Chapter 1: The Dawn of Modern Culture
1. The taxon Homo erectus is a tricky one. Some paleontologists choose to divide it i
Erectus species that goes to Asia and a Homo ergaster species that stays in Africa an
becomes Homo heidelbergensis at about 500,000 years ago. I find that needlessly co
cated and unnecessary. Some variations can indeed be found within these group
they are not severe and they do not require a new species name unless some archeo
wants to get credit for finding a new species, as they often do. I favor the older
tional division of Homo habilis from 2.5 million years ago to 1.8 million, Homo ere
500,000 (though continuing in Asia to 30,000), evolving then into Homo nean
ensis at about 250,000 and into Homo sapiens at about 195,000. Richard Klein, w
his classic textbook uses the taxons Homo ergaster and Homo heidelbergensis for ear
late Erectus, acknowledges that Ergaster ‘‘resembled H. erectus in many key fea
(Klein, The Human Career, 287) and that the derived features the two species s
are ‘‘striking’’ (293), and he ultimately acknowledges that though there are slight c
differences, the body and limb fossils ‘‘fail to differentiate H. ergaster, H. erectu
the early representatives of H. sapiens’’ (283).
2. The psychologist Chellis Glendenning has suggested to me that the response of S
to the volcanic winter catastrophe seems very much like that of contemporary p
after a war or natural disaster, who have what the American Psychiatric Associatio
‘‘post-traumatic stress disorder.’’ Among its symptoms are ‘‘numbing one’s respo
ness to the world,’’ which in the Sapiens’ case might make them better able to
killing on large animals, and at the same time ‘‘hyperalertness’’ to certain stimuli,
might be a useful attribute for the hunt. In addition, she notes, the ‘‘psychic distan
that such traumas create, when ‘‘the mental draws up and away from the body,’’
have led to the symbolic thinking that apparently emerges about the same time.
3. Among the caves with evidence of hunting and fishing in this period are Howi
Poort, Border, Boomplaas, and Diepkloof caves in an age range after 75,000 year
and Klasies River Mouth, Hearths, Nelson Bay, Peers, Apollo 11, Still Bay, E
fontein, Sea Harvest, Herold’s Bay, Hoedjiespunt, and Boegoeburg around 71,00
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