03 November 2006

A lazy man's approach

In the halls of history, anthropology and archaeology, there’s a debate raging over similarities between recent societies and past civilisations, taking discussions all the way back to the evolution of human beings. Who are we? Where do we come from? Are there links between colonies of cavemen and present societies?

It seems, finding answers to questions on whether we, today, bear any resemblance to our ancestors living thousands of years ago is turning out to be more difficult than expected. Especially from an archaeological point of view, since archaeology has to provide hard evidence to justify every theory.

Much to the disappointment of archaeologists, many colonies belonging to our Stone Age (or even earlier) ancestors may have developed into metropolitan cities of today, thereby denying them opportunities for archaeological digs and discoveries. And so, thanks to progress and development, a great deal of valuable evidence of our past may be lost forever.

There are theories on how colonies were formed, growing from a simple gathering of nomadic hunter-gatherers to groups of human dwellings to full settlements, which bear resemblance to immigrant movements and lifestyles of today. In one theory, based on analysis of bone chemistry of skeletons excavated from archaeological sites, archaeologists have found that many of our ancestors may have been lazy – practising a sedentary lifestyle.

From dietary patterns, research has found that early humans had given up their foraging lifestyle, trekking across vast landscapes as hunter-gatherers, to settle down to a quieter life in areas which were rich in resources. After all, the trek and the hunt were in search of ‘resources’, fairly similar to immigrant populations of today in search of 'resources' leading to a better life.

With these early humans, soon settlement patterns became fixed; specialisations over local resources developed into common tasks and professions; daily routine became lifestyle. As long as the settlement did not run out of resources, there was no need to move. Over thousands of years, settlements such as these slowly developed into cities.

It’s interesting to note how a lazy man’s approach to life may have actually created great civilisations of today.

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