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The Relation Of Early Humans To Their Environment

1692 words - 7 pages

The Relation of Early Humans to Their Environment

The relationship early humans had to the environment that surrounded them is one that is shrouded in debate. As Thomas Hobbes said, and as every subsequent anthropological writer has quoted, life for early man was supposedly "nasty, brutish and short". Were hunter/gatherers lives before the development of agriculture ruled by the Darwinian whims of the environment that surrounded them, or were they able to raise above the toil of everyday survival to better control their own fates? In relation, what specifically was early human's relation to their environment? Did early populations of humans rampantly destroy their surrounding environments, causing mass extinction and climate change wherever they migrated? Or rather did early humans co-exist with their environments in as near to natural harmony as the race has come so far?

Were early humans controlled by, or controllers of their immediate environments? It is indeed true that human tribes wandered from place to place, following herds of animals or simply searching for the most plentiful copse of berry bushes. As Clive Ponting points out in his Green History of the World, early human tribes practiced what we would consider today to be barbaric forms of population control, killing twins, the very elderly, and any child or person with disabilities of any kind. As "nasty, brutish and short" proponents would point out, this population control strongly suggests an inability by early humans to scrape out more than a threadbare existence; any member of the tribe that could pull their own weight was an unacceptable liability. In addition, it should be noted that many advances early humans made to survive and adapt might not necessarily have been of their doing or intent. Present day scientists put forward the idea that man's connection to dogs, which originated during the hunter/gatherer period, was probably more a result of wolves' curiosity or bravery, rather than a conscious effort by human's to domesticate the species. The adaptation is assumed to have benefited both species, however it is worth noting that early human's had no conscious or premeditated control over their connection to dogs. (It is assumed that the success of early humans, I.E. the abundance of food or scraps around their camps, was most probably one of the main draws for the dogs which originally approached, but that and other rebuttals will be saved for a later paragraph). Additionally, as Jared Diamond points out in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, even the domestication of agriculture was not a conscious decision by early humans, but instead a sequence of separate decisions spanning several thousand years. Wild crops became suitable for agriculture not through any conscious effort of early humans, rather their selection of those foods that most pleased them, larger peas or sweeter berries, allowed the growth and propagation of those specific favored plants. However, the...

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