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and the roots of community

Mody started a writing topic on History of Humanity, 19 Jul 2002

I like to know the history of humanity on this planet. So I am always interested in reading about the species that came before humans. I have some information about them.

One of the species was the Neanderthals. They lived about 300.000 years ago but they perished 30000 years ago. They lived in Europe. Some scientists think that they were not humans because they had different bodies than ours. They had bigger brains than ours. The form of their faces was different. The form of their DNA was also different.

Some scientists say that they were idiots. They were wild. They ate human meat. They could not talk together. So they could not build a society. But the newest searches proved that they were intelligent; scientists were able to prove that after they saw the strong and complex stuff that Neanderthals hunted with. Scientists also proved that Neanderthals had feelings just like us as scientists saw a grave which had inside it a man, two women and a child and that was decorated with flowers. Scientists saw also some injuries that got better. That means that Neanderthals took care of each other. Therefore, they lived in a society.

I am convinced with scientists what about you?

Susanne responds, 31 July 2002

Prehistoric mankind is a very interesting topic, and truly enough, scientists are still not sure how to interpret the traces found. Were the Neanderthals living in communities, could they communicate, were they cannibals or did they share our cultural taboos? One author who has become extremely popular on writing about prehistory fiction, is Jean Auel. Her books are maybe not very exact seen from a scientific viewpoint, but they do add to my imagination, curiosity and awareness of how life might have been thousands of years ago.

Have any of you read any books by Jean Auel? The day I had the invitation by our new member, Mody to think about this, I was visiting a friend with a good bookshelf - and she was eagerly reading the last tome of the Children of Earth series newly translated into Danish. So I borrowed and started to read the first one, called Cave Bear's Clan. I read it many years ago and was especially fond of the rich description of how they used edible and medical plants, how they hunted and prepared their food and tools.

By now, I am even more aware of the cultural gap between the Neanderthal tribal clan and their adopted child, Ayla, who was born from a more recent human species, and found by the medicine woman Iza, after a dramatic earth quake where Ayla's real parents were killed. Although she is brought up by the clan from the age of five, Ayla has not learnt too well the local cultural inhibitions, as she is expected to act as a humble and subordinated woman, and as she grows up, this becomes a danger to her life in the clan. I cannot go to sleep before I read the next chapter in this amazing novel, as I've always been a true book addict!

Phil Benz responds, 26 August 2002

Actually, it's called "Clan of the Cave Bear". I've got the whole series, and last time I looked a few years ago, there were several very active discussion lists & forums around this series.

I became particularly interested in paleolithic culture after the discovery a few years ago of the Chauvet cave here in the Ardèche. The dating of the Chauvet cave, in some caases going back over 30,000 years, completely upsets everything we thought we knew about the early history of art, it'll be years & years before anyone dares speak about dating by comparative stylistics in parietal art again!

Just catching up on some of my summer backlog of email, and couldn't let this one slip by.

Cheers, --- Phil

Susanne responds, 31 July 2002

Hi Phil,

welcome back from holiday.

Glad to hear that you're also a fan of jean Auel. I am currently on the third book, about the Mammoth people, and I spend a lot of time reading every day because it is so very interesting. The author seem to have made lots of research about ways of survival and community, and it is intriguingly well told as a personal history, fiction but still well composed and highly relevant to understand our actual world situation relating to cultural and tribal tensions.

I do remember you told us about your interest in the local Chauvet cave and that the findings were dated back to 30.000 years before our time - that is amazing.


Vance responds, 30 August 2002

I suppose my own contribution was to add 'roots of community' to the title. Moby's original contention was that Neanderthals appeared to have lived in a society, and responses from Susanne and Phil followed that up with mention of fiction based on research into prehistoric societies. Phil also mentioned his interest in the real Chauvet cave and its prehistoric paintings, which has an interesting web site. (Can you provide its url Phil?)

So to relate this to Webheads, it seems that humans and their predecessors have seen benefits to forming communities and found ways to communicate in those communities and leave records for over 30,000 years (by Phil's reckoning). Do you think these people in Chauvet cave were the first Webheads?

Phil likes this topic, 31 August 2002

Vance Stevens wrote:
> Moby's original contention was that Neanderthals appeared to have
> lived in a society,

Not only did they live in society, they had music (bone flutes have been discovered) clothing and they buried their dead. Some researchers have suggested that there is fossil evidence for speech, that seems the least we can conclude based on the other evidence.

Homo Neandertalensis disappeared in western Europe between 35,000 and 28,000 BP. Anatomically modern humans arrived sometime around 40,000 BP. At least some of the Chauvet cave paintings date back to at least 30,000 to 33,000 BP, so who knows? Neanderthals could even conceivably been the artists of some of the Chauvet rock art.

Some specialists suggest that any distinction between neanderthals and modern humans is an artificial one, and that there is evidence for continuity between the two clads. IMHO, the last word on this isn't in.

Jean Auel proposed a highly imagination, hypothetical model for the essential differences between the two clads and the two cultures. Physical evidence to date stops far short of this model, but doesn't contradict it as such. Things *could* have happened in just the was Auel describes, the mise en scene seems very plausible. It is very entertaining and reassuring to suppose that they did.

Cheers, --- Phil

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