It turns out that being able to heat something up is really handy – who knew? We think microwaves would have been easier for ancient humans, but where are they supposed to plug them in? There’s no good answer. However, it’s clear that taming fire was a huge change for humans in every way. They could heat up food to make it more palatable, as well as safer, which is the much more important reason once we start thinking about it.
Not only that, they could provide light in the darkness, allowing them to ward off predators or competing tribes. Add in rudimentary tools like hammers, and you have a couple of things that were critical to getting humanity off the ground. Not physically, though. That took way longer.
If You Can Throw, You’re Human
There are a lot of things that separate us from the lesser apes, like making and eating pizza. However, Doctor Neil Roach and a team of biologists at Harvard University have found out that one certain thing that we’ve developed sets us apart from our genetically similar cousins in the primate family – being able to throw with incredible speed and accuracy. Not a single other species can throw even close to as good as we can.
This specific evolutionary trait allowed us to hunt down larger animals from a distance, which kept us much safer. We could hurl spears and rocks to take down wooly mammoths (or other big creatures) which gave us plenty of tasty, brain-growing meat to enjoy, and thus we reached the point we are at today.
We All Have the Same Mother
The study of human genes and development has led researchers to posit the idea of a shared ancestor to every human alive today, known as “Mitochondrial Eve.” She likely existed something like a hundred and fifty thousand years ago if she did exist, and every human had her as a common ancestor. Just THINK of the number of cards she gets on Mother’s Day.
Literally every single person has her to thank if this theory is correct. Of course, this theory is contested, but there is plenty of evidence that seems to point toward it being the truth. A matrilineal ancestor – or, at least, the most common one – would tell us a lot about how the species developed.
Time to Get to Work
When it comes to the development of early humans, there are few things more important than the widespread creation and use of tools. Right now, the estimated time when our distant ancestors started using stone tools was something like 2.6 million years ago – a time so distant it’s hard to fathom. This was just stone tools, however. Was there any other kind? It’s very possible.
In a place known as Dikika, Ethiopia, researchers have found fossilized animal bones with unexpected marks. They seem to be leading toward the idea of butchery, and it may have been possible that humans even earlier than 2.6 million years ago were using natural sharp rocks to cut their meat into portions or kill animals. How much earlier? Try 3.4 million years ago!
Hitting the Water in Ancient Boats
Boats have been around for a really, really long time, and we’ve gotten pretty good at making them by now, but they might have been used as long as fifty thousand years ago, and it’s to do something incredible – for the time, at least. Early humans might have been able to get all the way from Australia to India or the Indonesian islands in simple boats that were reeds lashed together.
Why early humans would think to do this is beyond us – but, then again, humans have always been explorers at heart. In a technological sense, this is like building a spaceship out of aluminum foil and using a squirt gun as an engine, and somehow not only reaching the moon, but also settling there and building communities.