can see there  the territories of neanderthals and homo sapiens   likely overlapped in southwest Asia, making  it the most likely source of the "hnibz".   Homo sapien neanderthal initial boinking zone. I  didn't make that up that's the scientific term. "It's science" Further east into asia at this time we had  the enigmatic denisovans, they're a much   closer relative of neanderthals but their exact  range is really hard to pin down. We have for   sure only recovered two denisovan remains, one  from denisova cave and the other from baishiya   karst cave in Tibet. We know from genetics of  people in southeast asia that interbreeding  

between homo sapiens and denisovans occurred  down there but as yet we haven't found a single   fossil so there's not that much I can say about  these southern denisovans they're currently sort   of missing from the fossil record. However, now  that we know of the existence of denisovans older   fossils that have been given other classifications  like homo erectus in places like china   are now being reassessed and so I can't say much  at the minute but who knows what will come from   that research. On the islands of southeast Asia  though is where stuff gets really interesting,   really funky. Tucked away on the island of java  lived an isolated population of homo erectus.   These guys were an absolutely crucial step in  our evolution. I've made a video on them before,   give it a watch, it's an absolute banger. They  once extended across Africa into Europe across  

Asia but by 100,000 years ago they had either died  out or evolved into other hominins tucked away on   java though, isolated from the rest of the world  a population of them seems to have survived until   108,000 years ago. Absolutely incredible they  were they're really a relic of a bygone age. Just over the water from  java on the island of flores   lived perhaps the most unique  hominin that archaeologists have   ever discovered homo floresiensis, aka the  hobbits, these tiny folk were probably only   around one meter tall as adults and it's most  likely that they descended from a population of   homo erectus that got stuck on flores and  suffered from a phenomenon called island   dwarfism. They may have survived until as recently  as 50,000 years ago which does mean possibly that   as homo sapiens were expanding across the  world these two groups came into contact. The final species that we know of from this  time was found on the island of luzon and so   is called homo luzinensis there's not much i  can say about them at the minute because it's   such a recent find we just know that they were  there and who knows they may well turn out to be   our missing southern denisovans, we don't know.  It's a really early stages of research, but what  

is definitely interesting about homo luzenensis  though is that luzon has been an island for almost   three million years so the fact that there  were hominins there is the best and earliest   direct evidence we have for hominins traveling  across the water so pretty cool stuff. Okay I'm trying to finish this video on time but  just as I'm editing it two new apparently distinct   groups of hominin have been found, one in israel  and the other in china. Dubbed homo longi for   the time being. Absolutely fantastic skull,  fantastic specimen. Really I should have said  

at least six species at the start because a lot  of the classifications of these fossils are very   highly debated and these two new finds certainly  add to that. I don't know how long this process of   dividing these different fossils that we find  into different groups it's going to last because   this time period it really is a period  of incredible human diversity and that's   easy to forget now in this world where there  is just one hominin left, us homo sapiens,   but we're really pre-history, deep in pre-history  the paleolithic it's an incredibly diverse time   and I do have two videos in the works right  now specifically on this human admixture, human   diversity, the evolution of homo sapiens. Stay  tuned for that, but an incredibly diverse time   and yeah any anthropologists watching if  you could not publish any more discoveries   for like a week so I can finish this  bloody video, that would be fantastic. Zooming back out at this map we've  made please bear in mind that the   day-to-day year-on-year ranges of these hominins  could have fluctuated wildly climates change,   herds move on and our paleolithic ancestors  were just trying their best to survive. Before we get into the incredible technological  and economical and artistic achievements of the   time we have to acknowledge that for  a lot of our paleolithic ancestors   it was a hard life I, I wouldn't fancy  swapping places with them that's for sure.  

Now we don't have thousands upon thousands  of human remains from this time period but   in a study of 200 neanderthal remains ,17 percent  of them had cranial injuries and these injuries   are similar to what modern rodeo riders often  get suggesting that these neanderthals got   these injuries from going toe to toe with the  absolutely massive wild beasts of the ice age.   We don't have any evidence of archery at this  time, good convincing evidence of archery   doesn't appear until around 60,000 years ago  in South Africa. So if you were a neanderthal,   you were either throwing your spear at your prey  or you were having to go up close and personal   and stab it yourself. When we weren't being hurt  by our prey we were becoming prey ourselves in a   recent excavation of a cave just outside Rome,  nine neanderthal remains were found the oldest   dating to around 100,000 years ago. Now it's  very early days in the excavation of this  

site but archaeologists currently believe that  these neanderthals were dragged there by hyenas.   Before you even went out and hunted your first  animal though you could have starved to death.   Studies of neanderthal teeth have suggested  that they frequently went through periods   of nutritional stress in their childhood, so  life was hard back then it was really hard.   Getting eaten by a hyena is a  certified bummer no doubt about it. Homo sapiens neanderthals and denisovans were  all creating stone tools using what we call   the levallois technique. Rather than finding  a stone and just chipping away at it until   it's the shape you want, humans would prepare  the core. They would remove flakes from the  

outside of the core to produce the desired shape  roughly and then with a big bash on the bottom,   the flake that you had broken off would be the  spear point that you wanted. This was not a new   technology for the time humans had been doing it  for several hundred thousand years by this point,   but it does show that they were thinking about  using their resources efficiently. Using this   technique one core could produce multiple blades  and points so it was kind of the model t ford of   their time. This is mass production paleolithic  style. Even though this levallois technique   might not have been new, we do seemingly see the  emergence of some new technologies at this time.   Over in Dar es Sultan, Morocco, archaeologists  have found this 90,000 year old knife made from a   mammal's rib and over in Katanda in the Democratic  Republic of Congo, archaeologists have found this   absolutely beautiful bone harpoon. Around this  time we start to see the emergence of these really   specialized and sophisticated bone tools. They're  a great indication that our cognitive abilities  

were improving, that we were able to create  really specialized tools for specialized jobs.   Up north in Eurasia neanderthals weren't slacking  off either. It's been well documented now that   they were using pine and birch resin to create  glues to attach spear points to their shaft.  

Similarly in South Africa it seems that humans  were heat treating silcrete rocks, that they used   to create tools, in order to create better thinner  flakes, more consistent flakes, more suitable for   use as projectiles. This is just a taste of  what people were up to ,there's a lot more   that could be said about the technology of this  middle paleolithic. But I think these examples   really highlight the ingenuity of our ancestors,  not only were they creating really specialized   tools but they were physically altering the  properties of the raw material available to   them. They were literally scientists, there's no  other way to say it, this is literally science. There's a lot said about the paleolithic diet  these days and it's it's alleged health benefits. "Today were traveling back in time"  "the paleo diet" "paleo" paleo" but not one video or book that I've ever  seen has ever acknowledged the fact that tiny   homo floresiensis might have been hunting  dwarf elephants. In the same cave that  

the homo floresiensis fossils were found  archaeologists also noted large accumulation   of dwarf elephant bones. A reasonable hypothesis  therefore is that they were brought into that cave   by homo floresiensis. Hobbits hunting dwarf  elephants is probably the most interesting thing   to have ever happened in the history of the world,  and I don't want to watch another video about   the paleolithic diet that doesn't mention that.  You're you're skipping the most interesting thing. Obviously the hunting of animals was really  important for all paleolithic people but   we may have overstated its importance in  the past. Let me give you an example,.  

Neanderthals from Belgium were eating wooly  rhino and wild sheep, very meat heavy diet,   leading the absolutely stereotypical paleolithic  lifestyle. However neanderthals down in El Sidron   cave in Spain seemingly a little meat and had  a diet that revolved a lot around nuts and,   mushrooms, maybe even moss. So the picture is  a lot more complicated than just "neanderthal   equals meat eater" for sure that was the  case a lot of the time but their diets varied   according to the regions that they lived in and  the resources available to them. Down in Africa at  

this time there's a lot of debate about whether  we see evidence for a broad spectrum economy.   That's the archaeological term for  taking full advantage of the resources   in your area not just hunting the biggest  game available to you. Fish and sea mammals   start to make more of an appearance on the menu.  Down in Mozambique archaeologists have found a   grinding stones with wild seeds impressed into  them and in South Africa people were roasting   starchy vegetables and tortoises in their hearths.  Throwing a tortoise on the fire is probably  

the closest thing a person in the paleolithic  could have gotten to fast food. The development of   broad spectrum economies was a really significant  moment in human history even though it seems so   trivial to us now, it would ultimately lead  to the development of agriculture but we   don't see agriculture fully emerge until  around 12,000 years ago, after the climate   had become a lot warmer and a lot more stable.  Not because of Atlantis, looking at you marvel. Still one hundred thousand years ago homo sapiens,   they were doing okay they were developing the  tools and the economies and the flexibility   that would eventually allow us  to take the whole world by storm. Now one hundred thousand years ago isn't exactly  the earliest evidence we have for symbolic   expression but it certainly seems to have  increased around this time again as with the   bone tools suggesting something really concretely  had switched in our brains. Homo sapiens,  

neanderthals, denisovans we were all making art.  For us homo sapiens there was one material which   really dominates the archaeological record more  than any other and that's ochre. One hundred   thousand years ago someone in blombos cave  either dropped or deposited or abandoned this   ochre processing toolkit. It's very simple really  it's a, it's a shell, it's some ochre of course,   there's a grinding stone and in amongst the  ochre archaeologists found traces of the spongy   bones that we find in our bodies. Although i'm not  suggesting it was human bones. I don't know that   we know that. But the addition of these spongy  bones was probably due to their fat content. Maybe  

their fat within the bone marrow was used as a  binding agent for the ochre? We don't know that's   just the the hypothesis of the archaeologists  that found it but it's pretty reasonable I think,   pretty reasonable. Just these four things they're  so humble but they're so significant. Being   able to think creatively and express yourself in  abstract ways, it really is what makes us human. "I want to get you to try being creative" Ochre would go on to be the predominant material  that humans use to create those really absolutely   stunning uh prehistoric handprints, but the  earliest one of those we've dated so far is   from around 40,000 years ago. So long after  the time period we're talking about. The only   piece of art or symbolic expression that we can  reasonably attribute to denisovans are these bones   from Henan in China. What they mean, we don't  know. Did they mean anything? We don't know.  

But nevertheless a denisovan did them and  it shows that something was bubbling away   in their brains. For Neanderthals though we  have a lot of evidence for symbolic expression.   Specifically from 100,000 years ago in Krapina in  Croatia, neanderthals might have made jewelry out   of these eight eagle talons and one toe bone. It  seems from the wear marks on them that they were   strung together. Now we don't know whether  they were worn as a necklace, or a bracelet,   or a rattle, or something else that we haven't  thought of. In true Damien Hirst style these same   groups of neanderthals were peeling the flesh  from each other's skulls. That could have been  

simple cannibalism, just to not starve to death,  but there's not really that much nutritional   benefit in eating someone's forehead it's not a  very meaty part of the body. It's not unreasonable   to think that this was some form of symbolic  act, some form of secondary burial ritual maybe. Roughly 115,000 years ago in  what is now Qafzeh in Israel,   a young woman and a young child died. We don't  really know anything about them. Of course   evidence suggests that they lived the typical  lifestyle of paleolithic hunters and gatherers.   But we don't know what language they spoke. We  don't know what their laugh sounded like. We don't  

know what their favorite food was. But I think  we can say something about them with certainty,   I think we know that they were loved. When they  died, the community around them, their friends,   their family. They took time out of their day to  dig a shallow pit and place them both carefully  

inside. These people meant something. In  their moment of death, they were cared for.   There's no better illustration of the  humanity of our paleolithic ancestors. That's it. That's the end of the  video. I'm going to bed. See Ya

2021-07-13 00:30

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