Note: This is the second in a series on the history of human society written for children. It is inspired by my grand children. I would greatly appreciate it if anybody who reads it – and especially if they read it to a child – would give some feedback…. John Reimann
In “How Did We Become Humans?”, we explained how human beings evolved from earlier primates (ape-like animals). We explained that this happened through the process of “survival of the fittest”. This means that those animals that were most fit – most able to survive, maybe because they could run faster, or were stronger, or had a more usable hand – tended to live longer and, therefore, had more babies. Those babies tended to inherit this trait and passed it on. In the case of our ancestors, what came first was walking upright and the freeing up of the arms and hand, which led to tool making and… the larger brain (intelligence) to make greater use of these abilities.
But all of that is only the very, very beginning of the story.
All Animals Organize
All animals have ways of organizing, of working together. They organize to get food and to protect themselves. Many herbivores (animals that eat plants, including fruit, nuts, etc.) band together for protection. In a herd of antelope, for example, one of the herd may spot a predator – a lion, for example – before all the rest. That one goes on “alert”, all the rest notice almost instantly, and they prepare to flee. The lions on the other hand, hunt in a group (called a “pride” of lions); they work together to bring their prey down.
Different animals also have different mating patterns. Lions, for example, have one dominant male in their pride. He fathers all the offspring, and the less dominant males have to go off on their own. When that dominant male gets older, slower and weaker, then one of the younger ones fights him and if the younger one wins, he drives the older one off. (He will also kill the lion cubs from the previous male.)
Because even the earliest human beings had much more complex ways of making a living they also had much more complicated systems of communicating – language, in other words. And they also had more complicated ways of organizing in general, including mating patterns – producing offspring.
The early human beings were “hunter-gatherers” or “food gatherers” (as opposed to “food producers.”) In other words, they lived by hunting animals that were already out there and gathering plants and fruits, roots, nuts, berries that grew of their own. They mainly survived simply by taking what “nature” provided for them on its own. One thing that’s important to think about: Homo Sapiens (human beings) first walked the planet about 100,000 years ago. They evolved from other species that existed for over a million years earlier, and inherited a lot of those species’ qualities. For up until 10,000 years ago, human beings existed by hunting and gathering. How we were then, what we did, what we
ate, how we related to each other — it was all very different from today.
There’s an important lesson in that: Many people today say that our present behavior is “natural”, it’s what we’re born with. But the fact that behaviors were so very different for over 90% of the history of our species proves that that’s not true. As we read about human society’s development, it’s important to keep that in mind.
Read the entire piece…How Did Early People Organize?
Categories: for young people