Early Humans - Big History Project

Report
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EARLY HUMANS
WHAT MAKES HUMANS DIFFERENT
FROM OTHER SPECIES?
UNIT 6
EARLY HUMANS
CONTENTS
UNIT 6 BASICS
3 Unit 6 Overview
4 Unit 6 Learning Outcomes
5 Unit 6 Lessons
6 Unit 6 Key Concepts
LOOKING BACK
8 What Happened in Unit 5?
KEY CONTENT
10 Threshold 6: Humans and Collective
Learning
11 Threshold 6: Collective Learning
13 Lucy and the Leakeys; Jane Goodall
14 Introduction to Anthropology
15 Introduction to Archaeology
16 Collective Learning (Part 1)
17 Common Man
18 Early Collective Learning
19 How Did the First Humans Live?
20 Foraging
21 From Foraging to Food Shopping
22 Genealogy and Human Ancestry
LOOKING AHEAD
24 What’s Next in Unit 7?
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UNIT 6
OVERVIEW
Key Disciplines:
Anthropology and archaeology
Timespan:
The first modern humans are thought to have evolved at least 200,000 years ago
Driving Question:
What makes humans different from other species?
Threshold for this Unit:
Threshold 6: Collective Learning
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UNIT 6
LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of Unit 6, students should be able to:
1.
Describe human evolution, using evidence and connection to other species of mammals.
2.
Explain whether or not symbolic language makes humans different.
3.
Describe how early humans lived.
4.
Explain collective learning.
5.
Understand what scholars from multiple disciplines know about a topic and the questions they
can ask to gain an understanding of the topic from an integrated perspective.
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UNIT 6
LESSONS
6.0 How Our Ancestors Evolved
We might share a lot with our primate cousins, but our bigger brains, our ability to walk upright, and
other physical “improvements,” are all adaptations that make humans unique.
6.1 Ways of Knowing: Early Humans
Because our earliest ancestors did not write, to study them requires the contributions from scholars
in many disciplines. The study of human remains and human artifacts provide important clues to
these scholars about the evolution of early humans and how they lived.
6.2 Collective Learning
You may think you can talk to the animals, but our ability to use language separates us from other
species. Without it, we wouldn’t have the ability for collective learning, which allows us to dominate
the biosphere.
6.3 How Did the First Humans Live?
Our Paleolithic ancestors were foraging nomads who eventually migrated across six continents.
These early humans made tools, used fire, and sustained themselves in diverse environmental
conditions.
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UNIT 6
KEY CONCEPTS
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anthropology
archaeology
australopithecines
bipedalism
collective learning
culture
foraging
fossils
genealogy
genetics
hominines
Homo ergaster or Homo erectus
Homo habilis
Homo sapiens
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marsupials
migration
Neanderthal
nomadic
Paleolithic era
paleontology
primate
symbiosis
symbolic language
taxonomy
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LOOKING BACK
WHAT HAPPENED
IN UNIT 5?
Unit 5 focused on the emergence of living things on Earth. During the first 10 billion years in
the history of the Universe, there were no living things. We learned:
• About the conditions required for the emergence of life.
• What similarities exist across all living things.
• How life has changed over time, evolving from simple life forms to complex organisms.
• How life is affected by changes in astronomical, geological, and biological conditions.
• How DNA enables living things to pass adaptations to new generations.
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KEY CONTENT
THRESHOLD 6: HUMANS AND
COLLECTIVE LEARNING
Video
• Humans are a unique species in the animal world because they have the ability for collective
learning. In most species, individuals acquire knowledge over a lifetime, but this knowledge is
lost when the individual dies. This is not the case with humans, who have language and can
pass on knowledge from individual to individual and generation to generation.
• Humans are primates, a special type of mammal. Primates began to evolve at the time that
dinosaurs became extinct. Homo sapiens, or modern humans, appeared only recently, about
200,000 years ago.
• The ingredients and Goldilocks Conditions necessary for collective learning are powerful brains
and precise and versatile symbolic language. The Goldilocks Conditions are the interactions
between individuals and between communities that enable the transfer and storage of
information.
• Collective learning allowed humans to innovate and learn to a degree not possible before, and it
allowed humans to share, preserve, and build upon the knowledge of an individual rather than
losing that knowledge when the individual died.
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LUCY AND THE LEAKEYS/
JANE GOODALL
Articles / Cynthia Stokes Brown
• Anthropologists have discovered important evidence to show how humans differ from their
cousins, the primates.
• Louis and Mary Leakey worked for many years in East Africa, in Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift
Valley, studying the evolution of early humans.
• In 1976, Mary Leakey discovered a set of footprints made by a group of early humans about 3.6
million years ago, which showed that early humans could walk upright on two legs.
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Louis Leakey showed that humans were making tools about 2.5 million years ago.
• In 1974, Don Johanson found about 20 percent of a female hominine skeleton that dated to
roughly 3.2 million years ago. There were enough pelvis and leg bones discovered to confirm
that “Lucy” walked upright.
• Jane Goodall was sent by Louis Leakey to Africa to study chimp populations, in order to better
understand how humans relate to their closest relatives in the animal world. Living among the
chimps for the better part of her life, Goodall discovered that chimps use tools, make war, and
have complex social relationships in their chimp communities. These discoveries transformed
human understanding of chimp behavior.
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INTRO TO ANTHROPOLOGY
Guest Talk / Kathy Schick
• Kathy Schick is a professor of anthropology at Indiana University.
• Anthropology is the holistic study of humankind; the study of how, when, and why humans and
different cultures develop and live.
• Anthropologists work to fill in gaps in our knowledge about humans by finding missing links in
the human story. This can be done by studying humans in a number of different ways: by
focusing on culture, by focusing on physical traits and adaptations, by focusing on language, or
by focusing on prehistory.
• There are different types of anthropologists. Two types are particularly interested in the story of
early humans. Physical anthropologists study fossil evidence to learn about our direct ancestors
but also our “cousins,” closely-related species. Paleoanthropologists focus on human evolution.
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INTRO TO ARCHAEOLOGY
Video Talk / Nicholas Toth
• Nicholas Toth is a professor of archaeology at Indiana University.
• Archaeology is the study of ancient people and the world they lived in.
• Archaeologists gather evidence about ancient peoples by identifying sites where they lived, by
exploring and surveying these sites, by digging for artifacts at these sites, and then by analyzing
the sites and artifacts from them. Archaeology has both a field component, where the evidence
is gathered, and a lab component, where the evidence is analyzed.
• There are different types of archaeology. Historical archaeologists study people who left behind
written records. Prehistoric archaeologists study people who lived before the invention of writing
and have only left artifacts behind. A third type, experimental archaeologists, try to re-create how
people made things like tools.
• Archaeologists ask important questions about the past. What is driving human evolution? What
accounts for the changes in how humans lived, which we see in the archaeological record?
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COLLECTIVE LEARNING
(PART 1)
Article / David Christian
• Human culture isn’t the product of individual geniuses; rather, our culture has been slowly built
over time by millions of people.
• Collective learning depends on the ability to access and share information. Humans are able to
pass on their discoveries and innovations because of the power of language.
• Collective learning gives humans infinite capacity for memory and allows us to work in teams.
• Archaeologists look for evidence of collective learning, such as evidence of tool-making in early
humans.
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COMMON MAN
Video
• What makes humans different from other species?
• Big History teaches that humans share a common history, and it also teaches that they share
collective learning on a global scale.
• Language gives humans the ability to convey ideas efficiently and precisely to others.
Knowledge is accumulated and builds from generation to generation. This ability to preserve and
pass on information makes humans different from other species. Collective learning is a
behavior that gives human tremendous power. As a result humans have been able to migrate
into all areas of the Earth and even explore space.
• Despite the dominance of humans in the biosphere, there exists an incredibly complex web of
cooperation between humans, domesticated animals, and plants, with humans at the center of
this relationship but with both animals and plants benefiting. Despite the record of warfare
throughout history, humans are better cooperators than other species.
• Humans have demonstrated an incredible curiosity to know for knowledge’s sake, not just to
meet basic or immediate needs.
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EARLY COLLECTIVE
LEARNING
Video Talk / John Shea
• John Shea is a professor of anthropology at Stony Brook University.
• Humans and primates share many characteristics including the forming of social groups,
hierarchical relationships, and family units. However, there are important things that make us
different.
• Some of the behaviors that distinguish humans from their primate relatives are the fact that
humans do things differently from each other (variability in behavior) and our ability to record,
preserve, and share information through symbolic language (which forms the basis of collective
learning).
• Speech, or symbolic language, is critical to our ability to share information because it allows
humans to share and to pass on both simple and complex information from one generation to
the next. Humans are the only species that have this ability.
• The study of the origins of language is a truly interdisciplinary quest because scientists and
historians must work together to formulate theories as to how and why humans began to speak.
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HOW DID THE FIRST
HUMANS LIVE?
Video Talk / David Christian
• The earliest humans lived in the Paleolithic era. The word root paleo means old, and lithos
means stone, so the name literally means old stone age. This name was chosen because stone
tools were the first type of tools that early humans used.
• Humans were foragers during the Paleolithic era, gathering local plants and hunting or
scavenging for animals.
• Humans were also nomads during this time, moving from place to place over a large area to
access these plants and animals.
• Evidence suggests that early humans tended to live in small groups of 15–30 people and
believed in a world inhabited by spirits.
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FORAGING
Article / Cynthia Stokes Brown
• Humans and their ancestors have existed for approximately 7 million years, but our species only
began farming 10,000 years ago, which means that humans have spent most of their time on
Earth as foragers.
• Some human societies have maintained the foraging lifestyle into recent times, including the
Bushmen of Botswana, the Aborigines of Australia, and the Yanomami of the Brazilian rainforest.
However, pressure from modern agricultural and industrial societies has forced many of these
groups to modify their traditional practices.
• Anthropologists continue to study modern foraging peoples. They continue to debate gender
roles in foraging societies, the physical and mental health of foragers, and the impact of foragers
on their environment.
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FROM FORAGING TO FOOD
SHOPPING
Video Talk / Nicole Waugaesek
• What drives human decisions about what to eat has not changed a great deal over time.
• Foragers had to make decisions about what they would eat just as we do today. Foods with lots
of calories, that come in large “packages,” and that are easy to prepare would have been
preferable. Big animals, tubers (like potatoes), and large fruits would have been attractive food
options for early foragers.
• Foods like bone marrow, nuts, and honey would have been more challenging to get, but they
tasted good. Fatty foods and sweets were exceedingly rare in forager’s environment, so when
they found them, they probably took advantage of the opportunity.
• History has shown a clear pattern of humans moving into an area and causing the extinction of
important animals and plants. This happened because humans would typically go after their top
food choices as soon as they arrived in a new area.
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GENEALOGY AND HUMAN
ANCESTRY
Video Talk / Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
• Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is a professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard
University
• Genetics is an important resource for the study of early humans because genetic tests can
reveal important information about individuals, their families, and their relationships, which
provide important insights into the history of the human species.
• Genetic studies have been particularly helpful in clarifying the history of early humans. Genetics
can provide important information about migration by showing when mutations appear in certain
populations. This evidence makes clear that humans evolved in East Africa, and modern
humans spread from there to other parts of the world over the course of about 50,000 years.
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LOOKING AHEAD
WHAT’S NEXT?
In Unit 7, we will focus on the origin and development of agriculture and its impact on the
way humans lived. We will learn:
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How the development of agriculture changed the way humans lived.
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How cities, states, and civilizations developed to organize agricultural societies.
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About the development of writing and the impact that had on the evidence available to modernday historians.
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