THE EMERGENCE OF HOMO SAPIENS AND THEIR CULTURES
CHAPTER OUTLINE The Transition from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens Neandertals and Other Definite Homo sapiens Middle Paleolithic Cultures The Emergence of Modern Humans Upper Paleolithic Cultures The Earliest Humans and Their Cultures in the New World
THE TRANSITION FROM HOMO ERECTUSTO HOMO SAPIENS Most anthropologists agree that Homo erectus began to evolve into Homo sapiens after about 500,000 years ago. But there is disagreement about how and where the transition occurred. The mixed traits of the transitional fossils include large cranial capacities , together with low foreheads and large brow ridges, which are characteristic of H. erectus specimens. The earliest definite H. sapiens, which did not look completely like modern humans, appeared about 160,000 years ago. Homo sapiens have been found in many parts of the Old World – in Africa as Asia as well as in Europe. Some of these H. sapiens may have lived earlier than the Neandertals of Europe.
According to these anthropologists, H. erectus and H. sapiens may just be earlier and later varieties of the same species and therefore all should be called H. sapiens
NEANDERTALS AND OTHER DEFINITE HOMOSAPIENS In 1856, three years before Darwin’s publication of The Origin of Species, a skullcap and other fossilized bones were discovered in a cave in the Neander Valley (tal is the German word for “valley”), near Dusseldorf, Germany. The fossils in the Neander Valley were the first that scholars could tentatively consider as an early hominid.
His bone structure reveals that he had a large brain, even though his low forehead, jutting jaw, and receding chin made him look as much like an ape as a man. He was short and stooped and had powerful arms. Neanderthal man sought shelter in caves. Neandertals have also been found in southwestern Asia (Israel, Iraq) and Central Asia (Uzbekistan). One of the largest collections of Neandertal fossils comes from Shanidar Cave in the mountains of northeastern Iraq, where Ralph Solecki unearthed the skeletons of nine individuals.
MIDDLE PALEOLITHIC CULTURES The period of cultural history associated with the Neandertals is traditionally called the Middle Paleolithic in Europe and the Near East and dates from about 300,000 years ago to about 400,000 years ago. The tool assemblages from this period are generally referred to as Mousterian in Europe and the Near East and as post-Acheulian in Africa.
TOOL ASSEMBLAGES A Mousterian tool assemblage has a smaller proportion of large core tools such as hand axes and cleavers and a bigger proportion of small flake tools such as scrapers. The post-Acheulian in Africa is the oldest cultural remains in one of the caves may date back 120,000 years. These earliest tools include parallel-sided flake blades , pointed flakes , burins or gravers , and scrapers.
HOMESITES Most of the excavated Middle Paleolithic homesites in Europe and the Near East are located in caves and rock shelters.
GETTING FOOD How early Homo sapiens got their food probably varied with their environment. The tundra and alpine animals included reindeer, bison, wild oxen, horses, mammoths, rhinoceroses, and deer, as well as bears, wolves, and foxes. Some European sites have also yielded bird and fish remains.
FUNERAL RITUALS Some Neandertals were deliberately buried. At Le Moustier, the skeleton of a boy 15 or 16 years old was found with a beautifully fashioned stone ax near his hand. Near Le Moustier, graves of five other children and two adults, apparently interred together in a family plot, were discovered. These finds, along with one at Shanidar Cave in Iraq, have aroused speculation about the possibility of funeral rituals.
THE EMERGENCE OF MODERN HUMANS Cro-Magnon humans, who appear in western Europe about 35,000 years ago, were once thought to be the earliest specimens of modern humans, or Homo sapiens sapiens. The Cro-Magnons are named after the rock shelter in France where they were first found in 1868. Modern man in Europe, known as Cro-Magnon, was a handsome six-footer with a broad face, a high, intelligent forehead, and a square chin. He stood straight as men now do. Cro-Magnon man took over the caves of the extinct Neanderthal man hunted the same animals.
The most remarkable accomplishments of Cro- Magnon man were his paintings, which can still be seen on the walls of dark caves in France and Northern Spain. Cro-Magnon man also fashioned small stone figures of animals and humans and learned to decorate his weapons by carving designs in the handles. With bone needles, he sewed clothing out of animal hides. He probably had a larger vocabulary than Neanderthal man. Language gave him an enormous advantage over animals because he could convey all his own knowledge and experiences to succeeding generations.
THEORIES ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF MODERNHUMANS Single-origin theory Suggests that modern humans emerged in just one part of the Old World and then spread to other parts, replacing Neandertals and other premodern Homo sapiens. Multiregional theory Suggests that modern humans evolved in various parts of the Old World after Homo erectus spread out of Africa.
DATING SKELETAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICALREMAINS OF MODERN HUMANS Radiocarbon dating Is a reliable method for dating remains up to 50,000 years old. It is based on the principle that all living matter possesses a certain amount of a radioactive form of carbon. Uranium-series dating The decay of two kinds of uranium, U and U, into another isotopes has also proved useful for dating Homo sapiens sites, particularly in caves where stalagmites and other calcite formations form.
Thermoluminescence dating Many minerals emit light when they are heated, even before they become red hot. This cold light comes from the release under heat of “outside” electrons trapped in the crystal structure. Thermoluminescence dating makes use of the principle that if an object is heated at some point to a high temperature, as when clay is baked to form a pot, it will release all the trapped electrons it held previously. Electron spin resonance dating Is a technique that, like thermoluminescence dating, measures trapped electrons from surrounding radioactive material. By the method in this case is different. The material to be dated is exposed to varying magnetic fields, and a spectrum of the microwaves absorbed by the tested material is obtained.
DNA EVIDENCE AND THE “OUT-OF-AFRICA”THEORY OF MODERN HUMANS ORIGINS Molecular biology now has entered another paleoanthropological debate-this time about the origin of modern-looking humans. On the basis of comparisons of mitochondrial DNA in various populations of living humans, molecular biologists generally support the “out-of-Africa” theory-the view that modern-looking humans emerged first in Africa and then spread through-out the world, replacing premodern Homo sapiens.
UPPER PALEOLITHIC CULTURES The period of cultural history in Europe , the Near East, and Asia known as the Upper Paleolithic dates from about 40,000 years ago to the period known as the Mesolithic. To simplify terminology, we use the term Upper Paleolithic in referring to culture evolution toward modern-looking traits in various regions of the world.
HOMESITES As was the case in the known Middle Paleolithic sites, most of the Upper Paleolithic remains that have been excavated were situated in caves and rock shelters. In southwestern France, some groups seem to have paved parts of the floor of the shelter with stones. Tentlike structures were built in some caves, apparently to keep out the cold. Some open-air sites have also been excavated.
TOOLS: NEW TECHNIQUE Upper Paleolithic toolmaking appears to have had its roots in the Mousterian and post-Acheulian traditions, because flake tools are found in many Upper Paleolithic sites. But the Upper Paleolithic is characterized by a preponderance of blades; there were also burins, bone and antler tools, and microliths. In addition, two new techniques of toolmaking appeared, indirect percussion and pressure flaking.
Indirect percussion Using a hammer-struck punch was commonly used in the Upper Paleolithic. After shaping a core into a pyramid or cylindrical form, the toolmaker put a punch of antler or wood or another hard material into position and struck it with a hammer. Pressure flaking Also appeared during the Upper Paleolithic. Rather than using percussion to strike off flakes as in previous technologies, pressure flaking works by employing pressure with a bone, wood, or antler tool at the edge of the tool to remove small flakes. Pressure flaking would usually be used in the final stages of retouching a tool.
HOW WERE THE TOOLS USED? To observe the manner in which similar tools are used by members of recent or contemporary societies, preferably societies with subsistence activities and environments similar to those of the ancient toolmakers. This method of study is called reasoning from ethnographic analogy. To compare the visible and microscopic wear marks on the prehistoric tools with the wear marks on similar tools made and experimentally used by contemporary researchers. The idea behind this approach is that different uses leave different wear marks. The tools made Upper Paleolithic people suggest that they were much more effective hunters and fishers than their predecessors.
ART The earliest discovered traces of art are beads and carvings, and then paintings, from Upper Paleolithic sites. We might expect that early artistic efforts were crude, but the cave paintings of Spain and southern France show a marked degree of skill. Peter Ucko and Andree Rosenfeld identified three principal locations of paintings in the caves of western Europe:(1) In obviously inhabited rock shelters and cave entrances, art as decoration or “art for art’s sake”;(2) In “galleries” immediately off the inhabited areas of caves; and(3) Whose difficulty of access has been interpreted by some as a sign that magical-religious activities were performed there.
Thus, the paintings are consistent with the idea that “the art is related to the importance of hunting in the economy of Upper Paleolithic people.” In addition, figurines representing the human female in exaggerated form have been found at Upper Paleolithic sites. Called Venuses, these figurines portray women with broad hips and large breasts and abdomens. It has been suggested that the figurines were an ideal type or an expression of a desire for fertility.
THE EARLIEST HUMANS AND THEIRCULTURES IN THE NEW WORLD Only Homo sapiens remains have been found in the New World. The prevailing opinion is that humans migrated to the New World over a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska in the area of what is now the Bering Strait. The prevailing view until recently was that humans were not present south of Alaska until after 11,500 years ago. Now it appears from an archaeological site called Monte Verde in Chile that modern humans got to southern South America by at least 12,500 years ago, and perhaps as much as 33,000 years ago.
SOURCE:International Edition 9thAnthropology-Carol R. Ember & Melvin Ember