07 November 2006


It’s not just animals that early humans – our ancestors – slaughtered, making many of them extinct. They killed rival human species too. There is a point of view that several weaker human species perished in the hands of more robust superior humans, becoming totally extinct. Some, of course, fled to distant regions, living isolated lives, limiting or slowing down their evolutionary growth.

The victors evolved progressively, moving from living in natural sites such as rock shelters and caves for temporary refuge to forests where they learnt to build primitive huts from branches of trees and settle down in tribes/communities. Animals found in the forests in their wild state provided basic food – both milk and meat. Some species of birds provided eggs and meat as well. Those living near rivers or the sea learnt to catch and eat fish and turtles. Most food was eaten raw, but, with the discovery of fire some 20,000 years ago (I’m not sure about this date), roasting of meat became common practice.

Social and economic management came into practice as well, with division of labour and barter systems enabling smooth functioning of the overall tribe/community. Different people were allotted and participated in different tasks, ensuring that the entire tribe/community benefited from their collective effort. For instance, while the men hunted animals for food, the women gathered fruits and grains near their settlements. At this time, an important economic discovery was made: early man learnt to store goods for future use, thereby creating the concept and the value of ‘surplus’.

Technology, apart from fire, was still limited to stone tools and the improvement of this technology – the creation and use of better and better stone tools – is really what defined human evolution. The stone tool was no longer just a weapon for protection and hunting, but began to be used for cutting, chopping, axing, cleaving, carving, boring, drilling, pounding, grinding… the applications were numerous. Many more tasks could be performed with these new stone tools, and along with tools made from animal/human bones, our ancestors were not only superior, but virtually unconquerable.

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