Jump to content

Questions in Human Evolution


Recommended Posts

I'm attempting to write a set of historical fiction novelettas, set during the Pleistocene in Africa. My goal is (through fiction) to guide the reader through human evolution, which is not only a subject that I find extremely appealing, but the more research I do, the more interesting (to the reader) I see that these stories can become. Simply trying to tell the tale of an ordinary homind struggling to survive can be very interesting.

As of this moment I'm writing the 3rd story, which takes place 1.5ma ago in what is nowadays northeast Kenya. My two main characters are homo ergasters: one male and another female. I used the first act to describe interchangingly through ergaster's eyes and a gazelle (for which I'd like to know of a common ancestor that roamed there in that time and place) the concept of persistance hunting. Then I cut to the second act, in which the female homind is pregnant (but the reader is not privy to that information until well into the 2nd act,) I know Ergaster was capable of making more complex sounds than his antecessors, and the fact that he could sweat would free his mouth to make such sounds. But I wouldn't dare to suggest that they had a language, so the grunts and noises my characters make are always followed by gestures and other types of body language. But still, I want to peer into the mind of my female character. She is sitting picking berries, in company of mothers and childs, but her mind wanders of to memories of the time when she used to hunt alongside others. Is this plausible/reasonable? I know they didn't have language so they probably couldn't form complex and abastract ideas in their heads, but surely they could form images of common themes in their heads I'm guessing.

Any ideas?

PS: I'm not a lazy researcher, any journal articles, peer reviewed articles, etc. that are recommended I will gladly read.

Edited by Mauricio Porte
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is what I did: I had her daydreaming about a normal day back from hunting with average consecuences and a linear structure. She eventually falls asleep (without the reader knowing it but it's easy to infer) and as she's asleep I can explore the subconcious so I made her fears and desires evident trough simbolism in a nightmare. I don't think that's too far-fetched as the character doens't have to understand at all any of this but the reader can.

Edited by Mauricio Porte
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Perhaps a better approach might be to analyze your own thinking process. Modern humans mostly think about the words they think and it can be a challenge to think about the feelings without talking to yourself. I would try to get the hang of that kind of thinking. We used to do something similar in my old theatre class in college. Focus on the scene and feel it for yourself and then use your narration to describe what she sees and feels rather than try to have her narrate her thoughts.

 

example: she thought of how the hot breeze brought the scents of the waterhole with it.

 

Any thinking you try to convey from a species with no vocabulary is going to have to focus on concrete aspects of the world and its emotions and how they feel. Some species demonstrate a capacity for abstract thought and our early hominid ancestors probably did as well. How they communicated these ideas may have relied more on screeches and hoots like many primates do today. There is little if any evidence that apes use gestures of any sort in the wild to communicate. Body language being more the rule. Early hominids may have used a broader array of sounds and may have used less body language. Humans use little body language today and more vocal communication so seems like a possibility. You might read any of Jane Goodall's books about her research among the chimpanzees for ideas on how they communicated and make your characters slightly more human like in behavior.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

example: she thought of how the hot breeze brought the scents of the waterhole with it.

 

 

I've been reluctant to describe the situation using a passive voice, which is why I resorted to the nightmare scenario. As a story, active voice is much more entertaining and interesting than passive voices.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is what I did: I had her daydreaming about a normal day back from hunting with average consecuences and a linear structure. She eventually falls asleep (without the reader knowing it but it's easy to infer) and as she's asleep I can explore the subconcious so I made her fears and desires evident trough simbolism in a nightmare. I don't think that's too far-fetched as the character doens't have to understand at all any of this but the reader can.

 

 

 

I don't know if you could use this, or if its an unnecessary complication, but current psychology is moving away from the concept of any kind of "subconscious" mind that can't be accessed when awake. There is a level of brain activity that happens without our awareness, certainly, but there's probably no dark cave up there where our fears hide.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

but there's probably no dark cave up there where our fears hide.

 

I think I can see that.

 

The thing is I'm trying to convey the idea that during this time in human evolution is when the concept of the family and the roles of a woman and man first started taking place. So my female character had hunted in the past among others but is now pregnant and now has a new role (which she doesn't neccesarily despise) but still, hunting was a part of her life and she can miss it or daydream about it.

 

But how can I explain these ideas without flat out telling it like if it were an essay; and without language or dialogue?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This sounds like a potential best-seller. Just to make sure, why not make your female character an early fighter for women's rights? And her male partner could be a keen environmentalist, intent on saving the gazelles. That's got to be a winning formula! Admittedly, it may have nothing to do with life in the Pleistocene. But it would please readers, so publishers would go for it.

 

On your point about language, you could just make it up. Like William Golding did in "The Inheritors". He has Neanderthals speaking to each other in implausibly complex grammatical and syntactical sentence structures, even when they couldn't recognise a Hom. Sap bow and arrow, or figure out how to bridge a stream with a log of wood.

 

Just consider that any story about life in Kenya 1.5 my ago is bound to be pure speculation. So write a good story, and earn some money!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

I think I can see that.

 

The thing is I'm trying to convey the idea that during this time in human evolution is when the concept of the family and the roles of a woman and man first started taking place. So my female character had hunted in the past among others but is now pregnant and now has a new role (which she doesn't neccesarily despise) but still, hunting was a part of her life and she can miss it or daydream about it.

 

But how can I explain these ideas without flat out telling it like if it were an essay; and without language or dialogue?

 

Perhaps:

 

The woman watched the other hunters leave without her. Her hand ached, and she looked down to see she was tightly gripping her fist around nothing, having left her hunting stick over by where the others were using the hot sticks to burn the meat from their kill . Her breath quickened and she opened her hand. She could go get her hunting stick, but she knew she was too heavy to hunt. She blinked several times as a wash of emotions tried to cross her face. She loved to hunt, but she knew that her heaviness meant she was going to become more than one soon.

 

She shivered standing in the sun, wondering why she didn't want to join the hunt anyway, and then her hunting hand moved down to her growing belly and her breath slowed to normal. The corners of her mouth went up to reveal her teeth as she thought about becoming more than one, and how other women she'd known had held the small hunters close to themselves until they grew bigger. It looked so good, so right, and she felt herself grow calm when she thought of not hunting... for now, for a while, until she could hold the small part of her close to herself. Then she would hunt again! She opened her mouth and made the sound that all was good, and heard the others around her make the sound too, showing their teeth as they ate.

 

 

 

 

I chickened out and didn't tackle the concept of how H. ergaster would think about individuals. Would the female necessarily be close to the father of her baby, would she think of him as Urk or Tallest or Red Hair? There wasn't a lot of competition for females, so it's hard to think about how family relationships would function. Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would the female necessarily be close to the father of her baby, would she think of him as Urk or Tallest or Red Hair?

 

My informed speculation (and the one I'm using for practical purposes) is that since females during this stage in human evolution now had to take more care for their kids from birth through younghood than most species out there, and this meant energy and resources. So through the mechanism of sexual selection, loyalty in a man would become a desired trait. Percieving loyalty cannot really be accurate or reliable, but I'm guessing it could've happened a substancial number of times. As for the name I'm not bothering still with that concept. Example: in this story in particular the male character is Ergaster whereas the female character is Turkana (I even talk about Turkana's son as Turkana's boy. Sort of like an easter egg for anthropologists and paleontologists. They are not known as those names in their society though. In an earlier story dealing with austrolopitecines the names of 3 characters came from actions they established during the first act in a dispute, so their names are practically adjectives.

 

And I'll later first introduce the concept of naming in hominids societies first relating from jewlery and colors in the form of the many pendants that hominids fabricated. But of course, when I get to that part of the book more threads and debates will already be in place in this forum.

 

PS: I like the idea of her watching them go, but I'll weigh more alternatives first since I'd have to rewrite the whole 1st Act, which starts with great pace and energy and focuses on Ergaster hunting a gazelle with the use of persistance hunting.

why not make your female character an early fighter for women's rights?

 

I've thought of that idea, but set much after, in Pythagorean society, with Pythagoras himself being a secondary or tertiary character. That story would end up in the invasion of Croton by Sybaris and the alleged criticism of communal life vs freedom.

Edited by Mauricio Porte
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...

 

My informed speculation (and the one I'm using for practical purposes) is that since females during this stage in human evolution now had to take more care for their kids from birth through younghood than most species out there, and this meant energy and resources. So through the mechanism of sexual selection, loyalty in a man would become a desired trait. Percieving loyalty cannot really be accurate or reliable, but I'm guessing it could've happened a substancial number of times. As for the name I'm not bothering still with that concept. Example: in this story in particular the male character is Ergaster whereas the female character is Turkana (I even talk about Turkana's son as Turkana's boy. Sort of like an easter egg for anthropologists and paleontologists. They are not known as those names in their society though. In an earlier story dealing with austrolopitecines the names of 3 characters came from actions they established during the first act in a dispute, so their names are practically adjectives.

 

And I'll later first introduce the concept of naming in hominids societies first relating from jewlery and colors in the form of the many pendants that hominids fabricated. But of course, when I get to that part of the book more threads and debates will already be in place in this forum.

 

PS: I like the idea of her watching them go, but I'll weigh more alternatives first since I'd have to rewrite the whole 1st Act, which starts with great pace and energy and focuses on Ergaster hunting a gazelle with the use of persistance hunting.

 

I've thought of that idea, but set much after, in Pythagorean society, with Pythagoras himself being a secondary or tertiary character. That story would end up in the invasion of Croton by Sybaris and the alleged criticism of communal life vs freedom.

 

Pair bonding , romantic love as we might say, would be greatly influenced by brain developement in the infant reflecting its level of helplessness.

 

IMO However, lol, attachement to mom & child is certainly a requirement, but the female may well have found another woman's attentive male had that extra something besides being good at bringing home the bacon next door.

 

A new study found that something like 50% of the nestlings of pair bonded birds are not the attending father's offspring. As fertile females would often go fly off with the neighbor's hubby in the early morning. Very often step siblings would be in the same nest.

 

Indications are that H. ergastier was less sexually dimorphic than Habillis. So that works for the notion of pair bonding vs a Cock of the Walk Alpha Male situation.

 

Also, I'm not so certain that they were linited to just grunts, nor greatly stunted in abstrat thought:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_ergaster

 

Linguistic use

According to the BBC series Walking With Cavemen, Homo ergaster was probably the first hominid to use "what we would recognise as a human voice," though its symbolic cognition was probably somewhat limited compared to modern humans.

It was thought for a long time that H. ergaster was restricted in the physical ability to regulate breathing and produce complex sounds. This was based on Turkana Boy's cervical vertebrae, which were far narrower than in later humans. However, later discoveries of cervical vertebrae in Dmanisi, Georgia, which were some 300,000 years older than those of Turkana Boy, were well within the normal range of human vertebrae range.[14] It has been established, furthermore, that the Turkana Boy probably suffered from a disease of the spinal column that resulted in narrower cervical vertebrae than in modern humans[15] (as well as the older Dmanisi finds). While the Dmanisi finds have not been established definitively as H. ergaster, they are older than Turkana Boy (the only definite ergaster vertebrae on record), and thereby suggest kinship to ergaster. Turkana Boy, therefore, may be an anomaly.

 

 

Anyways, I'm brand new here. Looks like a fun forum and I hope to get a brain buzz from reading and chatting with you guys.

:)

Edited by OrionzRevenge
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.