July 18, 2008
Elaine Meinel Supkis
The History Channel occasionally sends me DVDs to review. Today's show is called 'Journey To 10,000 BC' and it talks about some of the more recent geological studies concerning comets hitting the earth as well as other extinction theories. I find all of this very interesting and since the story about the comet strike is fairly recent coming in just this last year, it is gratifying that the cable TV show covers this issue. I do have several bones to gnaw on, though. I hope the History Channel's organizers read this carefully and apply it in the future. Namely, early humans had two wonderful tools: domesticated dogs and combs.
JOURNEY TO 10,000 BC and experience the suspense and heart-pounding action of a woolly mammoth hunt. A single kill could feed the tribe for weeks. As the winters grow curiously colder and longer, this vital source of nourishment becomes even more critical.
THE HISTORY CHANNEL® has pulled out all the stops to dramatize on a human scale the changes on Earth twelve thousand years ago. Experience the land where giant ground sloths, great saber-toothed cats, and camels roamed. Witness their extinctions and live through the cataclysms that we are only now beginning to understand.
These are the kind of TV shows I love to watch. They illuminate seemingly dull history stories and it is good to see the actual sites news paper articles or scientific journals are discussing. I love doing historical recreations and watching others doing historical recreations. Because this is a fun thing, I do it a lot and therefore, watch these shows with a very critical eye.
This History Channel show is one hour long and certainly is a useful addition to one's DVD library. The modern humans who animated this show or used human actors to imitate past hunters certainly tried their best to recreate the past. BUT THEY FAILED. And they failed not due to diligence or ineptitude. They failed because everyone involved is trapped in the modern arrogant belief system which is: all earlier tribes and people were stupid and didn't know how to do simple things like comb their hair.
I see this ALL OVER THE PLACE. Movies showing medieval fighters in Scotland show them with uncombed tangles of hair. Movies about cave men going back to 1900 silent films always show the cave men and cave women with uncombed, tangled hair! Movies showing people living in the American Plains, even today, will show nearly everyone with...tangled, dry, uncombed hair! It doesn't matter what time period we are watching, universally, if the object is to show fighting males and compliant females, all of them always have tangled hair that is never combed or oiled.
This really enrages me. First of all, ask any hunter, and I hunt, to try doing this with tangled, dry, untied hair! It is IMPOSSIBLE. The wind blows the hair in the way. You can't see! Gorillas and chimps don't have combs or style their hair because their hair is short. But humans evolved with long hair. I would suggest that the length of hair evolved along with the invention of and use of the lowly comb.
This is such an interesting topic, I should write a much longer piece about it. We know from carvings and paintings done since 30,000 BC, the humans are depicted with braided or dreadlocked hair. Or the hair is combed and tied back. Universally, all meat eating tribal people use animal fats to thicken and make the hair sleeker and smoother so it can be styled into various shapes. Even in the Western civilizations of the 18th-20th centuries, including in my own childhood, men greased their hair to keep it shiny and slick. The hippie revolution was for hair to be loose, free and no oil. This, I suspect, was due to watching many movies showing primitive people with tangled, loose, dry hair.
[[Combs]] have been on the scene ever since humans had hair on his head. Which is quite sometime? The date perhaps goes beyond the time of the Old Stone Age. Man being man and not a lion would not be content to let his mane run wild and free. So he had to find some ways to tame it. First on the list of combing operations must have been the use of fingers. So in a way the fingers are the first combs of history.
A comb is a solid tool, usually flat and always with teeth. It is used for caring for human hair and cleaning other fluffy stuff like fiber. The etymology goes back to ancient Greece and Sanskrit meaning tooth or to bite. Among tools perhaps it is the oldest. Exquisite combs have been found digging up the ancient Persian Empire going back about 5000 years and at the time of the first Indo-European migrations. Many of the historical combs can be seen in museums. In the Hermitage Museum there is an exquisitely carved comb belonging to the Scythian period ca 400 BC termed the Salokha comb. On the head are depicted three human figures, one being on horseback, about to kill an animal.
Combs were not always used for cosmetic purpose. It was used to comb out hair parasites like lice that took shelter in human hair. The fact is that as yet, no traditional civilization has yet been found that did not use combs! If you share combs then you have to share parasites also. Parasites love traveling from scalp to scalp via the comb route. Parasites travel in groups with families and eggs. Thus a comb is extremely popular with lice, fleas, mites and fungus. Sometimes the matter becomes serious because the comb is said to have been a carrier for the Black Plague, that finished off nearly one third of Europe in the Middle Ages.
The desire to eliminate lose dry hair is so strong, some tribes like in Australia, would use mud or clay to shape their hairstyles. After all, modern 'civilized' women have created massive, bizarre hair styles using hair spray that makes everything very stiff, thus, stopping the annoyance of hair getting in the eyes when in windy places! When I go out to farm or do construction work, I tie my hair back. This is because, if one bends down, the hair falls forwards and gets in the way. With the invention of fire, humans had to be particularly careful about the hair so I assume they tied it back.
The other thing often left out of shows about humans that existed since 14,000 BC is the first domesticated animal: dogs. More about that later.
This show does talk intelligently about climate change, sudden geological or celestial events and mass extinctions. The riddle of what happened so suddenly to not only all the mega-flora and fauna of the Western Hemisphere but also why it destroyed the Clovis Point Hunters who lived alongside these creatures and plants. This extinction event was, like so many others, extremely fast. This leads researchers to suspect powerful, rather singular events such as meteorite strikes.
The park's primary purpose is to reveal what role various animals had on the ancient ecosystem and whether humans are to blame for the mammoth's extinction. The giant mammals, related to elephants, once roamed many parts of the planet, including North America. Their last holdout was on an island off the coast of Alaska about 8,000 years ago.
The Pleistocene era ran from about 1.8 million years ago to 10,000 years ago, when the last ice age ended. Like about half the land area of the planet at the time, northeastern Siberia was covered in arid grasslands.
"There, vast dust-covered plains and valleys dominated the landscape," Zimov writes. "Mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, bison, horses, reindeer, musk-oxen, elk, moose, saiga, and yaks grazed on grasslands under the predatory gaze of cave lions and wolves."
About 10,000 years ago, the ecosystem disappeared. Mosses and forests, their growth fueled by increased humidity, replaced the dry tundra that had been the mammoth's home. The planet warmed, and the mammoths disappeared.
Scientists for decades have debated why they died off, however.
I know that the History Channel has limited time and resources but if they could do a show about Mr. Zimov's Pleistocene Park, I would happily watch it. Just to see the ice age ponies gallop about merrily would be a lot of fun. The Russians are the only ones who have found intact, frozen mastodons and mammoths. I hope they succeed in resurrecting these extinct animals.
The links below are all from Culture of Life News:
Mass migrations are also probably due to climatic change. From the very beginning, humans began to move about the planet, seeking new lands due to the fact we hate each other and try to avoid each other even as we are also attracted to each other which is why we evolved wars and complex marriage/clan rules. The Mayan and Tang cultures were able to sweep away (kill) or submerge all other clans thanks usually to some sort of war/agricultural innovation.
My own theory is, when humans in Siberia first domesticated dogs which were our very first domestication process, this altered not only hunting tactics but also tribal relations. The dogs prevented sudden raids on the encampments, for example. Humans that were surrounded by dogs is like having a barbed-wire fence around the camp. Anyone or anything such as a predator, trying to enter will be attacked by the dogs! The History Channel shows a child wandering off in the evening and being nearly eaten by a saber tooth tiger. But this never happened.
The tribes that came flowing into the New World were protected by their dogs. Without the dogs, their foray into dangerous, new lands would have been much more difficult. Here is a cartoon I did about the first encounters of human/dog hunters with the New World megafauna:
Megafauna extinctions have many causes but what is common to all is the 'Perfect Storm' effect of all things happening at once.
It is hard for people to accept that sudden climate changes and extinctions can have multiple causes, these periodic 'Perfect Storms' can lead to mass exterminations. This week, some scientists suggest that the US and parts of Europe were affected by a meteorite with a high carbon content exploding and causing vast fires that lead to the extermination of 40% of the large and some smaller species 12,900 years ago. They hypothosize this also caused the sudden Younger Dryas cold phase event. I look at other geological and celestial events from that same time frame.
The sudden collapse of the large mammals in North America in particular can't be pin pointed to one cause, easily. There were several changes that were sudden and unique. One was, the sudden appearance of the Clovis hunters who seemed to be very good at this art. Unlike the game living in Africa, the large mammals in the Americas were naive about humans. Humans evolved alongside African animals so they were aquainted with our tendency to kill everything in sight. This is why animals, when they spot humans, run away.
One would suppose, when the larger animals in the Americas first met humans and their dogs, they thought nothing of it until it was too late. And humans had a hunting tool we keep forgetting: fire. In Africa, humans have been using fire for many generations, at least 200,000 years. The landscape of Africa has been reshaped by fires lit by humans. We see today how, in America, humans love to set fires and dry seasons are very dangerous in many places because we are pyromaniacs.
Even if there were really big fires, this wouldn't change the climate for more than a few years. This is because burning forests and fields can't send their particulate matter above the Jet Stream. The only things that can do this trick are volcanoes. And full-impact metoerite strikes. I would seriously doubt this hypothesis was the sole cause of the Younger Dryas and the extinctions. But then, if we look at all the odd geological events that happened within the 12,000-11,000 years ago time frame, we see some interesting things that could have created the Perfect Fire and Dust Storm: a comet possibly hitting the Carolinas and some very violent volcanic events in Europe and Indonesia.
The last survivors of our ancestors, our nearer relatives, they all died at this same time. The Neanderthals, the Hobbits, anyone living in China, whoever. This was another terrible key-hole event in evolutionary history. The one-time event of a meteorite explosion couldn't cause such tremendous changes but what if its passage through the earth's atmoshpere and its demise triggered a series of violent earthquakes which woke up a host of nasty volcanoes and thus, caused considerable geological havoc leading to destabilizing the climate?
What happened back then and why did it not affect the vast herds of elephants and lions gazelles and whatever in Africa? Well, humans figured out how to hunt not only with spears but with DOGS. Sparky broke out of his pasture today. So my dogs got to work, barking at him. Wooo woo woo. They snapped at his hocks and he kicked them. Woo woo woo. Out comes the human. "Sparky, get back into your pasture," she yells. Sparky snorts and goes into his pasture.
Now, if I wanted to eat Sparky, I would have chucked my spear into him and he would have fed the dogs who know deep in their brains Sparky=food. This is why they bark at strangers, too. Strangers=food.
The deadly combo of dog and man is what destroyed many fauna. We ate everything in our path and when the larger game was killed, trees could finally grow again.
Scientists think the domestication of dogs happened first in the great plains of Eurasia and spread rapidly. This is simple to explain. When humans without dogs met ones with dogs the dog owners won. Ancient chroniclers point this out. Egypt, when becoming an empire, used dogs in battle, for example. The city builders in the Euphrates valley fought with massive mastiff style dogs. They made many carvings and paintings showing how these dogs fought. One victory parade in Egypt had 500 fighting mastiffs marching in it.
Fire is another subject that gets people all steamed up. Fire is so common, we take its power for granted. But evidently the first fire users were rather reckless with it and set great plains fires or even forest fires just like we do today. Indeed, we have to have strict laws to prevent people from merrily setting everything and anything on fire. We know that children love to watch fires and if there is a house on fire, it attracts huge crowds of people who get quite close to it. Only humans and our domesticated animals are attracted to fires. Oh, and moths.
Dogs, our first friends, love fires. If you light a fire where there are wild dogs, they will creep closer and closer for they want to be near the flames. Wolves run off. As do all wild animals who fear and hate fires. The first humans nearly annihilated many mammals because of this. We drove them off of cliffs or terrorized them with our fires. We drove huge, dangerous cave bears out of their homes by the simple action of lighting a fire! No bear wants to be near flames even today.
When I light the fires at home here, my cats and dogs all run to it and lay as close as they dare. This is what makes them domestic. My sheep, when I would go out in a storm, seeking lambs lost in the pastures, if they saw my flaming latern, they would bleet for me and struggle to come to my side. Wild animals shy away.
I believe that the sudden outwards surge of humans after 16,000 BC was due partially to the human/dog alliance. The dog users attacked non-dog users and the non-dog people had a terrible disadvantage since they couldn't easily sneak in and retaliate. The dog people become very bold when hunting or in battle. I know that my dogs will happily attack anyone who I yell, 'Go git them!' because I want the dogs to attack! This great alliance must have terrorized all other tribes including the poor Neanderthals.
Scientists now say there might be almost no overlap of humans living with Neanderthals. They believe the Neanderthals simply dematerialized. I suggest we and our dogs not only hunted and ate them but the dogs left few bones behind.
Here are five other stories I wrote about sudden climate changes and extinctions:
Once again, scientists would like to find just one cause of some great geological/evolutionary/climate event, this time the incredible Ecocene warming that came 10 million years after the end of the dinosaurs. The truth of the matter is, many things contribute to these epic periods: the sun's energy, interstellar objects, volcanic activity caused by plate tectonics and of course plants and animals interacting with each other and the oceans, changing the chemistry of the atmosphere and the waters of this planet.
8,000 years ago, camels and giant sloths ran around in Arizona which wasn't so arid back then. They all went extinct very suddenly when something odd happened back then. The whole world underwent some pretty sudden and violent see-saws back then and this has bearing on today since the forces at work were varied but human were the keystone, we are the domesticators and the destructors for this is the same period we figured out how to domesticate many plants and animals.
Today, geologists find yet another major meteorite/asteroid strike. We can see from the moon and other planets that these events happen all the time. I will suggest all the sudden evolutionary changes that punctuate the fossil record may all be caused by celestial objects suddenly changing the ecosystem too fast for many creatures to easily evolve to accomodate these changes.
(Xinhuanet) -- Wobbles or variations in the Earth's orbit and tilt are associated with extinctions of rodent and mammalian species, Dutch scientists said on Wednesday in a study published in the journal Nature.
Life forms on this uncertain planet can easily survive any single event but when events are in clusters, we get great extinctions. We can see from repeated past extinctions, often a celestial event like a comet or meteorite strike will trigger earthquakes, great volcanic eruptions, rift valleys opening up suddenly with lava flows that cover whole continents, etc. The sun is usually disrupted too. We know that whenever any comet circles the sun, as it passes close by, the sun erupts in fury and lashes at the offending comet. So we get X-ray surges and other solar events right alongside these celestial visits. All of this disrupts the planetary surface here on earth and increased plate tectonics as well as sudden surges in the ocean or ice melts. Not to mention, vast fires and changes in the oxygen supply as plants die or plankton perish.
This is why we have to figure out the riddle of why these events happen. And how we interface with them or make them worse. For we are in the middle of a great SPECIES extinction but NOT a life form extinction. We are not leaving any empty ecological niches, we are filling them with our domesticated plants and animals. Especially ourselves, we are filling all ecological niches. Quite rapidly.