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Chapter 11 - Premodern Humans.docx

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Heather Miller

CHAPTER 11 – PREMODERN HUMANS When, Where, and What  Most of the hominins lived during the Pleistocene epoch, a unit of geological time that is often called the Ice Age  Middle Pleistocene stage began 780,000 ya and ended 125,000 ya  Neandertals lived well into the Late Pleistocene (125,000 – 10,000 ya)  Middle Palaeolithic began about 200,000 ya and ended around 40,000 – 30,000 ya  The Pleistocene o Marked by continental glaciations that had global climate effects  Climatic intervals when continental ice sheets cover much of the northern continents o During glacial periods, when temperatures dropped dramatically, ice accumulated as a result of more snow falling each year than melting, sea levels dropped hundreds of feet, and massive glaciers measuring nearly a mile thick covered much of the earth’s landmass o Interglacials – climatic intervals when continental ice sheets are retreating, eventually becoming much reduced in size o The Pleistocene was characterized by numerous advances and retreats of ice o These glaciers enveloped huge swaths of Europe, Asia, and North America as well as Antarctica  Glaciations confined to northern latitudes o Hominins living at this time were severely affected as the climate, flora, and animal life shifted during these Pleistocene oscillations o Most dramatic effects were in Europe and Northern Asian; in Africa, main effects were related to changing rainfall o Changing availability of food resources affected hominins in Africa o Glacial advances affected migrations routes in Eurasia o To understand Middle Pleistocene hominins, it’s crucial to view them within their shifting Pleistocene world  Dispersal of Middle Pleistocene Hominins o Like their Homo erects predecessors, later hominins were widely distributed in the Old World (Africa, Asia, and Europe) o Europe became more permanently and densely occupied as Middle Pleistocene hominins have been discovered widely from England, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Greece o Africa probably continued as a central area of hominin occupation, and finds have come from North, East, and South Africa o Asia has yielded several important finds, most especially from China o These Middle Pleistocene premodern humans did not vastly extend the geographical range of Homo erectus, but largely replaced the earlier hominins in previously exploited habitats  Middle Pleistocene Hominins: Terminology o 780,000 ya o Succeeded Homo erectus  Characteristics: large face, brows are projected, forehead is low, cranial vault is still thick o Compared to Homo erectus, premodern humans possessed  Increased brain size  More rounded braincase  More vertical nose  Less-angled back of the skull (occipital) o Span of time encompassed by Middle Pleistocene premodern humans is at least 500,000 years o Later Middle Pleistocene hominins show even more brain expansion and an even less- angled occipital than earlier forms o Homo heidelbergensis have fossils in Africa, Europe, and Asia  In Africa:  Found in sites called Kabwe (Broken Hill) in Zambia  Discovered a complete cranium together with other cranial and postcranial elements belonging to several individuals  Mosaic of features; brow-ridge very robust  Occipital region is less angulated  Cranial vault bones are thinner and cranial base is essentially modern  Expanded brain case  Most of the sites in the range of 600,000 – 125,000+ ya  Most important African finds come from the sites of Florisbad and Elandsfontein in South Africa, Laetoli in Tanzania, and Bodo in Ethiopia o Bodo is one of the most significant of these other African fossils  Bodo individual was defleshed by other hominins but the purpose behind it is unclear o May have been related to cannibalism; may also have been for a ritual too o Earliest evidence of deliberate bone processing of hominins BY hominins  In Europe:  Found in the site Swanscombe (England)  Partial skull, but shows considerable brain expansion  Dates ~300,000 – 259,000 ya  Also found in a site called Atapuerca (Northern Spain)  Large sample; very early evidence of Neandertal ancestry  Earliest evidence of deliberate disposal anywhere  Dates 600,000 – 530,000 ya  Retained certain Homo erectus traits, but they’re mixed with more derived ones like: cranial capacity; more rounded occiput; parietal expansion; and reduced tooth size  A total of at least 28 individuals have been recovered from a site called Sima de los Huesos, literally meaning “pit of bones” o Contains more than 80% of all Middle Pleistocene hominin remains in the world  In Asia:  Found in site called Dali (China)  Dates back to 180,000 – 230,000 ya  Found a nearly complete skull; cranial capacity of 1,120 cm³ o Walls of the braincase are thin  More ancestrail traits (sagital ridge and flattened nasal bones) are shared with Homo erectus from Zhoukoudian  Some can be found in modern Homo sapiens in China today  Researchers argue that anatomically modern Chinese didn’t even evolve from Homo sapiens in either Europe or Africa o Instead they evolved specifically in China from a separate Homo erectus lineage  Best evidence of Homo heiderbergensis in Asia  More found in Jinniushan (China)  Dates back to 200,000 ya  Partially skeleton with cranium showing relatively large brain size  Some Chinese scholars suggest it as possible ancestor of early Chinese Homo sapiens Lower Paleolithic Premodern Human Culture  Acheulian technology changed relatively little until near the end of the Lower Paleolithic period  Flake tools and hand axes (smaller than early Acheulian hand axes) are commonly found in European assemblages  Toolmakers made little use of bone, antler, ivory, all of which would become common raw materials for Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers  Invented prepared-core method: pertaining to stone cores that a toolmaker shapes into a pre- planned form before striking flakes from it; enables flake shape and thickness; can be efficient in the use of raw materials  Adapted to climatic extremes of life by o Controlled use of fire  Researchers report burned wood, seeds, and flint flakes from contexts dated yo nearly 790,000 ya o Construction of shelters  A few sites have also contained patches of artifacts, food waste, stones, and other debris interpreted as remains of temporary shelters, as well as burned areas interpreted as the remains of hearths or fireplaces.  Later Lower Paleolithic sites include few artifacts that could have been true weapons or killing tools  Meat was apparently an important part of the diet for at least some populations, and plant foods were undoubtedly so Neandertals: Premodern Humans of the Late Pleistocene  Classified variously as Homo sapiens or as belonging to a separate species, they are like us yet different  Many are classified within Homo sapiens but as a distinction: Homo sapiens neanderthalensis with modern Homo sapiens as Homo sapiens sapiens  Not all experts agree with this  The wide consensus that Homo heidelbergensis was a likely ancestor of both Neandertals and modern Homo sapiens, along with new archaeological/crucial genetic data, have led to the common placement of Neandertals under Homo neanderthalensis  Fo
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