Attack        The Kill       Chauvet

Extinction of the last pre-humans -- Neanderthals, the tough guys, hold out the longest

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A Godless Philosophy - Contents

Preface  (What's this all about?)

The Story of Evolution

14,000,000,000 y.a. -- The Big Bang
Evolution begins

4,600,000,000 y.a. -- Our Sun and Earth
Stars evolve, producing the complex elements of organic life

2,500,000,000 y.a. -- First life forms on Earth
A bacteria reproduces itself, and the race is on

220,000,000 y.a. -- First mammals
A tiny shrew survives among the dinosaurs

30,000,000 y.a. -- The great apes of Africa
Chimps achieve sociability, planned combat, and use of natural objects as tools

5,000,000 y.a. -- Earliest human ancestors
It looks like a chimp but walks upright

3,000,000 y.a. -- Earliest toolmakers
Still chimp-like, this larger-brained ape makes the first stone tools

1,800,000 y.a. -- Later pre-humans
More human-looking without fur, this naked ape conquers fire and reaches Eurasia   

300,000 y.a. -- Neanderthals
Evolved in Europe's Ice Age, they hunt and kill 7-ton mammoths

50,000 y.a. -- Modern humans (Homo sapiens)
Fully human now, we narrowly escape extinction to follow our destiny

45,000 y.a. -- Spread of modern humans throughout Eurasia
Out of Africa, we encounter the pre-humans and fight our way north

30,000 y.a. -- Extinction of the last pre-humans
Neanderthals, the tough guys, hold out the longest

15,000 y.a. -- First settlements, city-states and empires
It takes us 35,000 years to create the first small city

600 y.a. -- Racial differences and European conquests
Guns, germs and steel

Now -- Human evolution in modern times
Where are we, and what lies ahead?

Theory or Science?  Sources and References

Evolution's Implications  (Summary)

Miscellaneous Musings

We killed them all -- "Java Man" and "Peking Man" and all the other pre-humans. Ours is the only surviving branch of the human family tree because we were the deadliest. Before we arrived, several species of pre-humans had co-existed, some for over a million years, all across Eurasia.

At the time we reached India, after migrating from Africa 50,000 years ago, Neanderthals occupied Europe and the Middle East, and earlier pre-humans occupied Siberia and the far East.

We first confronted the more archaic pre-humans as we migrated north from India toward Siberia. We were not exploring or conquering, but simply expanding slowly, by population growth. Ice sheets to the north, advancing and retreating, kept pushing the pre-humans south, which hastened their demise.

Our human ancestors, for all their singing and dancing and magnificent cave paintings, were hard, fierce people. Their superior intelligence, communication capability, and better weapons gave them a decisive advantage over their less-evolved distant cousins in Asia.

Strategically, they understood that killing just a few of your enemy made the rest hungry for revenge, so extermination is the more efficacious approach. Dawn massacres were preferred, following nights of observing where sentries were posted so that they could be killed silently prior to the attack.

The Neanderthals weren't as easy as the other pre-humans. They were well established from Russia down through the Middle East and west across Spain to the Atlantic. Around 45,000 years ago, humans started invading their territory, advancing from northern India through Iran and Turkey.

Neanderthals had evolved from earlier pre-humans during the same time periods that we modern humans were evolving in Africa. Their evolution was totally independent, however, taking place in Europe, often within sight of the miles-high glaciers of the ice age. They wound up with the same brain size as us, but well adapted to ice age climates and capable of killing 7-ton mammoths for dinner. Their weapons were similar to ours, but most scientists believe they lacked a fully articulate language.

They were scary opponents. My engineer's guess, based on their skeletal structure, is that they were probably strong enough to twist a human's head off in hand-to-hand combat, and they could throw a spear all the way through a person from 30 meters.

With our longer legs, we could outrun them to avoid close combat. If we had invented the bow and arrow by 45,000 years ago (scientists are unsure), we would have had a temporary advantage until they copied the weapon. It's possible that we held lasting advantages in tactics and fortifications, but I have not yet found a reference which fully describes how we beat them.

We won, obviously, but it took 15,000 years. Imagine: for 750 generations, we fought the Neanderthals in a brutal border war, kilometer by kilometer, across Europe. For both sides, it must have seemed a perpetual state, without beginning or end. No other conflict in human history comes remotely close to this epic, bloody struggle.

Finally, by about 30,000 years ago, Neanderthals were gone from their final holdout in northern Spain. Genetic evidence of Neanderthal/Human interbreeding is minimal, which means the raping was almost always followed by killing. Or by torture, killing and cooking -- a practice still followed by some humans less than a hundred years ago.

After killing off the Neanderthals, we had no one left to fight with but ourselves, which of course we continued to do.

We also developed different forms of proto-religions during these time periods, which enhanced social cohesion in our tribes and clans.

And 30,000 years ago, in a cave in southern France previously occupied by cave bears, a few inspired artists among us drew pictures of lions, horses, bisons, and other animals. The grace, perspective, and sophistication of their work, called the Chauvet cave paintings, reach across the millennia and speak to us today as though the artists were contemporaries.

Those of us who had settled in Siberia were the first to domesticate dogs, about 15,000 years ago, an invention which spread like wildfire throughout the planet's human population. Despite our continued progress, though, we were still hunter-gatherers, a long way from settling down.

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Copyright © 2011 Marshall C. Whitfield