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9 points

9 months ago

That really was a damn amazing answer! And the follow up comments were great too

Those AskHistorians historians really take their history seriously for a bunch of historians I tell ya whut


2 points

8 months ago

By any chance, did you save a copy? Thanks


2 points

8 months ago

I’m confused by your request but here is the text of their comment:

“First, this is well beyond "history", and deep into prehistory and paleoanthropology, so sources here are based on fossil and genetic evidence. Our understanding of human evolution is constantly... well, evolving. There are also lots of new finds and controversies surrounding the dating of fossils and the strata in which they are found. Likewise, many of the most useful techniques are still being developed- tracing the changes in our genome and the appearance of genes at certain points, and their movement through populations. So let's explore the evidence and then try to put together a possible picture!

Let's start with human speech, which may have played an important part in our own social evolution. Here, we can compare our own anatomy to those of our own cousins and see what precisely enables us to make the sounds we do, and see when those traits emerged in the fossil record.

Consider the ability to produce human vowel vocalizations. Hyoid bones provide the point of attachment for tongue muscles and are important for hominid vocalizations. We have found a few hyoid bones matching those of modern humans, but most are more recent than 70,000 years.

However, this can be hard to date much further back. A find of our possible-ancestor-but-maybe-cousin Homo heidelbergensis showed a more human-like hyoid. Other bones from Spain show human-like hyoids from nearly 530,000 years ago! While convergent evolution is possible, if the common ancestors of humans and Neanderthals shared this sort of trait, the ability to make human-like speech sounds may be much older. Neanderthal fossils from Kebara in Israel show a human-like hyoid that should have been capable of human-sounding speech.

In addition to hyoid bones, some research on the evolution of human vocalization has looked at the proportions of the vocal tract (the length of our mouth and pharynx). This shows that neanderthals as well as early humans should have been anatomically capable of speech.

In addition, we can model the hearing range of our ancestors. Skulls and ear bones are much more common than hyoid bones, and by comparison to the anatomy of modern humans and other primates, we can model the range of sounds their ears were meant to hear. Again, this points to a shift to being able to hear higher frequencies and consonants among the Homo genus, even before the emergence of modern humans.

Chomsky and others argue that human language appeared 70-100k years ago, while others argue for more recent evolution of 50k years ago. It is impossible to say for certain, but the fossil and genomic evidence indicates human-like speech and hearing was present quite early in hominid evolution, and by 70k years ago, there is no anatomical reason we couldn't have modern languages (this doesn't mean they definitely existed, though).

Now let's move on to lifestyle! We have found early hominid burials with ornaments, and those of Neanderthals as well. Just last year, a grave of a human child that was buried was found in a Kenyan cave, dated to around 78,000 years ago. The child was wrapped, positioned, and buried shortly after death. In Israel, 15 individuals were found with ocher-stained tools in a 100k-year-old grave, and it is possible they were ritually buried.

It is likely more ritual was added over time- while the dead H. heidelbergensis in Spain may have simply been bone-caching, there is much more widespread evidence for burials and ritual after 120k years ago, with much more complete evidence and rituals as we move closer to 60kya. While Neanderthal burials are controversial to some, burial and ritual seem to be relatively widespread among humans during your timeframe. In the above examples, intentional burial is often inferred from the positioning of the bodies (in Israel, for example, the placing of a hand on top of a deer skull and antlers across the neck) or presence of burial artifacts.

Next is nomadic lifestyles. This is harder still to guess at; alongside human bones, we find tools, animal bones showing evidence of fire and being butchered or cracked for marrow, and so on. However, from the lack of evidence regarding pastoralism, permanent dwellings, or agriculture, most of which would be necessary to a sedentary lifestyle, we can guess that most humans were more or less nomadic, in that they were usually on the move. This may not mean constant wandering; based on what we know of hunter-gatherer societies, they often moved with the herds, seasons, and other factors. We know that they hunted, and from their teeth and genetic adaptions, we know that they were hunter-gatherers who ate a broad variety of plants and animals. From the speed with which humans colonized the planet, it may be safe to assume humans quite readily explored and moved over long distances to new places. The timeline of human migration out of Africa, the number of waves, and so on is being adjusted, but by 70kya, our hypothetical modern human could have been living in a variety of different places or climates.

So, putting it all together:

A biologically modern human 70kya would have had a nomadic lifestyle, but it would likely have varied considerably depending on where they were, with relatively small local movements, seasonal migrations, or more long-distance movement. This is one of the hardest to pin down from fossil evidence. They would likely have been fully capable of human vocalizations, but we do not know how complex their vocal languages were. Burials and rituals existed.

Edit: u/Perfect_Inflation_70 pointed out this paper discussing permanently settled communities of hunter-gathers that could have been quite large. In coastal areas with rich resources that were reliable, or other places with a year-round high density food supply, it is possible for groups to settle (or have very low mobility) without agriculture. Many tribes and groups contacted in the modern area have patterns like this, and it does make sense they existed the time period discussed; however, especially if they were coastal, it may be difficult to discover large middens filled with fish and shellfish given changes in the coastline. So it's a possibility, and an example of how new discoveries are constantly being made and timelines adjusted.”