“Scientists have long been curious about the cultural lives of the first Homo sapiens to inhabit the lands to the immediate north of Australia sometime prior to 50,000 years ago — part of the great movement of our species out of Africa,” Associate Professor Brumm says, “Some have argued that Pleistocene human culture declined in sophistication as Homo sapiens ventured beyond India into the Southeast Asian tropics and the island chains east of continental Eurasia, known as ‘Wallacea’. “However, the onset of new research programs in Wallacea is steadily dismantling this view.” Adding to the 2014 breakthrough discovery of 40,000-year-old cave art on the Wallacean island of Sulawesi, which is said to be some of the world’s oldest, is a unique assemblage of previously unknown symbolic objects excavated from a Sulawesi cave site called Leang Bulu Bettue.
The Etruscan civilization flourished in central Italy between the 8th and 3rd century BCE. The culture was renowned in antiquity for its rich mineral resources and as a major Mediterranean trading power. Much of its culture and even history was either obliterated or assimilated into that of its conqueror, Rome. Nevertheless, surviving Etruscan tombs, their contents and their wall paintings, as well as the Roman adoption of certain Etruscan clothing, religious practices, and architecture, are convincing testament to the great prosperity and significant contribution to Mediterranean culture achieved by Italy’s first great civilization.
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Neanderthals are an extinct group of fossil humans that appeared in Western Eurasia in the mid-Middle Pleistocene. They shared the stage with the first modern humans arriving in Europe from around 45,000 years ago, before disappearing from the fossil record between c. 40,000 – c. 30,000 years ago. Neanderthals were a highly successful group, having adapted well to the unpredictable climate of a region in which advancing and retreating ice sheets were no strangers. Their short, stocky build made them sturdy and powerful, while their large brains fuelled their capability of hunting even the biggest Ice Age creatures such as mammoths or woolly rhinoceros.
We – modern humans – are tied to Neanderthals in many ways, from sharing a common ancestor down the line, back in Africa, to coexisting in Europe for some time. There, the two must have competed for resources, but are also known to have interbred with each other, causing the Neanderthals to have had a genetic impact on us still visible in our DNA today.
Homo heidelbergensis is an extinct species of human that is identified in both Africa and western Eurasia from roughly 700,000 years ago onwards until around 200,000 years ago – fitting snugly within the Middle Pleistocene. Named for a piece of jawbone found near Heidelberg, Germany, these hominins occupy an intriguing and much-discussed spot in the jumble of human evolution; they are most commonly seen to have developed from Homo erectus and to have given rise to Homo sapiens in Africa and to the Neanderthals in Europe. However, exactly how or why (and even if) this happened, is the subject of much debate, and the same goes for the precise definition of this species – for instance, which fossils should be included and which should not.
Following the general view, though, Homo heidelbergensis is recognised as a distinct species that was a bit more brainy and inventive than its predecessors; fairly complex tools are associated with them, allowing us to catch a glimpse of possibly quite daring hunting strategies involving larger prey animals, which hints at the potential presence of social cooperation.
Whenever we think of famous revolutions, the two that normally pop into our heads are the French and American Revolutions, mostly because they are responsible for the political and intellectual landscape that dominates the world today. Both of these revolutions are also credited for ensuring that every person enjoys comparative freedom and liberty. But neither of those two revolutions or indeed any other revolution would have been able to take place, if not for the one that truly changed the world beyond all reckoning, the Neolithic revolution.
Starting from around 12,000 years ago, human beings made their first conscious attempts to both control and adapt natural evolution to suit their own needs. It started with the beginnings of what we now call farming, the artificial breeding of animals and the intensive growing of particular plants, or crops, for food.
When does human history begin? If we seek help from anthropology, then we find that the first animals of the homininans appeared in Africa around 6 million years ago and the first Homo sapiens appeared 600,000 to 200,000 years ago, also in Africa. From this perspective, we are all descendants of mother Africa. The dates of this first appearance the sequence of species that arose over time is a constant state of flux as scientists uncover new fossil evidence.
The earliest homininan is australopithecus whose mind and biology may have been very similar to the modern bonobo ape. Australopithecus are found only in Africa.
Since the emergence of Homo erectus 2 million years ago, humans remained hunter-gatherers till 10,000 years ago. During this long period of 2 million years, humans learned to tame fire, hunt, make better stone tools, and explore new territories. Homo erectus originated in Africa and scattered around other continents. The dispersal of Homo erectus was not a result of mass migrations, it was a slow process which happened over thousands of years as small bands shifted to new territories. It must have taken such a band to reach China from Africa 20,000 years. Homo erectus evolved into various other Homo species at different places, for example, it evolved into Neanderthals in Europe. In Africa, it evolved into Homo sapiens around 200,000 years ago.
Understanding our ancient ancestors may help us better address health risks today.
By understanding more about these prehistoric people, we can learn about who we are as a species today. Our ancestors’ experiences shaped us, and they may still hold answers to some of our current health problems, from diabetes to depression.
We don’t know how many species of humans there have been, how many different races of people, but the evidence suggests that around 600,000 years ago one species emerged in Africa that used fire, made simple tools from stones and animal bones, and hunted big animals in large cooperative groups. And 500,000 years ago, these humans, known as Homo heidelbergensis, began to take advantage of fluctuating climate changes that regularly greened the African continent, and spread into Europe and beyond.
Scientists have begun to identify the symphony of biological triggers that powered the extraordinary expansion of the human brain.
Fossils established the Brain Boom as fact. But they tell us next to nothing about how and why the human brain grew so large so quickly. There are plenty of theories, of course, especially regarding why: increasingly complex social networks, a culture built around tool use and collaboration, the challenge of adapting to a mercurial and often harsh climate — any or all of these evolutionary pressures could have selected for bigger brains.
Although these possibilities are fascinating, they are extremely difficult to test. In the last eight years, however, scientists have started to answer the “how” of human brain expansion — that is, the question of how the supersizing happened on a cellular level and how human physiology reconfigured itself to accommodate a dramatically enlarged and energy-guzzling brain. “It was all speculation up until now, but we finally have the tools to really get some traction,” said Gregory Wray, an evolutionary biologist at Duke University. “What kinds of mutations occurred, and what did they do? We’re starting to get answers and a deeper appreciation for just how complicated this process was.”
Tacit knowledge, or knowledge that is inarticulate or unarticulated, lies at the heart of all cultural life, and is exercised in dull and repetitive activities that constitute the heart of daily existence. It seems without much character or importance, but this is precisely why tacit knowledge can be the unruly trickster in culture. Inarticulate actions based on tacit understandings of cultural possibilities can bypass discursive reality, trouble cultural categories and elaborate cultural imaginaries that are not captured in words. It is knowledge that is never quite enough, always addressing emergent problems that are not finally solved but worked around. We know from the social construction of reality that social actions are not set in stone and can be transformative, but we also know that thought can be constrained within regimes of discursive common sense. Inarticulate repetitive actions that on the surface seem mindless can actually facilitate shifts in culture by following their own material logics and imaginaries beyond discursive common sense, becoming what Deleuze calls repetitions that make a difference. Improvisatory social activity can provide escape routes from discursive regimes and make possible new social constructions of reality. The routine breakdowns and absurdities of mute, everyday cultural practices, demonstrating the limits of common sense, can encourage people to improvise new actions that break with recognized discourse (like the Occupy movement or Arab Spring). Participants respond to political ideas that feel wrong or dishonest by exploring practices of participation that feel