The Heat Was On: Control of Fire by Prehistoric Humans

Use and control of fire was a gradual process, proceeding through many stages. Curated/Reviewed by Matthew A. McIntoshPublic HistorianBrewminate Introduction The control of fire by early humans was a turning point in the technological evolution of human beings. Fire provided a source of warmth and lighting, protection from predators (especially at night), a way to create more advanced hunting tools, and a method for cooking food. These cultural advances allowed human[…]

Neanderthals Could Speak and Process Spoken Communication

Neanderthals had the capacity to perceive and produce human speech. When the ancestors of anatomically-modern non-Africans came out of Africa and met their Neanderthal sister species, they would probably have been able to communicate with them with speech. The fact that two related species of hominin could very probably use speech in exactly the same[…]

People and Technology in Prehistoric Europe

During the Iron Age, Central, Western and most of Eastern Europe gradually entered the historical period. Introduction Prehistoric Europe is Europe with human presence but before the start of recorded history, beginning in the Lower Paleolithic.[3] As history progresses, considerable regional irregularities of cultural development emerge and increase. The region of the eastern Mediterranean is,[…]

Step-by-Step Path Taken by First People to Settle the Caribbean Islands

Did people settle these islands by traveling north from South America, or in the other direction? Artifacts provide a definitive answer. Introduction For the millions of people around the world who live on islands today, a plane or boat can easily enough carry them to the mainland or other islands. But how did people in[…]

Ancient DNA Reveals the Genetic Landscape of People Who First Settled East Asia

Scientists are starting to untangle how the region was populated. Introduction The very first human beings originally emerged in Africa before spreading across Eurasia about 60,000 years ago. After that, the story of humankind heads down many different paths, some more well-studied than others. Eastern regions of Eurasia are home to approximately 2.3 billion people[…]

Who Were the Neanderthals?

Examining the lifestyle of these early humans, their distinctive characteristics, and what they were like. By Lisa Hendry Introduction We know more facts about Neanderthals than any other extinct humans. Many thousands of their artefacts and fossils have been found, including several nearly complete skeletons. We also know about their genetic make-up, as several Neanderthal[…]

Stone Tools at Arabian ‘Crossroads’ Present Mysteries of Ancient Human Migration

Hand axes from the site of Saffaqah, Saudi Arabia. (Palaeodeserts/Ian R. Cartwright) Hominins made stone tools in central Arabia 190,000 years ago, and the hand axe technology raises questions about just who they were. By Brian Handwerk / 11.29.2018 early 200,000 years ago, at the confluence of two long-vanished river systems in the heart of Arabia,[…]

Stone Tools Date Early Humans in North Africa to 2.4 Million Years Ago

Archaeological excavation at Ain Boucherit, Algeria. Mathieu Duval, Author provided Ancient stone tools found in what is now Algeria show early humans likely spread across Africa more rapidly than first thought.    By Dr. Mathieu Duval (left) and Dr. Mohamed Sahnouni (right) / 11.29.2018 Duval: ARC Future Fellow, Griffith University Sahnouni: Archéologue et professeur, National Center for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH) When did early humans first arrive in[…]

Women in the Stone Age

The ‘Venus of Willendorf’ at around 28,000 years old is one of the earliest depictions of women in art (Source: Ziko van Dijk). Wikimedia Commons Taking a quick look at some examples where Palaeolithic women or their activities tell us something about our past. By Dr. Darren Curnoe / 02.23.2017 Associate Professor Biological Anthropology and Archaeological Science UNSW Australia[…]

The Agricultural Revolution: Positive Progress or Biggest Blunder in History?

A neolithic farm in Scotland that may be the oldest in northern Europe. / Photo by Drewcorser, Wikimedia Commons Twelve thousand years ago everybody lived as hunters and gatherers. But by 5,000 years ago most people lived as farmers. By Dr. Darren Curnoe / 10.18.2017 Associate Professor Biological Anthropology and Archaeological Science UNSW Australia Twelve thousand years ago[…]

Conflict, Violence, and Conflict Resolution in Hunting and Gathering Societies

April 1562, The Timucua, an indigenous tribe in Florida, shoot burning arrows into the village of a rival tribe. The huts, made of dry palm branches, burn quickly and the attackers could escape unpursued. Original Artwork: After an engraving by Jacques Le Moyne. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images) Conflicts prior to the development of agriculture which[…]

Structure and Characteristics of Prehistoric to Modern Hunter-Gatherers

Photo by Arizona State University Archaeological evidence to date suggests that all human beings were hunter-gatherers prior to twelve thousand years ago. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 11.02.2018 Public Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief Introduction Hunter-gatherer is an anthropological term used to describe human beings who obtain their food from the bounty of nature, hunting animals and gathering wild plants. It[…]

Welcome to the New Meghalayan Age: How It Fits with Earth’s Geologic History

India’s Mawmluh Cave, home of the reference stalagmite for the newly named age. Abhijeet Khedgikar/ 2018 brought the announcement of a new geologic age that covers the last 4,200 years. How do scientists divide up Earth’s timeline and what do these demarcations mean? By Dr. Steven Petsch / 09.11.2018 Associate Professor of Geosciences University of[…]

Strong Women Did a Lot of Heavy Lifting in Ancient Farming Societies

Early agrarian women—like these murdered in what is now western France some 6500 years ago—may have been critical manual laborers in their societies. Didier Descouens/Wikimedia Commons Prehistoric women shouldered a major share of the hoeing, digging, and hauling in early agricultural societies. By Michael Price / 11.29.2017 Forget about emotional labor. Women living 7000 years ago[…]

Homo Sapiens: Beyond DNA to Symbolic Communication

Skull of a Homo sapiens (a.k.a. modern human) individual, on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History / Photo by Chris Devers, Flickr, Creative Commons Homo sapiens (‘wise man’), or modern humans, are the only species of human still around today. By Emma Groeneveld / 03.31.2017 Historian Introduction Homo sapiens (‘wise man’), or modern[…]

Human Evolution: The Many Mysteries of Homo Naledi

This hand was discovered in articulation and all bones are represented except for the pisiform. / Photo by Lee Roger Berger Research Team, Wikimedia Commons More than 1500 fossils from the Rising Star cave system in South Africa have been assigned to a new human species, Homo naledi, which displays a unique combination of primitive[…]

Evidence of a Prehistoric Massacre Extends the History of Warfare

Skeletal remains of a group of foragers massacred around 10,000 years ago on the shores of a lagoon is unique evidence of a violent encounter between clashing groups of ancient hunter-gatherers, and suggests the “presence of warfare” in late Stone Age foraging societies. The fossilised bones of a group of prehistoric hunter-gatherers who were massacred[…]

Anthropologists Link Human Uniqueness to Hunter-Gatherer Group Structure

Photography of Lascaux animal painting / Wikimedia Commons One of the most complex human mysteries involves how and why we became an outlier species in terms of biological success. By Rebecca Howe Research findings published in the March 11 edition of the journal Science by an international team of noted anthropologists, including several from Arizona[…]

Early Hunter-Gatherer Environmental Modifications for Food

Photo by Arizona State University Hunting and gathering activities were the primary way for humans to feed themselves from their natural environments during over 90% of human history. By Dr. Heather Karsten Associate Professor of Crop Production and Ecology Pennsylvania State University Hunting and gathering activities were the primary way for humans to feed themselves[…]

Synthetic Palaeontology: Reconstructing Ancient Life with Modern Technology

Reconstruction of ancient life and environments is an extremely challenging problem. By Dr. William Irvin Sellers Professor, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences University of Manchester Abstract One of the major goals of palaeontology is the reconstruction of life on earth at specific times in the past. The major pieces of evidence that we can[…]

A Background to the History of Ancient Greece

The Temple to Apollo at Delphi / Photo by Greudin, Wikimedia Commons The history of ancient Greece offers fascinating insights into the possibilities and limitations of human existence. By Dr. Thomas R. Martin Jeremiah W. O’Connor, Jr. Professor of  Classics College of the Holy Cross Introduction “Most things in the history of Greece have become[…]

Monuments of the Neolithic European Landscapes

Silbury Hill Neolithic mound. It stands 30 metres high and 160 metres wide, and comprises half a million tonnes of chalk. It is non-megalithic, but still a huge accomplishment. Copyright © Stu Smith 2013 – Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0). Cropped In the Neolithic there were no maps. However, most times people[…]

Prehistory and the Neolithic Age in Europe

Cereal in West Kennet (Wiltshire, United Kingdom). Copyright © Victor Jimenez Jaimez 2014 – Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) The emergence, adaptation, growth, and spread of new technology and social orders.   By Dr. Víctor Jiménez Jáimez (left) and Dr. David W. Wheatley (right) Jáimez: Marie Curie IEF Post-Doctoral Researcher in Archaeology[…]

Reconstructing Past Climates

Near Oymyakon in Yakutia, Russia / Photo Maarten Takens, Wikimedia Commons To work out how the climate has changed over time, climate scientists need long-term records. By Dr. K. Jan Oosthoek Associate Member, Centre for Environmental History Australian National University Documentary data To get a more convincing assessment of a statement such as a regular occurrence[…]

The Neanderthal-Sapiens Connection

Skulls of Homo sapiens (left) and Neanderthal (right) from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. This derivative work shows the skulls from the original display on a plain black background and with the annotation removed. / Photo by hairymuseummatt, Wikimedia Commons Genetic research has shown that the Neanderthals are a sister group to us – we share a common[…]