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Chapter 14

Chapter 14 Notes

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University of Texas at Austin
ANT 301

1 Chapter 14: Lessons from the Past, Lessons for the Future How SuccessfulAre We? - There are currently 6.7 billion human beings living on earth - Humans have been on the scene for between 200.000 and 400.000 years - Homo sapiens is one of approximately 1.4 million living species currently known to science; our immediate predecessor, Homo erectus, existed for over 1.5 million years. Humans and the Impact of Culture - Around 15.000 ya, some human groups began to settle down and abandon their nomadic lifestyles. - Exposure to infectious disease was one of the earliest cracks in the harmonious relationship between humans and cultural innovation. th - Only about 1/5 of the earth’s original forests remain intact today - Most highly prized wood—Lebanese cedar which was cut and shipped throughout the eastern Mediterranean (deforestation was so complete that only small patches of trees exist today) - The collapse of the Maya civilization of southern Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala around 1.100 ya was at least partly due to climate change (warming), over- cultivation, and depletion of nutrient-poor tropical soils. - By examining Inka agricultural fields, terracing, and irrigation, archeologist Clark Erickson (1998) was able to reveal the ancient technique and duplicate many of the same methods. Neolithic- the period during which humans began to domesticate plants and animals; also associated with increased sedentism. Dates for the Neolithic vary from region to region, depending on when domestication occurred. Mesolithic- the period preceding the Neolithic, during which humans increasingly exploited smaller animals, increased the variety of tools they used, and became somewhat less nomadic. The Loss of Biodiversity - Biodiversity is the totality of all living things, from bacteria and fungi to trees and humans; this not only refers to species but also to individuals and the various genetic combinations they represent, as well as to entire ecosystems. - The geological record indicates that in the last 570 million years, there have been at least 15 mass extinction events, two of which altered all of the earth’s ecosystems; the third major extinction event is occurring now. - Until recently, the most important cause of extinction has been habitat reduction which is a direct result of the burgeoning human population and the resulting need for building materials, grazing and agricultural land, and living areas. - By the year 2022, half the world’s remaining rain forests will be gone if destruction continues at its present rate Holocene- the most recent epoch of the Cenozoic; following the Pleistocene, it is estimated to have begun 10.000 years ago 2 Megafaunal- referring to megafauna, extremely large animals such as elephants; the term is usually used in reference to the
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