A Timeline of Sorts

One of the most exciting developments in archeology in the last ten years has been the complete rewriting of the timeline of human development.  The dates I’m giving here will probably also be revised in the future and are certainly controversial now but they are gleaned from reputable sources, including archaeology journals and press services.

In addition to dates that are far older than we were lead to believe even thirty years ago, there are now far more lines of hominids identified, including the “Hobbit” folks found in Indonesia and the mystery “X-woman” found in Siberia, who is neither homo sapiens nor Neanderthal.  Plus, there is now ample evidence of interbreeding between Neanderthal and homo sapiens in Europe, something that was once deemed impossible.   And the term Cro-Magnon Man is now disappearing, being replaced with Anatomically Modern Human.

All that said, here are some interesting dates:

More than 4,000,000 years ago: oldest identified hominid ancestor, Ardi, in Ethiopia

More than 1,000,000 years ago: hominids in Spain

800,000 years ago: toolmakers in Africa, sailors in Crete, evidence of sailors arriving in England

100,000 years ago: humans in Australia, extensive cave art in northeast, perforated shells (Morroco)

Experts like Professor Barton of the University of Oxford now argue that “modern symbolic behaviour was present from a very early stage at both ends of the continent [Africa], probably as early as 110,000 years ago.”

80,000 years ago: decorated, pierced shell beads, decorated block of red ochre ( North Africa and South Africa)

75,000 years ago: evidence of sharpened spears and treating rocks with fire to make better tools (southern Africa)

50,000 years ago: extensive cave art (southern Africa)

48,000 years ago: female remains with bracelet (Siberia)  48,000 – 32,000 years ago, human remains in Brazil

32,000 years ago: Chauvet Cave art

Chauvet cave drawings

17,000 years ago – 14,000 years ago  Lascaux Cave art (France), Altamira Cave art (Spain) petroglyphs (Egypt)

14,000 years ago, human remains in Oregon, Chile, Mexico, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and other locations

12,000 years ago Female shaman/healer (Israel) buried with 50 tortoise shells and the pelvis of a leopard

Every year, new discoveries are changing our view of early humans, and that information seems to challenge all of our preconceived notions.   In school, we were  told that early humans were brutish and dull, not at all like the fine folks we are today.   But that’s not the picture that’s emerging.

It seems impossible to dispute the fact that early humans were capable hunters and fearless explorers, taking to the sea very early.  To do this, they would have had to communicate, quite exactly, in order to plan hunts, make efficient tools, design and build boats, learn about how to use them, and share information on current dangers.  In other words, they had to have a fairly sophisticated and exact language and a deep sense of the shared welfare of the community.

Sue asked for a general timeline of human activity because it seemed strange to her that the characters in the story were arguing and building boats and generally acting like what we would think of as modern humans, but it was 14,000 years ago!  Yes, things were very different then, but humans already had  tens of thousands of years of collective and symbolic behavior to build on by that point.

There was an explosion of human exploration and discovery around 14,000 years ago.  That’s why the story is set in that time period.

One thought on “A Timeline of Sorts

  1. The date for humans in Australia given in this entry (100,000 years ago) is very controversial. Some archaeologists maintain that humans reached Australia only 50,000 years ago. However, the burial that included bones covered with red ochre was dated to 62,000 years ago. Some of the rock art has been dated to 75,000 years ago, but rock art dates can be difficult to pin down. In any case, 60,000 years ago is probably safe and conservative while 100,000 years ago is probably a more risky guess.

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