John J. Shea assembles the evidence:
Premodern humansoften described as “archaic Homo sapiens”were thought to have lived in small, vulnerable groups of closely related individuals. They were believed to have been equipped only with simple tools and were likely heavily dependent on hunting large game. Individuals in such groups would have been much less insulated from environmental stresses than are modern humans. In Thomas Hobbes’s words, their lives were “solitary, nasty, brutish and short.” If you need a mental image here, close your eyes and conjure a picture of a stereotypical caveman.
But archaeological evidence now shows that some of the behaviors associated with modern humans, most importantly our capacity for wide behavioral variability, actually did occur among people who lived very long ago, particularly in Africa. And a conviction is growing among some archaeologists that there was no sweeping transformation to “behavioral modernity” in our species’ recent past.
(Banksy's Caveman photographed by Flickr user Jim Lord)
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