Shai Borwick-CooperA look at the origins of man and how we got from thereto here
Big History is the holistic study of the history of the universe, starting from the big bang and tracing the cause and effect of how we came to be where we are today. Big History is interested in finding patterns and themes in timelines. Big history is an amalgamation of many sciences and social sciences including geology, astronomy, biology, anthropology and of course the usual methods of studying history such as archeology, and paleontology. An example would be tracing the origins of coffee from the Middle East and Turkey to the Dutch East India company smuggling the beans out and planting them in places where they should grow and because of that coffee now grows on five continents. Big history would go further and study why coffee can be grown in the places that it does involving geologists and physics.
We are what we know, is a very important theme from this video. Years ago we thought that the world was flat and that the son orbited the earth. Today we know that this is not true. Every group is certain that it’s version of the truth is the only true version and is prepared to defend it to the death. Progress is inevitable; we used to craft everything that we needed then machines were invented until we are in the place we are today. Mankind is innately curious and is always trying to find new and better ways of doing things The modern way of thinking started with the Greeks, who started looking for answers in opposites and developed problem solving techniques.
When we find an answer that suits us we keep it and when we want to make last we turn it into a ceremony and institutionalize it so that it won’t change even when we do. The biggest theme from this video and in fact all of the videos for this first theme is that the only constant is change.
Spencer Wells, a geneticist and an anthropologist interested in finding out where our ancestors originated. He traced the Y chromosome , the chromosome passed to all males. The Y chromosome is passed intact to sons, but sometimes there is a mutation called a marker, which then points to the male ancestry of a certain man at a certain point. After drawing blood from men all over the world Wells came to the conclusion that the oldest people are the San Bushmen in South Africa and Namibia. He goes to meet the San Bushmen and finds people that have faces that are composite models of all the people on earth. About 50,000 years ago language was developed and this lead to new innovations in hunting. Around this time the ancestors of the San left Africa. He follows the journey from Africa along the coast of Europe arriving in Australia.
Spencer follows a second migration that went through the Middle East to Asia and from there to Europe. A few people migrated from Europe through Alaska and into America where they multiplied and populated the continent. A map showing the directions that man started there journey
San Bushmen Australian Aborigine Siberian Chukchi Indian Turkish Kasakh Navajo Indian
David Keyes is a writer and historian who is intrigued by a catastrophe that changed history. Tree rings start research into a catastrophe that happened in the mid 6th century and lasted for a decade. This catastrophe laid the foundations for the way that we live today In the year 535 or 536 the tree rings show very little growth indicating bad growing conditions. The first suspect is either a meteorite or comet hitting the earth at that time but this is ruled out because no crater has been found that indicates that this happened. Ice cores show that there was a lot of volcanic activity at this time and that the volcano Krakatoa erupted and played a big role in the beginning of the dark ages. Environmental changes wrought by this explosion were the cause of plague and fall of the Roman Empire as well as the rise of Islam.
Professor Jared Diamond spent 30 years researching why there is a difference in the wealth between the European and Aboriginal peoples of the world. In the last centuries since the countries of Europe discovered the new world, they were under the impression that they were somehow genetically superior to others. This is not true, Diamond discovered that the people of New Guiney are just as smart as the people of Europe, so why then are the Europeans so much more technically advanced. Diamond’s theory is that because the resources that the people in Europe enjoyed were much more plentiful and because the geography of Europe is East - West orientated meaning that crops and animals will thrive when migrating along the same line of latitude and that ideas can be spread much faster and easier than on continents that are North South orientated and that have natural barriers such as high mountains and wide rivers. Farming is a much more productive way of creating enough food needed so that some people can specialize, creating things that can allow a civilization to develop
Because the people of Europe and Asia were able to specialize they were able to develop things like iron tools and swords. Domestic animals also gave the people of Europe and Asia an advantage because domesticating animals gave them a better food supply and their skins could be used for clothes . Domestic animals also brought diseases such as small pox and influenza which caused epidemics for the people of Europe, but it also made them immune to these germs When the Spanish discovered America they brought with them their guns, and steel and also their germs. A case of small pox on one of the ships caused an epidemic and wherever they went the local populations had been decimated and were no match for the Spaniards. Diamond concludes that geography plays a very big part in whether a country has much “cargo” of not. This is the answer he has for a Yali a man he met on the beach in New Guinea who asked “Why you white men have so much cargo and we New Guineans have so little”
In the year 1492 Columbus made landfall in the unknown continent known today as South America. Other explorers came after him to explore North America He brought horses, cattle, and European plants to this new world. Horses had not been seen in the Americas in 10,000 years but after Columbus brought them, those that escaped their masters flourished and changed the world of the local people. Crops were also brought from the New World to the Old. One of these was the potato. This root grew well in places where it was difficult to grow crops and became the food of the poor. It enabled people to survive and flourish. Potatoes also allowed the populations of Germany, Russia, Ireland and many others to grow and eventually caused a migration to the New World and this created the modern pluralistic United States. Sugar Cane is another crop brought to the New World and this caused African slaves to be brought too. Much of the trade and modern globalization was brought about by Columbus’s voyages of discovery and the goods that were transplanted from one place to another.