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A look at the biological and cultural development of humans through evolution

Chapter 8 Human Cultural Evolution Self-preservation, reproduction and greed are biological imperatives. They arose from millions and billions of years of biological evolution. They are as much a part of human life as any other life on earth. However, humans are not just biological creatures. We are also social creatures, the most social on earth. The ways we deal with each other, from personal to international relationships, can have as much an influence on our behavior as our instinctive reactions.

But our societies and cultures did not spring like Athena, full-grown, from the forehead of Zeus.

  • The Miocene Epoch was characterized by major global climatic changes that led to more seasonal conditions with increasingly colder winters north of the Equator;
  • Chapter 8 Human Cultural Evolution Self-preservation, reproduction and greed are biological imperatives;
  • However, there is a difference in magnitude between a rock and a sharp-edged, well-balanced spearpoint when hunting;
  • In any case, they probably used and then discarded such tools on the spot.

They grew and developed during millions of years of cultural evolution. And the closer our primate ancestors approached being human, the less biological evolution influenced our behavior, and the more cultural evolution took over. This does not mean that biological evolution ended. On the contrary, it remained as important as ever. It simply altered direction. The emerging human body evolved to fit its ecological niche, to survive as a living creature. The emerging human mind now evolved to fit its cultural niche, to survive as a social creature.

Leakey, 1978 We can never know for certain about our primate predecessors' cultural evolution. Unlike bone and stone, culture doesn't fossilize. Nevertheless, it is possible to make educated guesses.

We can start with some assumptions: We have all the characteristics of biological creatures, such as genes, chromosomes, DNA and RNA, cellular structure, etc. When presented with environmental problems such as lack of air, food or water, we die, just like other organisms.

The archeological record shows alterations in human structure and behavior although often the last is an educated guess as the environment, according to geological evidence, changed. Genes guide how a body develops; bodies develop to cope with the conditions in its environmental niche; we are 99.

  • Getting back to why women are better with language with men;
  • Though there is no consensus among experts, the primates suggested include Kenyapithecus, Griphopithecus, Dryopithecus , Graecopithecus Ouranopithecus , Samburupithecus, Sahelanthropus, and Orrorin;
  • In addition, there is safety in numbers.

Sagan, 1992 It is reasonable to assume we, at one time, lived lives similar to chimpanzees'. As Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan say in Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, "If we want to understand ourselves by examining other beings, chimps are a good place to start. It is the last that is important to an examination of human cultural evolution, how humans became human, how we evolved from an early ape into ourselves.

Chimpanzees live a comparatively relaxed life: It is the latter, the difference in how chimps and protohumans gathered food, that caused a great break between them.

Leakey, 1978 Chimps and other apes eat plant foods when and where they find them. They don't gather them or share them -- each ape feeds rherself.

Striding through the Pliocene

The other chimps gather around, "asking" for a share. Whichever chimp brings it in shares it however rhe wishes. It is probable that protohumans did the same thing with meat. It is how protohumans handled plant foods that differs from other apes. Instead of an individual foraging for rherself and eating what rhe finds on the spot, protohumans began gathering the food and bringing it back to a central area. Here they shared it among the other members of the band.

Why would protohumans change the way they handled food from what is obviously a perfectly acceptable method for chimpanzees? The answer probably lies in the environment in which the protohumans found themselves.

  • They need little if any training from their elders;
  • He didn't need such acute hearing or smell, fine color discrimination, an ability to detect subtle nuances in expressions, since none of these were necessary for hunting;
  • Thus, the complex social life led to complex thought, which led to complex communication, which complicated the social life, requiring more complex thought, which need complex communication skills;
  • The first two, a fine sense of spatial relationships and geometry, are necessary for efficient hunting;
  • A division of labor also arose in that gathering of food;
  • In any case, they probably used and then discarded such tools on the spot.

Chimpanzees inhabit tropical-zone forests where plant food is near at hand. It's so near they need merely stretch out and grab it. The search or food is more for favorites than for needs. Chimps live in an environment where resources are relatively abundant. Protohumans changed their way of dealing with food.

Since they did so, it must have been in adaptation to their environment to improve their ability to survive. The most logical reason for a change in the pattern of "eat what comes to hand" would be a lack of food that came to hand. That is, the protohuman must have evolved in a marginal environment, one in which food was scarce or difficult to gather. This led to a basic change in the relationships between the members and the social life of the band.

This was probably an adjustment to the band living in these marginal conditions. Where resources are abundant, there is no need for cooperation. An individual can get what rhe needs on rher own.

In marginal conditions, a cooperative group can do a better job than individuals in exploiting what resources there are.

Human evolution

A division of labor also arose in that gathering of food. The males gathered the meat supply. At first they were probably scavengers, finding animals that had died or predators had killed, since they were too small, weak and harmless 2 to have much success as hunters. However, as cultural evolution continued, cooperation overcame those limitations, leading to a greater hunting ability, much as chimpanzees do today. This division of labor made sense because of the biological need to reproduce and the obligations imposed by that need.

The females, being the ones with the biologically dictated responsibility of bearing and rearing the young, were probably often burdened with them. Thus, females would find hunting difficult, since it undoubtedly involved traveling long distances and maintaining silence on a stalk, both hard to achieve with an infant along.

In addition, there are dangers on a hunt, particularly for a small primate that can change from predator to prey in an instant.

The female is biologically more valuable than the male: Biologically, the male's only purpose is to aid the female in reproducing. Gould, 1983 He can't do that without her although she can -- some species can reproduce parthenogenically i.

Thus, the death of a female is a greater blow to a species' survival than the death of even many males. It makes little genetic sense to place so valuable a member of a species in harm's way. However, there is little of hunting's dangers in foraging for plants -- it's hard to imagine being pummeled to death by a rampaging cucumber.

Thus, it is sensible for the females in the band to do this job, while the males do the hunting.

  1. What he would evolve are a better sense of spatial relationships, geometry, ballistics, and an ability to concentrate his attention on the task at hand to the exclusion of distractions. Moir, 1989; Tannen, 1991 Each of these differences arises from how the brain works, both in perception and response to that perception.
  2. This is not surprising, since in humans the feet must support and propel the entire body on their own instead of sharing the load with the forelimbs. This was probably an adjustment to the band living in these marginal conditions.
  3. The last three, ballistics, touch and manual dexterity, are a result of the gradual evolution of the protohuman male to the human man.
  4. Finally, someone saw how accident shaped the stones or bones or antlers, and tried to do it rherself.

The division of labor allowed the group to better exploit its niche see Chapter Three for a discussion of the niche. When each animal is foraging only for itself, it must personally find all its needs. In an environment where this isn't possible, some animals will find enough and others will fail read, die. However, dividing the labor in such marginal conditions allows each animal to gather what it can, rather than what it needs. If it falls short of what it personally needs, it gets the rest from the surplus others have found.

Thus, males that fail in their hunt can still eat what the females have gathered. When the males succeed, all gain from the concentrated nourishment that meat provides, 4 and can save the plant food for more lean times.

The division of labor led to two things.

Background and beginnings in the Miocene

The first was the camp. Most apes are constantly on the move, following the food supply, foraging as they go. Wherever evening overtakes them, they stop for the night. With abundant resources, there is no need to scavenge everything in an area to survive: However, sharing food requires a central place to which the animals can return to do the sharing.

Such a place, a camp, serves two purposes. First, it is a convenient place where all the members of the band know the others will eventually be, particularly the males who may be gone for hours or even days on their hunts. This also makes it easier to share the food found.

Second, it allows the band to better exploit its range. The members of the band can radiate out from the camp in different directions every day, eventually covering the entire area.

  1. However, once the play starts, it's every man for himself, moving and reacting in the way he thinks will best carry out his team's objective; no one gives orders. The coach sends the play in.
  2. Gould, 1983 He can't do that without her although she can -- some species can reproduce parthenogenically i. And carrying a child would make any such pursuit difficult if not impossible, anyway.
  3. Human beings stand with fully extended hip and knee joints, such that the thighbones are aligned with their respective leg bones to form continuous vertical columns. At this point I would like to explore some of the effects on social relationships that arose from the camp and the mutual dependence of the sexes.
  4. They don't gather them or share them -- each ape feeds rherself. Dryopithecus is best known from western and central Europe, where it lived from 13 to possibly 8 mya.

When, after a few days, the band has exhausted the area, they can move on and find a new camp. The third effect of the division of labor was each gender depending on the other for survival. Although the females could have lived exclusively on vegetation as vegetarians do todaythe greater concentration of nutrition in meat would benefit both the females and their young.

The males, of course, probably couldn't survive on an exclusively meat diet. Many primates are omnivorous, and depend on plant foods for vitamins and minerals that meat alone doesn't provide.

Although the males could have gathered plant foods to fill their nutritional needs, this would have lessened the effectiveness of the group in exploiting their niche. In addition, hunting and scavenging are not always successful.

Thus, the males depended on what the females gathered, while the females and their young benefitted from what the males gathered, leading to a much closer relationship between all members of the group. The two effects of dividing food-gathering labor, the camp and the dependence of the sexes on each other beyond reproduction, were the first great steps toward modern human culture. Sharing of resources and its concomitant division of labor led to a divergence in both the biological and cultural evolution of the sexes.

Evidence shows that women are more group-oriented in their activities than men, while men are more individualistic; that women's senses are generally sharper than men's; that women are more language oriented than men, while men are more spatially oriented; that women are better able to "read" faces for emotion than men. Moir, 1989; Tannen, 1991 Each of these differences arises from how the brain works, both in perception and response to that perception.

Several aspects of protohuman social life based on cooperative food gathering could well have contributed to these biological differences between how each gender's brain functions.

These changes would include becoming more sedentary, developing a group mentality, improving their senses, and making them the major influence on socializing the young. The last is a primary difference between humans and most other creatures on earth.

First, the females bearing and rearing the young would have bound them to a fairly sedentary lifestyle and made gathering plant foods their contribution.