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

What is in a label?

A label is supposed to pick out the main feature of something – something by which it can be identified.  It is often also a judgment.  When the subject matter is human species this is a sensitive issue, unless, of course those prehistoric species are considered sub-human and so devoid of any opinion about it – also dead a long time ago so unable to reply.

The oldest examples of mankind are labelled Australopithecus meaning ‘southern apes.’  Subsequent fossils are labelled as ‘hominids.’  This means they are considered to be animals walking upright and looking like humans, but too stupid to be humans.

Thought experiment:  What would it be like to meet one of these so-called sub-human hominids?

If I met a Homo heidelbergensis woman from 500 000 years ago here in England she would actually look very like me.  (My natural hair colour is dark by the way).  This woman would speak a language I couldn’t understand.  Would I turn round and say “I’m a Homo sapiens and you’re not?”  It is only possible to say this when all you meet is some dry fossilized bones in a museum, and the bones can’t answer back.

Every human bone in my body tells me that this is wrong.

I am convinced of the humanity of prehistoric species of mankind.  I think that labels should represent the humanness and peopleness of our ancestors.

Here is a new classification of species in the human line with the current labels in brackets.  Note that the separation into species is based on skeletal differences and does not imply that the different species could not have children together.

  1. Homo primocreatus / Primordial Man

[Australopithecus; Paranthropus; Zinjanthropus; Nut-cracker man]

Example: ‘Lucy’

3.6 million years, Africa

2. Homo habilis / Tool-User Man

Oldowan stone tools, 2 million years, Africa

3. Homo ignis / Fire-maker Man

[Homo erectus meaning upright man] 2 million years, Indonesia

[Homo ergaster meaning fast-runner man] 1.8 million years, Africa

Example: ‘Turkana Boy’ from Kenya

            Homo ignis antecessor

            [Homo antecesor] 1.2 million years, Atapuerca Spain

Europe 900 000 years

4. Homo praecursor / Precursor Man

Homo praecursor pekinensis  

[Sinanthropus pekinensis; Homo erectus; Peking Man; Java Man]

750 000 years China, Indonesia

Homo praecursor afarensis

900 000 years Olorgesailie

[Rhodesia man; Homo ergaster]

324 000 years Kabwe, Rhodesia/ Zambia

[Homo heidelbergensis]

Homo praecursor heidelbergensis

[Homo heidelbergensis; Archaic Homo sapiens]

400 000 years, Europe

5. Homo centralis / Central Man

[Neanderthal man]

150 000 years Black Sea, Central Asia

60 000 years Israel, Europe

6. Homo aequalis / Contemporary Man

[Homo sapiens; ‘Anatomically modern man’]

100 000 years, Israel

            Homo aequalis fossilis

[Homo sapiens fossilis; Cro Magnon man] France 35 000 years

            7. Homo aequalis sinensis

            [Mongoloid race]

            Homo aequalis europaeus

            [Caucasoid white race]

            Homo aequalis afarensis

            [Negroid race]

            Homo aequalis centralis

            [Caucasoid semitic race]

            Neolithic farming within the last 10 000 years

            Civilizations, ancient empires, globalized world

From 2000 BC onwards, progressively of mixed race

Homo is the genus name; aequalis is the Latin species name and europaeus is the name of the race.  (If you were classifying animals, plants or domestic animals and dogs the last name would denote the subspecies, variety or breed of dog). 

Why change the label Homo sapiens?

Because it is unfair to reserve this label only for ourselves, when all forms of mankind have been ‘sapiens’ which means understanding, rational and wise.