Ancient Humans. Prehistoric ancestors to us modern humans who have advanced from hunting with spears and rocks and clubs to hunting online for the best food deals at fancy restaurants and advice on how to match whatever steak or prime rib to the perfect wine. We went from approaching the hottest cavewoman (or caveman…I mean homo sapiens is only one word away from homosexual) near a waterfall in the gorgeous jungle (never mind the fact that it’s probably loaded with leeches, mosquitos, and other nasty bugs that totally bust the romance) to swiping right on our phones. Our Boss went from Ugh-Nug the burly to Steve the lardy-tardy (who’s fat and never on time).
That’s how much we’ve changed. But despite the stereotypes that we all got fed from media (which surprisingly are drawing from rather old and extremely specific sources. Seriously, you need to watch When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth. That movie is like the only prehistoric fantasy movie you ever really need to see) ancient humans were not like that. Their lives weren’t silly or whimsical, but they sure as all heck weren’t boring.
Ancient Humans might have lived in superbly primitive conditions, but they weren’t stupid. You couldn’t be if every single day was a struggle to survive, gather food (while not becoming food yourself to some large beast), and to be able to find safe water and plants to eat needed some serious skill and intelligence. Ditto for making tools. There were no stores or professional craftsmen in those days, you had to make EVERYTHING on your own.
So what are some of the really interesting things about our ancient ancestors that we would find bizarre to think about as modern humans? Well, let’s delve deep into 15 such facts that are sure to spark your imagination.
15. Ancient Humans Spoke Just Fine. Thank You.
So what did ancient humans speak? Or more importantly, HOW did they speak. “Aaarggh! Me noh ike twouhna feesh, me lik sahmoon” was a conversation that happened in a tribe of stone age fishermen? Or did they just grunt and mumble at one another, relying primarily on body language like animals? Surely the movies with their primitive and simplistic speech couldn’t be too far off?
Actually no, ancient humans, at least going back to the Neanderthals or even earlier, would have spoken much in the same way we would today. No butchery of language that is frequently depicted in media. They did not mumble or speak in weird ways, but they appear to have been speaking as we do as early as 100,000 years ago. So I’m guessing they also had more sophisticated ways to describe cutting up mammoth for food and fun.
14. We’re The Only Ones Left
So we all know that homo sapiens are the last known species of homo (don’t laugh, that’s our actual genus name), and we all know that Neanderthals were a cousin of ours… but little do people realize that we, as humans, actually had quite a lot of relative species of humanity, and while some have gone extinct and evolved into what we are today, we are basically like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh… we’re the only ones, or the last ones left.
In some cases, we don’t fully know why that’s even the case. Neanderthals might have been fully assimilated into humanity (it is well known that most humans do have Neanderthal DNA), but we also uncovered other human species, like the those found in Denisova, which existed around the same time our species arrived…but there are just none left. It makes you wonder if some lesser developed human species still existed. How would they be treated by us? How would we interact with them? Would they find their way to the internet and start trolling people on reddit with cat memes or something.
13. We Mated With More Than Just Neanderthals
So I mentioned the Denisova people, a distinct species of humans that was discovered in 2010… and guess what? It seems that our ancestors took a liking to each other and decided to get it on (which to be honest is a far, far better alternative than shooting each other or having stupid arguments over what to watch for next Saturday’s movie fest… you KNOW who you are!), and thus we don’t just carry Neanderthal DNA, but we also are confirmed to carry Denisovan DNA, too. The only exception to this are Africans, the ones who stayed in Africa and didn’t have the chance to meet the Denisovan people, who lived in Siberia.
This makes you wonder just what would happen if we were as sexually liberated today. Imagine meeting an entirely different group of people and your first reaction is to have a massive swingers party, which seemed to be how so many ancient humans interacted with one around.
12. Poop Is A Valuable Tool…For Cavemen and Archaeologists
So this is going to sound pretty crappy…but when looking at ancient humans, sometimes their poo is a fascinating subject. Not ones to take crap people, archaeologists and paleontologists often end up examining more than fossilized bones, but fossilized fecal matter to learn some pretty interesting facts about ancient humans.
Known formally as coprolites, they have often been used to tell one ancient human culture from another. While not prehistoric, this was used to track what kind of lifestyle some tribes did in South America from the years 5 to 1170 AD, finding out which tribes were fishermen or which ones had agrarian cultures. Also it has been used to tell us exactly what cave people did in various places around the world really ate. Don’t be fooled by the Paleo diet, if a stone age couple came alive today, they’d totally dig what we have in the supermarkets (but we would need to explain the concept of money to them).
11. We Lost Our Hair Due To Bad Hygiene
Have you ever wondered why we humans have so little hair compared to most species? Well it seems like something that nature decided to do on a whim, but it actually turns out that we might have evolved to do that because ancient humans couldn’t be too bothered to clean themselves, and having a light bit of hair on their bodies actually protected them against body lice from other species.
It’s also interesting that this little evolutionary choice our species made is possibly the reason why we have such a wide variety of skin colors, from very black to very pale, to pinkish-white and other colors…simple exposure to sunlight over the course of who knows how many years has triggered the amount of melanin in our skin.
Our ancestor’s bad hygiene would also have necessitated the need for creating things like clothes and…fire, without which we would not have civilization (cloth does more than just cover our bodies. Think of where we WOULDN’T be without canvas sails).
10. Human Bipedal Motion was for Fighting
So one other thing, other than little body hair, we also are the only species to really walk on two legs. I mean land-bound creatures. Birds obviously walk on two legs, but even their means of locomotion just isn’t the same. Why are we the only species to do this? Think of the logistics and physics of walking on two legs. It’s actually rather amazing when you think about it, the little balancing game we play with our bodies and just how effortlessly we do it.
So why did we end up evolving this way? Well for all the jokes I made about humans just wanting to mate, it seems like our mode of movement was actually a way that ancient humans tried in order to fight one another more effectively.
It makes sense when you look at how a lot of other species fight one another. Rabbits, dogs, horses, cats, etc, all seem to just want to stand up and smack each other around. We don’t need to put any effort into that, since we’re already on our feet most of the time. What a bummer cause for a great way to move.
9. Our Ability To Throw Was Oddly Specific
Other than the odd turd-throwing monkey, we humans have one extremely unique ability that no other species really has anything close to. Are you ready? It’s… throwing. It might seem odd, but homo sapiens (more on that later) are the only species to really get the idea of picking up a rock and throwing it at something we don’t like or we want to kill so we can eat it. No other species of human even had that ability.
This includes Neanderthals, BTW. We actually have evidence to show that Neanderthals actually preferred to charge up to their prey and brutally attack them. Their short, stocky stature giving them a great advantage in that arena, but the simple act of throwing a spear at that deer…or building a spear, or a bow and arrow, or (by evolution) a gun, to take something out at a distance was just amazing.
8. We Have No Idea How Ancient Humans REALLY Looked Like
So we all have this idea of how stone age humans looked like. Hairy, ape-like faces, with jutting jowls, sloped foreheads, and large, brutish noses. What else could they have looked like, I mean that’s how they show them in museums and every single book on the matter.
But as it turns out, none of this true. Even with fossil evidence, we actually have no idea how your typical ancient human looked like. They could have made them with Roman noses and East Asian eyes and it would be just as valid. So put that in mind before you imagine a world with primitive humans looking…well…primitive.
7. There Is A Real Adam And Eve…Sorta
So it goes that God created Adam and Eve and then we have the whole human species from them. That’s a very simplistic way of looking at it, and it could not possibly have been real, could it? I mean it is just impossible… until you realize that it sort of, could of actually have happened in a rather strange turn of phrase.
You see, very early humans had amazingly little genetic diversity, which is actually a pretty bad thing since a single bad bug could have ended up wiping out all our ancestors. This started around 75,000 BC with the Toba Catastrophe Theory, in which a super volcano near Lake Toba (the eruption actually caused the lake to form) unleashed so much hell on earth that it wiped out many, many species and caused a lot of genetic bottlenecks in the survivors.
We don’t know how many of our ancestors survived this disaster, but it is estimated that only 3,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs of humans survived. When you realize that there are 7 billion people alive today, those 3 or 10 thousand people might as well have been Adam and Eve for all of us, with some scientists even using them as genetic markers for people from that time.
6. Human Genetic Origins In Africa Show An Interesting Fact…
So despite the near extinction of humanity, the bounce back is amazing, but what is even more amazing is just how much diversity in human DNA there is out there… and how almost all of it is still in Africa. People in Europe (sometimes including non-European immigrants) show a remarkable amount of genetic homogeneity, ditto for many Asian groups (albeit a lot less), but Africa has so much genetic diversity that if you wanted to use ‘race’ as a marker there would be hundreds of human races. If you boiled them down to 10 ‘races’ then roughly around 7 of them would be African.
The reason? Since humanity originated in Africa, and only relatively few humans left, it stands to reason that most human genetic diversity stayed there. Though it’s still also interesting that humans have more differences in genetics among their own group than they do with different groups.
5. Spears Invented by…Autistic Cave people
So spears are among the most important tools ever made by early humans. They can be thrown at deer, thrown at predators, used for stabbing said creatures, used for spear fishing, and they can be used (unfortunately) to stab other humans. But what was the thought process that went into making a spear? Or even the flint spearheads they used to fasten into their long sticks to give them that advantageous reach?
As it turned out, it seems that there is some serious speculation that autism might have had something to do with it. Given the knack of many autistic kids to perform repetitious and stereotyped actions to a lot of things (in one case, a boy who just scrapes the coating off pencils) that the whole process to make sharp flints by smacking them until they chipped off and discovered they could make a sharp edge, and even to stacking that edge on a stick was the work of autistic cavemen. Seems like autism wasn’t simply responsible behind producing so many awkward geniuses, but even made sure we GOT to the awkward genius phase to begin with.
4. Beautiful Cave Paintings Were Done By Women
The cave paintings in France are one of the most famous cave paintings ever found. The sheer amount of detail that is contained in them is remarkable, and if you ever came in there with just a burning torch or oil lantern, shining the light on the paintings in a certain way or sequence, it could result in a minor illusion of animation from the illustration. So not only were they among the first paintings we know, but they are almost among the first (if not THE first) attempts at animation as well.
So what caveman painted them? Well, for starters…it likely wasn’t a caveMAN but a caveWOMAN that did it. The reason for this? It seems that an overlooked part of the cave has a human hand imprinted, possibly as a sort of signature from the person who painted the whole place to begin with, and the hand appears to be female. So it seems that the first ever ‘you go girl’ moment happened far before the 1960s, or farther back than we could possibly have known.
3. Apparently, We Started Out With One Culture…
So we know that after the volcanic kaboom that nearly ended our existence before we even started, and just how we managed to build up such a massive number of our own species on planet earth since then. With such a diversity of languages and cultures, how could we ever really get along? Well… it seems really bizarre, but just as our genetic diversity was tiny in that dark part of our prehistory, it seems our cultural diversity was just as tiny, and from that tiny bit also exploded the sheer amount of diversity that we have today in our world.
2. Apparently Ancient Humans Sailed The Pacific
So ancient humans in the far, far past could not have possessed great seafaring technology. I mean when humans went from Siberia to North America, they did so over the large frozen land bridge that was there, before it melted and halted all further human movement for many thousands of years. Actually this isn’t true in the slightest.
It seems that human migration that went to North America didn’t do so over one singular migration, but over several, and those many pacific islands that exist? Apparently Disney’s Moana wasn’t kidding when they showed a bunch of people sailing the seas to those islands in their boats. Because they didn’t get to the Hawaiian Islands by swimming there. Heck, many might have settled there by coming across them in their journey to North America. The extent of the ingenuity of ancient humans is just amazing. Think about how little we know about HOW they did it with the technology they had available.
1. They Sailed The Indian Ocean, Too
So not only did Ancient Humans sail the Pacific Ocean, but they also sailed the Indian Ocean as well. Even during the ice age, the waters around Australia and Indonesia were not frozen, and no major landmass existed for them to walk continuously over them. The distances were too far to see from one landmass to another, which means that they needed some form of navigation and big interest in exploration, even among very early humans, if only for finding new hunting grounds. I’m guessing we need to keep it up, and we might end up colonizing the ex-planet Pluto one day.
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