for young people

How Did We Become Humans and How Did Early Humans Organize?

combined document cover

To parents, older brothers/sisters/cousins, aunts & uncles:

I’ve been working on a history project – a book – for children around ten to 12 or 13 years old (inspired by my grandchildren). Here are the first two sections:

  1. “How Did We Become Humans?” explains how human being evolved, how a primate first walked upright, freeing up their hands, which led to the development of the opposable thumb and… tool making. It was from that that the larger brain (and greater intelligence) arose.
  2. “How did Early People Organize?” explains the “Neolithic Revolution” – the transition from food gathering (hunting and gathering) to food production (domestication of plants and animals) and agriculture. Contrary to what a lot of people might still think, after the agricultural revolution people worked a lot harder, longer hours, had worse health and died earlier. Also, this was the basis for exploiting the labor of others, the rise of class society and the oppression of women.

Part 1: How Did We Become Humans?

“How did we become humans?”

This might seem like a strange question. You have always been a human. Everybody you know has always been a human. Of course, we’re talking about evolution – how earlier species evolved into the human species.

But this leads to another question: “Why does it really matter?” After all, this happened a looong time ago (we’re talking millions of years). Now that we’re here, what does it matter how we became what we are?

It matters because it helps determine how we look at human society. That means, how we look at what people do in their everyday life. And if we can get a clear understanding of that, we can change it too. But to understand it, we have to look at how we got there, starting with how we – the human species – became what we are.


Here is the book: Children’s Book, first 2 parts

So I have a request to anybody who reads this: If you like it, please read it or give it to a younger person. Maybe read it along with them, get their reaction, and let me know what they think. What you think too.

Thanks, John Reimann

2 replies »

  1. ““How Did We Become Humans?” explains how human being evolved, how a primate first walked upright, freeing up their hands, which led to the development of the opposable thumb and… tool making. It was from that that the larger brain (and greater intelligence) arose.”

    John, I’ve read of anthropological evidence that suggests different things. One is that our brains now are *smaller* than during the time you indicate above. It is an interesting process: our brains did get bigger, but then they got smaller (though not as small as previously). We need larger brains then because our tool making abilities *and* social organization were not great enough to prevent attacks by wild animals and other small clans of early hominds. The ‘stress’ kept our brains larger than they are now because of the areas of the brain tied to survival.

    Along these lines, tool making also had a profound effect on our diet (as did coming-down from the trees in the pre- pre- humans.) Gathering wild fruit and grains tied to one area made it impossible to wonder far. But as social organization increased, we wondered, and tools became ubiquitous, we started eating animals on a more regular basis (or starve wondering around) and wearing their skins. Also, our jaws got smaller as we were able to use cooking and tools to make meat more eatable and, thus, more digestable.

    • Thanks for this additional information. Of course, such things are important, but as this is intended for young people and as such is really just a summary, the main points still stand: That walking upright freed up the other limbs and what was attached at the end – the hands; that the hand and the evolution of the thumb were in effect the first means of production; that this led to tool making ability and greater social organization; that this led to the greater intelligence. In other words, it was tools that created human intelligence, not the other way round.

      This, of course, is central to the entire materialist point of view, including that it’s changes in the means of production that are central to the larger course of human social development.

      On the shrinking of the brain, by the way, it’s not only humans. They have shown that wolves, for example, are smarter than their domesticated cousins, dogs.

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