Neolithic Man

Harvesting the sheaths of wheat in Chiloe, Chile 1990s

The Ice Age ended 10 000 years ago and the Neolithic spread across the globe as farming took the place of hunting. What the Neolithic brought was the cultivation of grain crops that could be stored and traded. Storage of food brought wealth.

Surplus allowed people to exercise different trades in exchange for stored food.

What wheat, barley, rye and oats also brought were oatcakes, pancakes, dumplings, pies, pasties and bread. All of these are made with flour. The mark of the Neolithic was stone querns for grinding cereal grains to flour.

Woman making wheat flour with a muller stone on a saddle quern stone Chiloe, Chile – display of traditional methods of producing food at a rural festival in the1990s

I was going into town one day when I overheard a conversation: “The way to make it in life is to get a yoke of oxen.” The listener nodded. “You can hire them out to all the farms round about for ploughing and for harvest, and never want for anything.” I’d never thought of it like that. Also, when vehicles got stuck in the sinking sand on the beach, they paid good money for the yoke of oxen to pull them out.

Ice Age Man

It isn’t that cave houses in the Ice Age would be white-washed, or have glass in the windows, or have flag stones or a well like these at Kinver Edge in England. However, the houses of the Upper Palaeolithic Ice Age would have mud-brick walls to close them in and a door to shut against the bitter wind and drafts.

Approaching the troglodyte valley what you found 35 000 years ago was a stream and beside it a path well-trodden. There were little paths going off from the main path and each one led to a wooden door going straight into the hillside. Partway up the hillside rose a column of smoke from the fire of a hearth. The smoke escaped through an excavated chimney.

Some caves were shrines kept by shamans. I’ve heard they’re full of paintings, but you could only go in if you were participating in the ritual. That is the ritual that causes the auroches and the horses to return on their yearly migration when the shamans call them.

The return of the herds was always a time of plenty, a bonanza. Many people smoked meat as well as fish in smoke houses, then they had stores of food to tide them over until the next hunting season and to exchange for other goods.

Chimney of a cave in Chinamada, Ternerife
Chilote smoke house 1990s

Melded Man

Homo aequalis (Homo sapiens) 100 000 years ago in Israel

Why ‘Melded Man’? All the tribes met at the central point – Europeans moving south towards North Africa, Asians moving west into the Middle East and Africans moving north. They all had something to contribute to the culture and the genetic make-up of Homo aequalis / Homo sapiens – the ‘Melded Man’.

These people owned land and started to control it. They controlled other people too.

The houses were built of mud bricks baked in the sun, and because of this they were rectangular or square. Houses were not just for living in, but also used as stores. The new thing was barns to store what you needed for later. People harvested reeds for thatching and put them in the barn. Sometimes they exchanged bundles of reeds for meat when a large animal had been hunted and killed.

The chiefs of the clans prided themselves on their capacity to organize the clan. This was the source of their power. The people making the mud bricks for all those houses were the ones who rebelled and were given hard-labour toiling under the baking sun.

Bundles of reeds used for thatching being stored in a barn

Neanderthal Man

Homo centralis (Neanderthal Man) 60 000 years ago in Europe

This Neanderthal Man has brown hair and a red beard. He’s feeling grumpy about having to move his tent again.

Long tradition of camping in a bog

The Neanderthal campsite didn’t look exactly like this, but it was just as boggy. Mammoth hunter and marshland dweller had its advantages and drawbacks. Neanderthal quite often upped his sticks and moved on, taking his tent with him.

Camping in the Lake District – flooded out two years running but still stuck it out in the swamp

The advantage Neanderthal had was that he went everywhere in a bark canoe with his whole family and tent poles and cover. When it got cold they lit a fire in the middle of the canoe to keep warm and cook some shellfish. It didn’t burn through the bottom of the canoe because he was not as daft as he’s been made out to be so he knew how to prevent that happening.

Precursor Man

Homo praecursor heidelbergensis (Homo heidelbergensis) 400 000 years ago in Europe

Caves had run out a long time ago and there were many tribes. Some tribes lived on grassland heaths, others in woodlands or in marshlands which they turned into fens. Each had their own type of staple food – in the fens they had reedmace roots, and in the woodland clearings root crops.

We were more for the parsnips but others went for turnips, and there were the novelty radishes. When visiting relatives we took a basket full of tubers as was the custom, picking out the best as a gift. We felt proud to select the best ones and we always got good produce in return.

When we got there we’d go straight out to inspect the vegetable plot and see how things were growing. We’d pop some of the root vegetables we’d brought into the soil to grow and produce more, then dig some others up for us to take home and for the feast.

The men had dug a large hole wielding stone axes hafted like a hoe. It was for the turf oven. They already had the bonfire lit to heat up stones for the oven when we joined them.

We started wrapping up roots and meat in large butterbur leaves (you could also use rhubarb leaves), and getting the shellfish ready that had been gathered in the early morning. It would all go into the hole with the hot stones, then be covered by leaves and turf.

We sat down with some drink served up in gourds and watched the steam rise out of the ground for about six hours. I don’t know what was in the drink – I saw they’d been fermenting it inside a dugout canoe – I got quite dizzy. The stories they were telling all became a blur. Then at last we got some food – you could feed a hundred people from a turf oven if you needed to.

Curanto en hoyo Chiloe, Chile 1990s – Turf oven with shellfish, pork, potatoes, beans and potatoe cakes (milcao) covered by gunnera leaves – a prehistoric turf oven would be supplied with wooden bowls and people not wearing these clothes but otherwise the same

Fire-maker Man in Europe

Old woman Homo ignis antecessor / Homo antecesor / Homo erectus one million years ago in Spain

The thing with going to a new continent was that all the caves were free, the hunting was there for the taking and the rivers full of fish. You didn’t have trouble with the neighbours or have to fight with other tribes for territory like in the tropics, but it was the weather: rain, wind and sometimes snow.

Many didn’t make it through the winter, some went southwards and never came back, but others decided to dress like animals. Fur is what we need they said, and they started to keep the animal hides to make capes out of them and bedclothes. Well, capes and bedclothes was the same thing. But the big discussion always was, fur on the inside or fur on the outside? Now if you were going to imitate the animal you’d put the fur on the outside, but then again it’s more cosy on the inside.

There were these new-comer cave men to the valley who got into a ‘discussion’ with the people who know what to do with a cape. They nearly came to blows – one got out a club and was about to hit the other one over the head with it, but it was sorted when he turned his cape inside out, or outside in, I’m not sure which. Then he imitated the noise of a bull and scarpered while the others were looking for their spears.

That’s only one of the things which happened.

Fire-maker Man

Homo ignis (Homo erectus) in Asia 1.8 million years ago

Discovery of fire was a game-changer. Fires were lit to drive animals towards hunters waiting with spears. The trees burned down and the good thing about that was that you got regrowth of plants that attracted grazing animals so you could hunt them as well. The landscape was radically changed and you could look out over a plain for the first time. Of course, not everybody liked it and some got upset that the balsa trees they made rafts out of had burned down as well. All this burning of trees was controversial even 1.8 million years ago.

People moved from the forests to the plains to set up camp and hunt herd animals. You had to run fast to have any chance of killing this type of animal, and then walk for miles with parts of the animal over your shoulders back to camp. But it paid off. No more of that bringing a small lizard back to eat – it was now proper game and enough for the whole group to eat and be satisfied.

At camp the camp fire would already be lit to keep tigers and other wild beasts away from the encampment of shelters. Then when the hunters returned, everyone would gather round and choose their piece of meat and barbeque it on a stick. Some used stones to crack open marrow bones so the children could feed on the soft marrow inside.

Beside the fire were happy times. When all had had their fill, the rhythm started up and men and women danced around the fire.

Sticks have been used for barbecuing since time immemorial (please ignore the iron pots). I went to this BBQ in Chiloe Chile in 1996

Early Man

Homo habilis still living in a tree 2 million years ago

Mrs Homo habilis was still living in a tree, and her ideas about extending the house had become quite aggrandized; ‘out of this world’ you could say. But on a more practical note she was getting really handy at tying knots in vines and using creepers as string. She’d even made a sort of bag out of a net to put things in.

Everyone was really jealous when she said she’d been out gathering and put the stuff in her bag. They said, the next thing you’re going to do is tie that baby onto yourself and they all had a good laugh! She said she knew it was the way forward, so she ignored them and carried on with tying knots.

As she worked with her baby beside her, she started to sing. Her song was about gathering nuts and fruits and insect grubs. At that moment, Mr Homo habilis returned with a fish he’d caught by putting poisoned leaves in the stream. So there was raw fish for tea, to go with the nuts and dates, and she put a grub in the baby’s mouth.

Primordial Man

Homo primocreatus: It wasn’t always fun living in a tree when she said she wanted a nicer house with a proper entrance and he couldn’t suss out how to build it

I’m not saying that houses 3 million years ago looked like this, but it could have been the dream in arboreal real estate. The dream just remained a dream because there was no one around who had invented how to do things. So they just made do with what they had – which is mainly just what nature could provide – not that they didn’t talk about it – as in the tree they’d left behind and how good it was, the one they’d found which left a lot to be desired, and a better one they hoped to find next time they moved on.

Life was good if you enjoyed living with nature. There was never any trace of anyone else living in the forest as the trees just grew back however much you made things out of sticks.

Life style and human evolution

Over the course of three million years the member species of the human line have undoubtedly changed significantly.  This is what justifies classifying them as different species.  Each species in the genus Homo has characteristics of the skeleton and cranium that are recognizable.  What is the actual basis to this human evolution?

Since the 19th century it has been assumed that apes have gradually evolved into humans because its better to be a human and reach the so-called pinnacle of evolution.  But, upon reflection, there is no reason why this should be the case – if, for example, you were put down in a tropical forest in Africa, you would have a much better chance of surviving as a chimpanzee than as a human.

If human beings were only animals and their ancestors only upright walking apes then they would have evolved in the same way as other animals.  Through evolution they would have become adapted to an ecological niche and then remained the same for millions of years, on condition that the ecological niche continued to exist.  The niche in question is deep forest in Africa over the past three million years.  Gorillas and chimpanzees inhabited this forest with the first species of mankind.  The apes are still there like before, while mankind has changed in an extraordinary way.

The reason for that change is this: the human body is adapted to environment and climate as animals are  adapted to their environment, but the change in humans is also driven by adaptation to human culture determined by invention.  The mind of man creates a human environment to which he adapts.

Each body type in the genus Homo is adapted to a human life style.  Humans interact with their environment through the interface of a level of technology.  For example, a large cat kills its prey with sharp canine teeth and claws.  Humans have flat teeth and nails – no human hunter has ever killed prey with his bare hands.

The trajectory of human evolution makes no sense without the human mind and invention.  So this is my thesis: that human evolution goes far beyond any animal evolution because mankind has been ‘sapiens’ from the beginning.  The drive itself towards an increase in brain size in the human line is because mankind used his and her brain for human thought.  The skeletal features or form of the body are the products of that thought embodied in human culture.

Shared life style and not survival in the wild is at the root of human evolution.

There is not a gradation in humanness, but there is progress.  Progress is obtained by beings who are already human and therefore desire what is new and innovative.  Progress is not the aim of an unevolved sub-human.  There has not been a gradual gradation into being human. 

There has never been a knuckle-dragging ape-man aspiring to gradually evolve into a human, while exchanging grunts for words.  This is a fiction of evolutionary theory, a construct that was a reflection of our society, and not a true reading of the evidence lying in the ground.