Category Archives: Deep History

The truth about humanity’s deep past

David Graeber and David Wengrow write: In some ways, accounts of “human origins” play a similar role for us today as myth did for ancient Greeks or Polynesians. This is not to cast aspersions on the scientific rigour or value of these accounts. It is simply to observe that the two fulfil somewhat similar functions.… Read More »

Humans are all more closely related than we commonly think

Scott Hershberger writes: The late esteemed English actor Christopher Lee traced his ancestry directly to Charlemagne. In 2010 Lee released a symphonic metal album paying homage to the first Holy Roman emperor—but his enthusiasm may have been a tad excessive. After all, says geneticist Adam Rutherford, “literally everyone” with European ancestry is directly descended from… Read More »

The deep Anthropocene

Lucas Stephens, Erle Ellis, and Dorian Fuller write: Humanity’s transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture is one of the most important developments in human and Earth history. Human societies, plant and animal populations, the makeup of the atmosphere, even the Earth’s surface – all were irreversibly transformed. When asked about this transition, some people… Read More »

When the first farmers arrived in Europe, inequality evolved

Laura Spinney writes: Eight thousand years ago small bands of seminomadic hunter-gatherers were the only human beings roaming Europe’s lush, green forests. Archaeological digs in caves and elsewhere have turned up evidence of their Mesolithic technology: flint-tipped tools with which they fished, hunted deer and aurochs (a now extinct species of ox), and gathered wild… Read More »

Art, adornment and sophisticated hunting technologies flourished not only in prehistoric Europe but across the globe

Gaia Vince writes: In 1868, workmen near the hamlet of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil in southwestern France opened up a rock shelter and found animal bones, flints and, most intriguingly, human skulls. Work on the road was paused while a geologist, Louis Lartet, was called to excavate the site. What he discovered would transform our understanding of… Read More »

The roots of writing lie in hopes and dreams — not in bookkeeping

Michael Erard writes: Recent scholars of the history of writing describe what was first and foremost an administrative tool. According to their ‘administrative hypothesis’, writing was invented so that early states could track people, land and economic production, and elites could sustain their power. Along the way (their argument goes) writing became flexible enough, in… Read More »

What we could learn from our cave-dwelling ancestors

Barbara Ehrenreich writes: In 1940, four teenage boys stumbled, almost literally, from German-occupied France into the Paleolithic Age. As the story goes, and there are many versions of it, they had been taking a walk in the woods near the town of Montignac when the dog accompanying them suddenly disappeared. A quick search revealed that… Read More »

Britons who built Stonehenge were product of ancient wave of migrant farmers

The Independent reports: The ancestors of the Britons who built Stonehenge were farmers who had travelled from an area near modern Turkey, arriving around 4000BC, and who rapidly replaced local hunter-gatherer populations, according to new research. Scientists investigating the origins of farming in Britain have said they have found overwhelming support for agriculture being introduced… Read More »