How did our ancestors survive? Part – 3

How did our ancestors survive? Part – 3

Posted on June 8, 2014

In my previous post, I talked about LCA (Last Common Ancestor) between humans and chimps and how becoming bipedal was the start of the transformation of a new species – humans.

After writing this post, I could not stop thinking why a chimp, the LCA, made the adaptation of standing up permanently or maybe just long enough to start a transformation.

Was it a copying error in the genetic code or a thought or a dream or enlightenment or a direct message from God?

Whatever it was, unless we built a time machine and watched the LCA adapt, we will never know for sure which means there is almost no chance of knowing what caused the transformation. What is currently believed by science to have happened, the root cause, is a pure guess.

I think, it is up to us to seek whatever meaning we want to from this small but profound adaptation. If I want to think that God connected with the LCA and breathed God’s spirit into the LCA and caused enlightenment then in my honest opinion, it cannot be disproven.

I know I am going off tangent here. The reason for this post was to know about our next ancestor, the hunter-gatherer.

Scientific evidence points that the first ancestor to become a hunter-gatherer may have hunter_gatherers_1724855been around 1.9 million years ago. It is hard to imagine life as a hunter-gatherer in those times and not every scientist seems to agree whether life was hard or easy.

Some scientists think that hunter-gatherers foraged for food for a few hours a day and then had plenty of leisure time. These early humans had larger brains and stronger bodies. They lived long, healthy and comfortable lives. I am having difficulty understanding that this would have been the case. Maybe a few generations could have lived like that when the conditions were optimal but overall the life of a hunter-gatherer would have been very difficult.

This difficult life is very well explained by Daniel Lieberman. Here is how I understand the whole situation.

A hunter-gatherer is a nomad so does not have a place to live.

A hunter-gatherer has to spend hours finding food. 70% of the food collection is done by gathering/foraging and 30% by hunting.

The foraged food cannot be consumed easily. Not like picking an apple and eating. Most of these foods are protected by hard shells like nuts and seeds, berries and roots protected by toxins, and carrots like tubers, hidden underground. A typical day would probably consist of many hours and many miles of walking to collect enough calorie and nutrient rich food to survive.

Hunting is another story. Cooperation is the key here. A band of hunters will take a day or sometime many days to hunt and bring back their prey. Since not everyone can hunt like the old or the young or the pregnant or the nursing mothers, the hunt has to be shared with the rest of the folks.

This is just the collection of the food. The food then needs to be precessed because humans could not eat this food in its raw form as explained here by Daniel Liberman.

Many of the plant foods that hunter-gatherers eat are difficult to extract, hard to chew, and unpleasant to digest, often because they are considerably more fibrous than the highly domesticated plants most of us eat today. A typical wild tuber or root is far harder to chew and digest than a raw turnip available from your supermarket.

Lieberman, Daniel (2013-10-01). The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease (Kindle Locations 1279-1281). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

As you can see, it was a hard life for our ancestors just to gather food and in my next post, I will write about the family and social life of the hunter-gatherers.

I am thinking that knowing the hard life of our ancestors may give me a perspective which may help me in coping with some of the frustrations in my current day to day life.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

P.S., Links to other posts

Part 1

Part 2

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