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The evolution of humans over time

lundi 8 août 2011 par Joëlle Mirabaud

TPE européen par DOREAU Jessica et SIEGFRIED Pauline.

Homo sapiens are a vast specie composed of two different subspecies called Homo neandertalensis (or Neandertals) and Homo sapiens sapiens (also named Cro-magnon and Moderns). They were born in 200.000BC and they both had the same ancestor : Homo erectus.
Neandertal appeared for the first time in Europe and Cro-magnon in Africa. Then, they extended their territory throughout the world but they never lived together. Little by little, they evolved until the Neandertals disappeared in about -27.500.

Under what conditions did these two tribes used to live in ?
How did they make use of nature and elements in order to evolve and survive ?

Actually, there are similarities in their standard of living. However, they are genetically and physically different. Once Neanderthals had disappeared off the face of the earth, Cro-magnon fought to survive so as to become what we are nowadays.

I. Homo sapiens’adventure begins :
The Homo Erectus gave birth to two species, who quickly learnt how to lead their lives in this new world. These two tribes didn’t know each other, however they had almost the same living conditions. The adventure of sapiens can begin...

1) Protecting oneself in a hostile environment :
Unlike the way Neanderthals sheltered in caves or tents, Cro-magnon men dwelled in different homes they had usually built themselves. These shelters changed according to the season.
In summer, the tribes followed animal herds. They lived in tents and moved from place to place. Life was more exciting since they discovered lots of new land where they could taste new food. They made cool clothes from woven grass and bark (it possibly included trousers or tunics), and different sorts of necklaces and bracelets made out of shells, teeth, feather, flowers and bones. As winter approached, they returned back to their warm shelters. Usually, they even had to chase out some animals that had moved in during their absence. In winter, they protected themselves in rock shelters, caves and huts. In order to face storms, these two tribes built huts as resistant as possible. They were made from branches and usually mammoth’bones and sometimes covered with animal skins. Sapiens invented the adze, which was composed of polished stone and a handle made out of wood in order to dig into the ground. Like axes, it was used to cut down trees in order to build huts or to clean the ground.
Firstly, they dug holes deep into the ground so that they could insert poles. Then, these poles were tied tightly together at the top of the hut, with string made from animal guts. Warm furs were laid and sewn over it. They finally piled large rocks and wood around the bottom to support if. They also made fires so that they wouldn’t suffer from the cold.
Some huts were built in order to shelter a large group of people. That’s why it had several entrances with different rooms inside. Many villages were thus formed. They were composed of these permanent homes, in which sapiens spent their time together, and helped each other to support the long and harsh winter.
During that season, they learnt to soften leather to make comfortable and warmer clothes. The sapiens would sew it with string from animal guts, using needles made of bone or ivory. In the same way, they also created warm boots.
Homo sapiens were used to living this way but building shelters and making clothes were not their main activities. They spent most of their time doing something much more important...

2) Hunting for food :
Sapiens were excellent hunters, gatherers and fishermen. They caught fishes in rivers, gathered shellfishes and shells on the beach or berries in the forest, in addition to animals they hunted.
According to which season it was, they travelled throughout various areas and hunted different animals like horses, wolves, mammoths, lynx, deers, chamois, ibexes or reindeers.
To make their weapons, sapiens chose the fittest flint’s fragments they could find. Then they took large and thick blades in a flint to get chisels and scrapers, which were necessary for the making of animals’skins.
On top of that, they invented knives, assagaises and finally propellers increasing the arm’s power to throw for away.
They could also reach their preys faster and with more power thanks to cudgels and javelins.
Sapiens hunted in little groups. This kind of activity, known as the collective hunting, gathered all the hunters who came from several families. They pursued an isolated animal and then killed it. They also managed to encircle wild beasts in large numbers and drove them in a blind alley to choose the prey tney wanted to kill. It was generally the weakest one.
In cold areas, meat was preserved in holes underneath the ground. Then, meat could be grilled, smouldered under ashes, cooked on hot stones or boiled in hot water. Sapiens pilfered eggs in nests, or collected roots, berries and nuts to feed. Farmers also cut knives in stones in order to gather grains. They invented the mortar to grind it. In their kitchens, sapiens had a useful object which was a pot made from earthenware. It permitted them to preserve food, grains and animal milk. Sapiens did not abandon their main activity since from now on, hunting was practised with bows.
Though hunting and cooking were their main activity, theydid not forget to divert themselves during their free time.

3) Expressing oneself with art :
Cro-magnon men painted mostly on rock walls in caves. When you read "cave" you might think of a huge and dark place, with high ceilings. However, it was not really like that. Actually, they had to walk through narrow and dark tunnels, with only a light of a torch or a spoon like oil lamp. On the way, they carried the paints they had carefully prepared. They made it with mineral pigments such as red iron oxide or black manganese. Most of the time, the early men painted figures of people (hunters) and animals (mammoths, horses, buffalos, rhinoceros...). Perhaps they believed that by capturing the figures on the cave walls, they would have power and control over the animals.
They were able to represent some situations of their daily lives, for instance : red deers figthing, horses galopping, 1 hunting or people dancing (cave of Lascaux)
We can also find some stencils of hands. There were two kinds of hand. Firstly, they put their hand on the wall and they blew pigments on it. So the hand became colourless, it was called "the negative hand".
Secondly, they put their hand into a bath of colour and applied it on the wall, this "positive hand" was the most unusual technique.
Putting their hand on the cave walls was certainly a way to sign their art. There were many ways of applying colours to the wall, for instance : with the help of fingers, animals’ fur, bones or wood.
As weil as jewellery, they also created pottery and sculptures, first sculptures appeared in Europe. The sculpture was made of clay, bones or ivory, represented different animals such as bears, felines, wolves or mammoths.
One of them represented a woman named Venus by pre-historians. She was always represented naked, short, with a little head and with beautiful feminine attributes. They were probably important symbols to these sapiens’ tribes and maybe evoked elements linked to females such as fertility or matriarchy.
Why did these humons feel the need to create such magnificent images on the walls of the caves ?
What significance did it have on their beliefs and lifestyles ?
All this suggests that cave paintings could have also been a way for the Cro-magnons to express their needs, fears, and religious values.
But what were their beliefs and their religious values ?

4) Living in the afterlife : first beliefs and first butials :
For the first time, the Modern men (Cro-Magnon) accomplished an amazing thing they probably had never done before, they buried their dead. The first reason for this behaviour was certainly to protect bodies from animals who wanted to eat them, but it was not the only explanation. Several graves were discovered with some of the deads’objects, drawings and paintings on walls or clothes made for the occasion, useful and pleasant considerations for those who had departed.
Neandertals had funeral practises too. Their graves were discovered but they were very different from those belonging to the sapiens : ail the objects didn’t seem to be part of the funeral furniture. It probably arrived there accidentally. Tools and animals’bones were displaced by the grounds’movements. We can deduce that the neanderthals didn’t organize a ceremony as part of the funeral.
Magic and religion spread (graves and rituals testified to the existance of myths). Even if religion didn’t imply beliefs in one or several gods, they believed in two main gods : "the goddess-mother" who symbolized fertility and "bull god" who represented virility.
Each of these two species who were convinced that they were the only humons on earth, would soon meet each other and discover that there were differences between them.

II. One specie leaves the world, the pther one stsrts a new life
Although these two tribes shared the same standard of living, their physical characteristics were unsimilar (since they never mingled their genes). As far as we are concerned, we may believe that those differences might have been one of the causes that lead the disappearance of one of the two species.

1) Neanderthal VS cro-magnon :
This part focuses on the different physical features of each tribe. Below, comparisons between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon are highlighted.
Unlike Modern Humans, Neanderthals had distinct physical and morphological traits. Firstly, their bone structure was different. Indeed, Neanderthals were larger and smaller in sile (l,60m compared to l,70 or l,80m for Cro-Magnon), and had longer lower legs. They also had long collar bones, short shinbones and calf bones, and large kneecaps... There is no doubt that the shape of the pelvis of the two tribes was different. Another important characteristic to specialize them, Neanderthals were considerably more muscular. Moreover, their stature and skeleton were typically much more robust and broader, which was thought to be an adaptation to Europe’s cold climate.
It is now obvious that the bodies of Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon were not similar, but what about their face ? Actually, they had very distinct morphological features, especially the head. Let’s take a look at the two skulls of each human more precisely.
The Cro-Magnon’s skull is relatively shorter, more compact, and the forehead rounder and higher. The slope of the forehead for the Cro-Magnon is nearly vertical, whereas the slope for the Neanderthals is lower. Cro-Magnon’s face is much less elongated thon the Neanderthals, that have a low and flot one. They both have a very large and very heavy brow on the frontal region of their skulls, though Cro-Magnon has a slightly smaller brow.
The Modern Human has less prominent brow-ridges, which are lacking in the Modern’s photograph contrary to Neanderthal’s one, where they are large and pronounced. We can also notice that the Neanderthal has a (broad) projecting nose and cheek bones, which is different from Cro-Magnon. The Neanderthal’s cranium is also characterized by an "occipital bun", which is a protuberance of the occipital bone. It is absent in the Cro-Magnon.
Finally, it is important to know that Neanderthals had slightly greater cranial capacities, wich were between 1200 and 1700 cm3, than Modern Humans (around 1400 cm3), that is to say they were more intelligent than Cro-Magnon.
We can observe that Cro-Magnon had smaller teeth, even if there was no groove on Neanderthal’s canine teeth. What’s more, a space behind the last molars of Neanderthals could be noticed.

Some of those physical differences may have been one of the causes that possibly made the Neanderthals disappear. We can imagine that Neanderthals were not strong enough to face and even stop the Cro-Magnon who extended their territory ; or to develop other new hunting strategies.
In fact, many hypotheses- can me proposed. Let’s see now what happened exactly to these two tribes.

2) Neanderthal disapears while cro-magnon continues his expansion :
During several centuries, the two tribes evolved separately. They never met until the day when the hunger obliged them to leave their territory and to venture in new lands.
How did they meet ?
Neanderthals split up in the West of Eurasia where there were hard living conditions. Two worlds connected by a slight earth strip between Mediterranean Sea and the desert. This foot-bridge, Cro- Magnon crossed it following his African preys which migrated at the time of a climatic warming-up around -130.000years. Later, the cold pushed towards the south, the northern fauna followed by the Neandertaliens hun !ers. Thus, it is only around -100.000years that the two human species met in the middle east during a face to face. It was a real shock. On the one hand, Cro-Magnon, tall and thin men with dark skin, who were acclimatized to the heat ; on the other hand, Neanderthal, little and dull men with a skill more clear, adapted to the cold.
40.000years ago, Modern Men that came from East Africa, arrived in Europe. The Neanderthal population already lived there when suddenly, several tribes of Cro-Magnon landed. This invasion spread out on several millenniums.
Most pre-historians think that the shock between the two hominids was mainly cultural and that it didn’t lead to a general conflict.
Was Neanderthal inspired by Modern man’s know-how adapting it to his needs or did he evolve in an independent way ?
Did the cohabitation lead to the loss of ifs own culture in aid of another which was unfamiliar ?
The question is not clear-cut ; but we are sure that Neanderthal’s story ended at that moment, whereas Cro-Magnon continued his expansion throughout the world and developed other cultures.
Neanderthal disappeared about - 27.500years because of an unknown reason. Cro-Magnon survived and multiplied. This opposite destiny can be explained by the adoption of different strategies : instead of wandering, the Modern Man preferred organising collections and exploiting more rationally their environment’s resources.
When he appeared, the Modern Man wasn’t the only representative of the mankind. However, little by little the other man passed away. Nowadays, it represents the last human specie. There is no doubt about it, Cro-Magnon has been settled on our planet for a long time. From now on, he will control it and will even succeed to leave it in order to explore a new territory, which was, until then inaccessible : the Moon.
But will Modern Man be wise enough to preserve the environment in which he was born in around 150.000years ago, somewhere near Africa ?
Today, the specie of Modern Men is the only one who still exists. We are all Homo sapiens sapiens like Cro Magnon.

Throughout this project, we have studied in details the Homo sapiens’way of life and their evolution over time. We especially focused on two tribes, the Neanderthals and the Cro-Magnon who were physically and genetically different. We emphasized that, after all, there were similarities in there daily life, since they used the same shelters to protect themselves, the same tools, clothes...
We have also explained that Neanderthal passed away after they had met Cro-Magnon, and we’ve tried to know the reasons of this diseappering when we put forward some hypotheses.
Finally, Cro-magnon is the only one who is still alive, he succeeded in facing all the dangers and situations of life. He has been evolving for more than one hundred thousand years so as to become who we are nowadays.

- book "Homo sapiens", written from the movie of Jacques Malaterre (France 3)

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