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.

Homo sapiens: a melding of cultures and genes

The first Homo sapiens fossils date from 100 000 years ago with fossil skeletons found in sites in Israel.  Homo sapiens was taller with long limbs and a more gracile skeleton than Neanderthal.  The skull had thinner bones, had lost the brow ridges and evolved a chin.  The nose was long and slender and the brain size large.

What caused this evolution into Homo sapiens or modern man?

I believe it started with the invention of the bow and arrow.  Why?

Because with warfare conducted with bow and arrow, the cause of death is not a blow to the head, but an arrow through the ribs.  This is why the skull evolved thinner bones and lost the brow ridges.

The first evidence of arrow heads comes from Stillbay in South Africa 164 000 years ago.  Fire was used to heat up silcrete rock and make crescent-shaped blades and arrowheads.

Homo sapiens entered Ice Age Europe 35 000 years ago and formed the Upper Palaeolithic culture characterized by a great variety of tools made of stone, flint, bone, antler and ivory.  But it appears that there was a coalescing of peoples in the Near East before this happened.  African peoples with bow and arrow may have encountered Eastern peoples with harpoons, and both of these met up with the descendants of Homo heidelbergensis from Europe. 

In effect, with the onset of the Ice Age, Homo heidelbergensis retreated southwards into North Africa and the Middle East to continue root crop cultivation in the warmer climate.  Homo heidelbergensis brought caucasoid adaptation to a cooler climate to the genetic mix of Homo sapiens.  This was crucial to the physiological adaptation of Homo sapiens to extreme cold.

There was 65 000 years of peoples from Africa, Asia and Europe meeting in the Near East forming a new subspecies of human before the Upper Palaeolithic was initiated in Europe by Homo sapiens.  Exchange of knowledge and the sharing of inventions led to the very varied Upper Palaeolithic tool kit of Homo sapiens.

There must have been a set of key inventions that allowed Homo sapiens to enter a continent filled with snow and ice.

The first key invention was the wearing of clothes with boots for the feet.  This required learning how to make leather and cure furs.  The clothing development is known from the bone needles used to sew clothes and horn toggles used to hold them together found at Cro Magnon sites in France.

Hunting weapons included spear heads, arrow heads and harpoons, but the key to hunting was probably dogs.  Dogs have been associated with humans for over 50 000 years. The domestication of the dog for hunting meant that the dog did the chase, not the hunter.

I think the other innovation was transport.  Homo sapiens had the plank boat that was rowed to cross rivers and used to reach islands.  This type of flat-bottomed punt-shaped boat also became a sledge when on snow.  There were dogs to pull sledges in a landscape of snow and ice.

Wearing clothes in a cold climate with only the skin of hands and face exposed to sunlight led to the evolution of white skin in Europe at this time.  White skin makes vitamin D even in low sun conditions.

Tall stature and wide body meant that brain size reached an average of 1570 cc which is above the modern global average of 1400 cc.

Cro Magnon man gets his name from a rock shelter at Les Eyzies, in the Dordogne region of France.  When the Ice Age ended in Europe 11 000 years ago Cro Magnon disappeared, but the Upper Paleaolithic culture continued in Finland complete with many artifacts such as sledges. So it seems that Cro Magnon migrated northwards.

Fair hair and blue eyes evolved through genetic loss of pigments.  These traits appeared at some point during the 25 000 years of Homo sapien’s Upper Palaeolithic residence in the land of snow and ice.

At the end of the Ice Age Neolithic farmers moved into southern Europe.  They were of shorter stature, and had the darker skin and hair colour of Middle Eastern people.  They brought the Neolithic polished stone axe and used fire to burn down forests and make agricultural land.  The new farmers combined raising cattle with growing cereal crops.  Because grain crops can be stored in barns, this set the stage for the coming of civilization.

One last question remains: Where did those red haired people come from?

Red hair seems to have first occurred among Celtic people who came from Eastern Europe.  Red hair goes with pink skin which does not tolerate much sun.

I think the rare gene for red hair survived among the Celts because these people did not get vitamin D from exposure of the skin to sunlight, but from consuming milk.  It is a trait among herding peoples whose diet has a high proportion of milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter.

The genius of Homo sapiens was in the melding of cultures and in the organization of a federation of tribes to bring peace during the 65 000 years spent in the Near East leading up to the emergence of Upper Palaeolithic culture.  These were the qualities that brought success to ‘anatomically modern man.’

Migrations of the genus Homo

It is my contention that all forms of humans have been intelligent and fully human from day one.  Day one happened a long time ago, in fact 3.6 million years ago.  All humans descend from the first male and female progenitors of the human lineage who appeared in South Africa in a place of dense forest.

The different forms of humans from prehistory are labelled as separate species, although manifestly they had no problems in producing offspring together from time to time.  This means that they were not separate species, but only separate sub-species of one human species.

The genus of mankind is Homo and the species is sapiens – the creature with knowledge.  To reflect the belief that all humans have been fully human, each species should be labelled as, for example, Homo sapiens habilis.  In this case, habilis would denote the sub-species.  Within sub-species there are races or varieties which have slight differences, but all belong to one species.

I will be using some of the classic labels for the prehistoric forms of humans just to try to avoid confusion in an area of anthropology ladden with confusion. But I also intend to propose new labels.

So let’s be clear – I am asserting that there has never been an ape-man; there have been primitive forms of mankind, but an intermediate gradation between apes and humans has never existed.

Did Neanderthal stoop and swing his arms like an ape?  No, he had features of the hip bones found in some modern populations and they walk perfectly well.  His arms were a bit long, but that is because he was using them for locomotion – not knuckle-walking like an ape, but paddling a water craft.  The same feature is found in canoe nomad tribes in South America.

The average size of Neanderthal’s brain was significantly larger than the global average of modern humans today.  He may have lost out to incoming Homo sapiens populations in Ice Age Europe 35 000 years ago, but it was not because he lacked intelligence.  I’ll be getting to grips with these issues on this website and in books.

First, a quick overview of the migration of the human lineage.  This is the migration of humans (none of them were ape-men):

Australopithecus was first found in South Africa 3.6 million years ago. 

By 2 million years ago Homo habilis was living in East Africa.

Homo erectus also known as Homo ergaster lived in East Africa 1.8 million years ago.

By 2 million years ago Homo erectus was also living in Indonesia in Asia.

These first forms of humans only lived in tropical regions of the world.

Homo erectus migrated to southern Europe by 1 million years ago.  He is sometimes called Homo antecesor in Spain.

500 000 to 300 000 years ago there was Homo pekinensis in China, Homo heidelbergensis in Europe and Olduvai man in East Africa.  This globally distributed form of human used to be labelled Archaic Homo sapiens.  Among Archaic Homo sapiens three racial types started to evolve: proto-mongoloids, proto-caucasoids and proto-negroids.

Homo neanderthalensis appeared some 100 000 years ago in Central Asia.  He moved into the Levant region (Israel) and then Europe.

Homo sapiens appeared 100 000 years ago in Israel.  This was the place where populations from Africa, Asia and Europe met.  It was ‘the melting pot’ of cultures and of intermarriage between peoples for 65 000 years before Homo sapiens migrated into Europe.

Key inventions and adaptation to cold allowed Homo sapiens to move northwards into Ice Age Europe 35 000 years ago.  Homo sapiens also called Cro Magnon man caused Neanderthal to cease to occupy Europe 33 000 years ago (but Homo neanderthalensis went elsewhere).

When the Ice Age ended 10 000 years ago, Neolithic populations grew up first in Asia and America, and later in the Middle East moving into Europe by 5000 BC.  Homo sapiens Ice Age hunters became herders in northern Europe and dispersed to other places after the Ice Age ended.  Civilizations grew up on the basis of Neolithic agriculture, and the rest is history as they say.