Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

1.17 Anatomical Modern Humans (AMHs)

As said before, sign language is an extension of body language, intended for communicating names for things.. Not just the hands and fingers play their role, but also the arms, facial expressions, and posture and movements of the body as a whole. In early humans’ emotional and dramatic performances, this body language function merged into a kind of dancing which over time became more and more ritualized. One of the essential features of dancing has always been the repetitive movements, which (just like walking, jogging or playing sentry-go) release endorphins. As such, it serves as one of our uncertainty-allaying mechanisms.

As for singing, I already mentioned how our ANBOs probably were very communicative animals, screeching emotionally all day long just like present-day bonobos. From the beginning, vocal sounds accompanied their gestured communication. Besides the screeches that were beyond conscious control (being driven from the limbic system) there probably evolved a more intentional application of conscious (cortical driven) sounds like [puffs] and [clicks] and [mmms], to support the communicating of still primarily gestured names for things. Such non-vocal sounds proved useful in the dark, too[1].

In the dancing-singing of the Creation Story, the cortical control gradually emerged over many generations: in line with Steven Mithen[2] we assume that the Neanderthals were indeed ‘singing Neanderthals’ and as a humanosophers we assume that their earlier Early People were already ‘singing’. Be it that we in ‘singing Neanderthals’ and ‘Early People’ we imagine women in the first place.

More scholars assume that the AMHs (Anatomical Modern Humans) were the first real speakers to communicate with spoken names, and that for the AMHs gestures were reduced to an accompanying role. In a relative short time during the great migrations, these AMH descendants of the African early humans replaced earlier humans wherever they showed up. These Anatomical Modern Humans are our nearest ancestors: every human today is an AMH.

Now what made these first AMHs so special? A genetic mutation, says Richard Klein of Stanford University.[3] Other paleos do not agree, but they do not offer a satisfying answer on the question either. Sure is that (apart from anatomical differences) the AMHs in Africa were culturally quite different from all earlier humans. Unlike their predecessors, they used bone, antler and ivory to make fish hooks and harpoons. For the first time in human history, they also relied on sea food: their camp sites were characterized by shell middens.

Scratchings on ochre from Blombos cave

At the South African Blombos cave some chunks of ochre were found that were marked with cross-hatched scratches 70,000 years ago. Researchers view this as art or even a primitive form of script, but we believe that these scratches were made to ease the scraping of ochre powder from the chunk (one can see earlier scratches under the fresh scratches). Most of the chunks are without scratches; it can be the particular property of one woman do it in this way. For communicative engravings limestone slabs would be far more adequate.

Anyway, the research of Richard Klein[4] shows how the AMHs hunted buffaloes with more sophisticated weapons.

Still the question remains: why did AMHs develop this new behavior, while the Early Humans did not? We have our own humanosophic hypothesis.

Communicating with only one’s mouth and without further body language makes lying more easy. When trying to lie with sign language, you have to keep too much nerves of your body under control (and the person you are trying to deceive, will already be closely watching your body language). The others will see more easily that you are lying. Even in today’s sign language for the deaf, lying is much more difficult than in spoken language[5]. But when you communicate primarily by sounds, you can lie with only a ‘poker face’.

Of course the AMHs didn’t lie every day. But the fact that they could so when needed, may have made them a tiny little bit more self-confident and individualistic. This growing inner confidence made them a little more flexible, a little less restricted to rigid traditions. In the early human mindset, thus far mainly formed by traditions and rituals, tradition and truth were two closely related concepts. Once people became aware they were able to lie (to deviate from truth) this may have made them, by inference, more aware of the possibility to deviate from tradition as well.
Eventually this made them more inventive. Unlike their conservative[6] Neanderthal counterparts, the AMHs began to manufacture new kinds of hunting weapons (such as fish harpoons and fish hooks) from other material than the traditional stone: bone, antler and ivory. These helped them to open a new food niche which until then was not being used by other early humans: the water world.

Maybe we overplay our hands with this theory about the effect of the new spoken communication. One may also simply ascribe the transition from Early Human to AMH to the fact that the AMH ancestors in the glacial period of extreme dryness were forced to search for alternative food sources – which they found at the coast, in lakes and in rivers. Therefore they became coastline dwellers, adapting to feeding on shells and other water animals. The oldest harpoons, found at Katanda, date from 90,000 years ago; the beads, used as jewelry, found at Blombos cave, are from 75,000 years ago.

Christopher Hensilwood says: “There’s more and more evidence that they could fish and hunt large mammals, and that they were making fine bone tools. When our ancestors left Africa, they were already modern, already thinking and behaving in many senses the way we do today.”[7]

However, this still leaves the question open why these Early Humans were able to make these ‘modern’ changes, and why this did not happen earlier than some 70.000 years ago.

Their extra nutritional niche: mollusks, fish and other water animals, enabled them to feed larger groups. The groups of the Early Humans numbered around 25 people; those of the AMHs could number around 100-150 people.
In a small group, new ideas may find not enough support and die away, while in a larger group new ideas may easily find at least some followers.
Furthermore: as a consequence of better nutrition, the number of AMH-groups also increased, which in turn caused more inter-group exchange of goods and ideas over larger areas.
Hensilwood[8] points out the increase in population of modern humans, and how this easily explains both the new, modern behavior that lead to the ‘Out of Africa’-migrations, and the “creative explosion” that took place around 45,000 years ago in Europe. But the question why these Early Humans managed to achieve this, and why it did not happen earlier than some 70.000 years ago, is still waiting for a scientific answer.

Vocal communicating – just by larynx and mouth – must have had “a strange effect on” an Early Human: making her a tiny little bit more individualistic, a tiny little bit more independent from traditional thinking. Yes, I see this as a female attainment again — for the still-gesturing men this may have been a female foolishness, too weird and unreliable to use it in their ritual prayers to the Big Ancestor before hunting. Women had a leading share in the daily danced-singing of the Creation Story, but also in the allaying and charming and medicating of illness. I think the first shamans were mostly women.[9] So initially, the sophisticating of traditional sign language with ever more meaningful vocalizations may have been primarily a female concern. Again a women’s habit as the beginning of a cultural evolutionary development.

AMH-behavior: the conquest of the water world with fish harpoons and fish hooks, and the explosive growth of their group size (number of huts) and the numbers of their groups, may have flourished around 120.000 years ago. Also the consequences from this behavior: increasing population and perhaps some population stress, resulting in the first Out of Africa II movement.

This first emigration wave (we could name it OoAII-A) not only let his traces in Skhul and Qafzeh (dated around 100.000 years ago if not earlier) but also the first AMH-groups arriving in Australia some 70.000 years ago. The AMHs bred like rabbits.

  1. The dark … for the Early Humans we have to consider their very sharp vision; even the slightest light was enough for them to see in the dark
  2. Steven Mithen Singing Neanderthals (2006) proposes the term Hmmmm for the pre-linguistic system of communication used by Early Humans: an acronym for Holistic (non-compositional), Manipulative (utterances are commands or suggestions, not descriptive statements), Multi-modal (acoustic as well as gestural and mimetic), Musical, end Mimetic.
  3. A friendly but rather negative review of his (and science writer Blake Edgar’s) book The Dawn of Human Culture (2002), including his theory that spoken language was the result of a genetic mutation, immediately followed by a cultural ‘big bang’, has been written by Derek Bickerton in Scientific American Sept. 2002, “A Bare-Bones Account of Human Evolution”. The review ends: “The likeliest conclusion is that language as we know it arose most probably through some fusion of preexisting capacities, around the time our species originated more than 100,000 years ago. Precisely how this happened remains one of the great unsolved scientific problems. Unfortunately, Klein and Edgar don’t bring its solution any nearer.”
  4. He discovered that the Early Humans from the Klasies River caves concentrated on eland—large antelopes—instead of the more dangerous buffaloes, although buffaloes probably outnumbered eland in the local environment. In more recent sites, by contrast, buffalo bones dominate those of eland. “Something happened after 50,000 years ago that allowed people to hunt buffaloes.” (Klein, R. G. & Cruz-Uribe, K. (1984) The Analysis of Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago).
  5. We remember the reactions of American deaf people on a speech of Ronald Reagan: they saw he was lying.
  6. We were in the excavation site Veldwezelt-Hezerwater (Belgium): two Neanderthal campsites, one from 130.000 ya and another from 34.000 ya. On the question: is there difference in stone technology? was the answer: not at all!
  7. National Geographic News, April 15, 2004
  8. Christopher S. Hensilwood is a Research Professor at the Institute for Human Evolution, University of the Witwatersrand. With Francesco d’Errico e.a. he excavated the Blombos cave (near Cape Town, SA) and found ornament shell beads from 75,000 years old. So 5000 years older than the engraved ochre chunks mentioned before.
  9. Remnants of this tradition can still be found in several aboriginal cultures, for example in Siberia; see also the work of Mircea Eliade.

1.21 Out of Africa II-B

About 60,000 years ago, the African coastal mussel bank people crossed the red Sea at the Strait of Bab el Mandab. 50,000 ya they left the Arabian peninsula and entered Europe ans Asia. Presumably in several waves.

The OoA II-B dispersal of the AMHs
(the big red spot in Africa may not have been more than a series red dots on the coasts …)

The mussel bank people had a slightly lighter skin color and were not frizzy, like the negritos of OoA II-A, but had straight hair.

With their ‘modern’ mentality, their better armaments and their larger groups, they pushed aside the negritos to jungles and other less attractive regions.
They would later be replaced by the even more ‘modern’ Aryans, a savage horse folk from around the Black Sea.
The mussel bank AMHs of OoA II-B would become dalits, at least in India, with its hopeless caste system.
May the free market economy finally bring salvation there.

The musselbank people also entered Europe, inhabited until then by Neanderthals only, around 45,000 years ago. Europe seemed largely empty: Neanderthals lived in very isolated little groups.
As Early Humans, the Neanderthals  now got being confronted with a totally different kind of humans: black, numerous, noisy, sort of aliens, with their high foreheads, their protruding chin and their flattened backskull.  In addition, they were armed with farther reaching spears (and maybe wolves!).  And they didn’t react on your gestured communication.
So you could better avoid confrontations and move into an area where they not appeared.
The musselbank AMHs seldom encountered a Neanderthal, they mostly stumbled on an abandoned camp or cave of them.

By 35,000 years ago, the AMHs had populated most of the Old World and the Neanderthals were retreated into mountain strongholds in Croatia, the Iberian Peninsula, the Crimea and elsewhere. Their groups became isolated from each other, suffered ever more from inbreeding and would extinct some 30,000 years ago.

Finally, around 15,000 years ago, AMH humans crossed from Asia to North America and from there to South America. The white regions on the map above  is territory that was never been tread by humans before.

1.24 Overpopulation

The first indication of overpopulation (accompanied by the start of wars and male dominance) in European AMHs may date from the onset of a cold period of OIS-2[1] about 35.000 years ago. Hunting territories shrunk, groups were driven together in the southern refugia. The cave paintings of Chauvet and elsewhere may be seen as male initiation sanctuaries: as places for secluded male rituals, separated from the women.

At the same time, female rituals became more concentrated on the growing importance of food plants like peas and lentils, the boons of Mother Earth to whom they gave thanks by choosing the most beautiful peas, beans, and grains and giving them back. And see, the Mother Earth gave them many more of those beautiful specimens in the following season. This is the beginning of the ‘sacrifice’, of which the men would later develop much more violent forms.

Venus figurines such as the Willendorf statuette.
And they worshiped Mother Earth in a multitude of “Venus statuettes,” which stand out for their lavish shapes while remaining headless. For women it was not about worshiping a woman but about fertility.

In other regions, the women limited to a simple stone as statue of Mother Earth, around which they danced / sang to beg her fertility of plants or sheep and goats. They always danced / sang naked,  to not offend Mother Earth with the clothing in which they had committed their sins.
In Arabia, these were often large stones in certain sacred places. This is also how the Kaaba of Muslims in Mecca started.

Many paleos wonder why the AMHs in Europe developed brilliant cave paintings and Venus statuettes (the ‘Upper Paleolithic Revolution’), while those living in Africa for much longer did not produce that many art works. For example, archaeologist Richard G. Klein theorizes about some brain-related gene mutation leading through symbolic language to symbolic art.
The question about Klein’s ‘Upper Paleolithic Revolution’ is: where has it be gone after the end of the LGM[2]? The Magdalenian reindeer hunters followed the reindeer tracks into evermore northern tundra regions, forgetting the cave paintings of their ancestors!

For the next page of the ‘Upper Paleolithic Revolution’ we have to look elsewhere: to the Levant.

We think there is a more simple explanation: technological inventions may have been fostered by a colder climate, where in a long icy winter (when people lived mainly from food gathered in autumn) for males there was less to do. This may be corroborated when we compare the technological activities of Inuit gatherer-hunters with African gatherer-hunters such as the San. Also in artistic activity such as rock art, San people are less masterfully than the cave painters of Southern France[3].

About 16.000 years ago, it was the time of beginning horticulture. In regions of Eurasia with a high density of long-houses (the combined huts or shabonos of semi nomadic horticulturers) the wild tribes with struggles for survival arose. War makes males important.

But on a more fundamental level, it was only the situation that had changed (war), not the males or the women themselves. So the males had to suppress their incertitude, to allay their own doubts: they declared their newly-won importance holy. A deep incertitude of the males made a new phenomenon a necessary: a constant denigration of female abilities. Present-day religious fundamentalists still display this primitive incertitude, by isolating and over-protecting their wives, by limiting female freedom of action or clothing or by demonizing love affairs or abortions.

A good question is: was male dominance not a legacy of the early AMHs? Was their immigration Out of Africa not a result of overpopulation? Even the most egalitarian tribes like the Mbuti (Congo) know a certain degree of male dominance. So when you say male dominance may be very old, I agree. For example, as we can see at chimpanzees, male dominance may always have been a strategy to cope with situations of overpopulation and/or competition. Both peacefulness and a warrior-attitude have always been strategies to cope with specific environmental challenges. For most of human history, a predominantly peaceful way of living was the most successful way to interact with the environment. When about 20,000 years ago overpopulation started to become an environmental factor, gradually a warrior-like style of living became the more successful attitude.

Here is an narration about horticulturers, already forty years in my memory, so I have forgotten the source. It is from a visitor (or missionary ?) and I retell it in my own words:

Oh what a noble people, so respectful for each other and for their children! So much better humans than we in our western civilization!
One day men learned that strangers were roaming in the north of the territory. So they had to go down there. Perhaps whiteman would like to come along? Oh yes, sure, whiteman was always ready to learn some new.
They stalked the camp of the strangers. It appeared that the men were hunting and the women gathering, so they found only old people and children in the camp. All of them were slaughtered ruthlessly. A desperate girl crawled to the petrified on looking visitor for help. “Oh, you want to fuck her, whiteman?” asked a helpful Indian, “wait a moment”–and he pushed his spear through the girl’s body into the ground.[4]

I understood that this crime did not make them any less noble. There was no government for them to steer things in. It was a matter of survival: with this primitive economy only 1 group can live from 1 food area.

This event accurately reflects the recent reports of prehistoric mass slaughtering in Kenya[5] 10.000 ya, a 7.000 ya massacre near Frankfurt (Germany)[6] and a 4.000 ya from the Middle Copper Age in Croatia.

This reports caused great enthusiasm in some cultural pessimistic professors. For us they confirmed once again the consequences of overpopulation in the recent past.

From these stage 2-reaction events we may conclude that humans are very social, but only to those they see as fellow humans. For the prehistoric horticulturers, the strangers were not fellow humans. Not even humans. To them, these others were rather a form of harmful wildlife that you need to destroy. They didn’t have a government yet to regulate things.
Even the Arab tribes in the beginning of the Islam still lacked a government; the Islam of Mohammed was an attempt to civilize the wild tribes.

In any threatening situation, humans fall back into mode 2 of our human nature.
Today we still see the same behavior in AGR-societies such as Rwanda. In a civilization, such behavior can be revived by ideological indoctrination and can happen even when the supposed threat is in fact an imaginary one, such as the Japanese (the Nanking massacre) or the German civilization (Holocaust). In the just-mentioned cases, the Tutsi, the Chinese, the Jews were not a real threat, but ideological indoctrination had caused them to be felt as a threat. In a sense, such indoctrination created an imaginary overpopulation situation.

  1. Marine isotope stages (MIS), marine oxygen-isotope stages, or oxygen isotope stages (OIS), are alternating warm and cool periods in the Earth’s paleoclimate, deduced from oxygen isotope data reflecting temperature curves derived from data from deep sea core samples.
  2. Last Glacial Maximum
  3. December 2001 we visited the Cave de la Marche, one of the many caves on the river La Marche, near the south- French Lussac le Chateau. In 1937 the owner discovered that the sandstone tiles with which the small cave was filled to the brim had served as ‘slates’ for practicing drawing. They date from 1420 BC and thus from the Magdalenian. After wiping the slab with a mixture of ocher and fat, the student could start a new drawing. Many drawings also contain caricatures! The many overlapping lines of each drawing are reconstructed with the microscope. It is now clear how the cave painters of Lascaux and Chauvet could become so competent.
  4. Surely not from Jesuit Relations, field letters from the missionary priests, published for two hundred years beginning in the early 17th century as a fundraising tool. Because the Jesuits found their own civilization superior, and urged the native men to beat their children and to suppress their women
  5. Science News, January 21, 2016
  6. Science News, January 21, 2016
    Anthropol. Anz. 74/2 (2017)
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Used abbreviations

GHs: gatherers/hunters (the phase from 2 million years ago to 10.000 years ago)

AGRs: agriculturers (the phase from 10.000 years ago till now)

NT(s)Neanderthal people

MSA(s): Middle Stone Age people (African NTs)

AMH(s): Anatomical Modern Humans (H sapiens people), like we are

(m)ya: (million) years ago

ANBOs: Ancestor Bonobos (ape-men), our earliest human ancestors

Paleos: all scientists that are important for our story.