Thursday, February 13, 2014

On Facebook, it's Throwback Thursday.

Sounds kind of fun, huh?  Posting an old picture of yourself to delight your friends and family...

But I'm going to put a different spin on it today.

A bit earlier this evening, I did a bit of Internet Tube surfing, and found some interesting stuff.

The first thing I found was a story about a discovery of Neolithic tools on Crete.  This is pretty astonishing by itself, because nobody even imagined that humans as long ago as 130,000 years ago were doing any kind of seafaring, much less over an open stretch of water!  The dating isn't exactly precise, and is somewhat under heightened scrutiny, but still - Neolithic on Crete?  Pretty cool.  We might have to rethink that land bridge out of Africa thing!

The second story (leading from a link on that page) was about Polynesians canoeing around the Pacific, and finally, making it to South America about a hundred years before Columbus.  Proven by dating chicken bones, of all things!  (Did Columbus beat ANYBODY?  First the Vikings, then the Chinese...)

Sounds like humans have been seafaring for a VERY long time...

Then there was this, and it blew my mind once the time periods involved sank in.

In Israel, archeologists have excavated a cave in which they found the oldest confirmed hearth - indicating the domestication of fire - at any human inhabited site anywhere in the world.  Now, this is pretty heady stuff - they say people - like us - began using this cave as a living abode over 300,000 years ago!  A pretty fair chunk of time prior to past estimates of when we began using fire.

But that's not all.  Microscopic examination of the hearth showed that it had been used almost continuously on a rotational basis for over 200,000 years.  That's a lot of fires!

In fact, allowing generously some 40 years as the length of a generation, that is over 5 THOUSAND generations of humans who used that site on a more or less continuous basis over that period.

That's 200 times the length of the oldest known monarchy in Europe, in Great Britain.  2000 times the age of the US!!!

Now, I'm not going to get all New Agey on you.  But I think that there is growing evidence that humans were smarter a lot sooner than we have thought in the past.  But the human condition has always been chaotic.  We have fought, pushed, plotted and schemed to get for our own families, clans or tribes the best possible hunting, fishing, farming and mining grounds at the least possible cost to ourselves and at the expense of our neighbors since the very beginning.  There's plenty of bad (and good) karma to go around!

But to have found a place - near where people are supposed to have broken out of Africa - in which people lived, hunted, fished, made love, and yes, for goodness' sake, COOKED, using fire, for what has to be an amazing period of time at the same location.

Looking back at human habitations as modern archeology has located old cities, villages, and other sites of human activities from the past, it seems to be rare that we stay in the same places for much longer than a couple of thousand years.  Somehow, in the history of any particular place, someone else comes along, invades, burns the place down, and the survivors are either taken away as slaves, or if they remained free, just moved elsewhere, I guess to get away from bad memories, or to a better defensible location.

But somehow, in this one place, in an area that we think has to have been a virtual highway for human migration out of Africa, humans remained for 200,000 years, year after year, decade after decade, century after century.  Building fires, cooking their food, living the good life, making babies, for five thousand generations.

Simply boggles the mind.  Makes everything modern civilization has done over the last two thousand years look like child's play.

Talk about longevity!  We should wish to last that long!

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