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Current time:0:00Total duration:15:19

Video transcript

hey Steve hey David so I want to interrogate this question with you which is if we're talking about the Old Stone Age right the Paleo lithos right pet Paulo means old and Greek lithos is Greek fur for stone this is the old Stone Age we're talking about a timeframe of about two hundred and fifty thousand to what twelve thousand to ten thousand years ago what how were those societies organized like if you and I were early human beings and the reason we choose the number 250,000 is because this is when we know for certain that modern homo sapiens is walking around doing its thing right in Africa at least at that time right and twelve thousand years ago is the beginning of the agricultural Neolithic Revolution we'll get to that in other videos but for now we're talking about the Old Stone Age we don't have like crops that are being cultivated we don't have domesticated animals but we have human beings surviving thriving and spreading right and I think one thing we want to keep in mind is we're talking about the Paleolithic era and human societies is that we are talking about a very wide-ranging population of humans around the globe engaging in different behaviors at different times in different contexts so we're going to speak in generalities here for the sake of making sense in the video but you want to keep in mind that not everything we say is directly applicable to everybody everywhere at this time correct what we do know is that um human beings all over the world we're using tools and that is what this is this chunk of rock would have probably been around I think this one's about five inches long five or so this is called a hand axe it may just look like a chunk of rock to you and that is indeed what it is but you can look at these depressions in the in the side of the rock and thereby surmise how this thing was made and this is a piece of volcanic rock there's a piece of basalt and the way it was made was an early human being took a larger more dense and harder piece of rock flaked off little pieces so you can see this was repeatedly hit and chipped away in order to form this sharp point and this is the sort of tool that if Steve or I or you were living in the Paleolithic era would use to do everything this would be your Swiss Army knife right and so when you look at that it's it's not easy to discern a particular use for this piece of rock and people who study these things for a living can't always tell exactly what they were used for but they basically assume that they've performed a wide range of function so you might use that as kind of a bludgeon if you were hunting animals what's a what's a blood should deliver to deliver a stunning blow to an animal to hit them with it essentially there's you Paleolithic Steve stunning an ibex with your rock tool already and handsome fellow yeah and so you might use that as a hunting tool um you also might use it once you've subdued the animal and killed it you could use it as a knife to butcher the animal you could use it as a scraping tool to get the hide prepared for some other use you could use it as a digging tool if you were trying to get at some sort of starchy tuber under the ground that you might want to eat for example so that brings me to the question of what did what did early human beings eat what's the Paleolithic diet what is that Paleo diet Steve so for most of this time period what they're finding is people would be harvesting naturally growing fruits vegetable matters animals that they could catch and kill and you don't really see grain being deliberately harvested and this would be wild grain at this point until roughly sixteen thousand years ago okay so prior to that point mostly naturally-occurring fruit and vegetable matter and animals that they could catch and kill and the first evidence for grain harvesting shows up in North Africa about sixteen thousand years ago and again we're always talking very approximate dates when we're looking at this time period so we've got these multi-use stone tools and hand axes that are used to harvest both animal proteins and tubers from the earth or berries from trees or any other variety of wild fruits and vegetables but not grains until a bit later correct for the bulk of human history what did societies look like so when we're talking about a society we're talking about something that occurs on a really small scale here so most estimates are looking at groups between maybe 20 to 50 individuals working together living together so that's my that's my neighborhood that's my block that's like my entire social group right and you have to think about it in terms of the resources that are available if you're living a hunter forager lifestyle too though when you're harvesting fruit and vegetable and animal matter as your diet you are limited to what the environment is producing for you remember they're not engaging actively in agriculture or domestication of animals at this time so whatever is there is what you have and natural environment doesn't produce foodstuffs intensively the way that we can with modern agriculture or even primitive agriculture sure so so you were really reliant on the bounty of the seasons or how fertile like breeding pairs were the previous year exactly and the other element of the society in this small groups is movement there's constant movement because resources are limited and because they occur in specific places you're going to see these societies moving frequently to take advantage of the resources that are available at particular places at particular times so pre agricultural people didn't really have cities is that what you're saying correct there were no cities in the sense that we would think of a city of a permanent place of residence at this point in time but people did live in structures right so you would see the common view of that is probably the idea of cave people right and there is evidence that people would take shelter take refuge in caves but they also would build primitive versions of huts tense yeah we were reading about a structure in Siberia that was made out of mammoth bones which is just so metal so this would hold up the like the tusks would and the ribs would hold up the ceiling and then presumably we're not sure because all of this has rotted away you would have like a skin covering it to keep out the rain the problem is we don't have a lot of artifacts of animal or vegetable material to substantiate these guesses about the past you know the bones remain and the rocks remain but the wood and the skin and the plant material has all rotted away we're left with whatever is fossilized whatever is maintained over time so Steve we're covering this like immense period of time we're going from you know 250,000 years ago to about twelve to ten thousand years ago this is like the longest stretch of human history that humans have experienced surely things were not the same throughout the entirety of this period so remembering that this covers basically the entire world and there are many many people in many different places in context acting in somewhat similar ways but certainly not the same but one of the things that we can look at to help track changes over time and see how these societies are changing is to look at those records that do remains when we talk about rocks for example we're not just talking about plain old rocks that we dig out of the ground we're talking about artifacts so we can look at how artifacts change over time as far as what we find at various sites and archaeological digs and kind of guess at how those societies might have been changing by the tools that they were creating and using sure so here we've got our kind of pear-shaped teardrop hand axe and this is very old right and then we start to see this this tendency towards miniaturization right and so the tools what that means is that the tools get smaller and more specific so we talked earlier the hand axe was very much a general purpose tool you could use for sorts of different activities when we start getting smaller more specialized stone tools so let's say this is like a little spear point and maybe now I'm gonna you know mount it in a piece of like phone or horn like from an antler or a piece of wood I can just do that maybe like you know strap it in with a little bit of animal or plant fiber to tie it down make it make it stick right and that would be called a composite tool we're using more than one material to put together a tool for a specific purpose and so the pieces of stone the artifacts that we have here are referred to as micro lifts Oh like that let's break that down so micro means very small and lift again mean stone right so we have these very small stones these micro lifts and we see them being attached to other items such as sticks and bones to form these composite tools that can be used for more specific purposes and one of the things that this allows people to do and I should probably stop and say so we start to see these micro let's again the time the dating is not super precise but probably somewhere thirty five to twenty five thousand years ago we start to see that and so now you have a small stone point attached to a stick for example you can make a spear that you can throw at an animal you don't have to be right next to an animal in order to kill it you can make arrows using bows and arrows that you can reach from a farther distance so you don't have to go up to that ibex and pop it on the head right it's it's considerably safer sure attack your prey from a distance so this miniaturization of tools making hunting less dangerous enables you to bring in more game and enables you to feed more people but not as many people as agriculture would but there are other technological changes you were telling me about earlier correct so earlier we mentioned the about sixteen thousand years ago we start to see collection of wild grains so this is still different than actively growing grains they're growing wildly people go collect them but you see tools like sickles primitive sickles so stone sickles so what is what is this implement used for so when you use a sickle you've knocked down the stalks of grain so you can think of it as kind of a very primitive version of a lawn mower sure because the grains that you want are on the top of the grass stock so you cut those down so you can get the grains off and then you have to get the grain out of its husk so in order to get the grains separated from the husks that go around them they would use what was called a mortar and pestle oh sure we still have those now I mean we still have sickles now but they're very different looking yes and made of metal much sharper so mortar and pestle is essentially a block or a ball and a small kind of a stout stick that you use to break or mash the item you're trying to get at so this is for removing the the husk from like the the wheat berry or the grain or whatever it is right exactly would we call this the endosperm inside the seed this is where those starchy goodness is right the husks are not inedible but not something you really want to eat either sure so people would grind these these grains to liberate the interior of the seeds or the wheat berries or whatever from the husks to make them easier to consume exactly so at some point groups of people all over the planet we know this because we can attest it in the archaeological record said to one another Oh what would happen if instead of us going out to hunt for these you know to go collect these like this wild barley or this wild wheat on our own what if we just planted it closer to where we slept wouldn't that be more convenient so we don't have to go so far afield and that's kind of the birth of Agriculture right there and I'm sure it didn't play out in a conversation like that you know this this took thousands of years to develop but this led to the birth of Agriculture and from there the birth of cities right because agriculture necessitates you staying near the spot where you're planting your crops or where you're raising your animals but pre agricultural people also built stuff right and it's happening in different ways and at different rates in different places around the world so there's this place in modern-day Turkey called ger Beckley Taipei and it's this monument that was built by non-agricultural people and to give some context on that up until fairly recently pre historians people who study this era of prehistory assumed that building of monuments sort of large structures in general was limited to agricultural societies and so this site was found in a the mid-1990s is when they discovered it and it was evident that this was something built not by a sedentary agricultural society but by a group that's still engaged in hunting and foraging practices and as best they can tell this was probably built about 12,000 years ago so Steve what what was grew Beckley Tepe well the people have found it aren't entirely certain what purpose it served they're imagining that it served some sort of ritual purpose in some way but it's really hard to say because there are no written records to tell us so what they found is several hundred limestone pillars arranged in circles and then there are images of animals carved into a lot of these pillars as well but the reason that they can assume that this was created by a non agricultural society how do we know is that they haven't found any evidence nearby of agricultural production of permanent settlements so semi-permanent settlements but that was typical where people would move from place to place to follow resources and they've also found animal bones indicating that animals were slaughtered and eaten in the area but all of these are from wild animals so again the takeaway from this discovery is that hunting and foraging societies could still engage in monumental architecture it was not something that only happened in agricultural societies it just was more likely with agriculture and we'll cover the birth and the spread of Agriculture but that's a story for another time