“Glacial age” or “ice age”, defines scientifically a period in the Earth΄s geological evolution when there is”a long- term reduction in the temperature of the Earth΄s surface and atmosphere,resulting in an expansion of continental ice sheets,polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers.”(p.1.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_age).
There have been 4 major ice ages in the Earth΄s past, but outside of these “glacial ages”,Earth by all scientific indications seems to have been completely free of ice,even in high latitudes,like the Poles(p.3.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_ age).The Earth is currently in an “ice age”,which began 2.5 million years ago.Within this “ice age” there are cycles when first the ice sheets advance(from the Poles to lower latitudes) due to the gradual decrease in the Earth΄s temperature, and then the ice sheets retreat towards the Poles with the gradual increase in the Earth΄s temperature.The cycles have a time-span of approximately 100,000 years,where the cycle of glacial advance,called the “glacial period”,lasts for about 60,000 years,and the cycle of glacial retreat,called “interglacial period”,lasts for about 40,000 years.The Last Glacial Maximum(lowest Earth temperature) occurred about 20,000 years ago,while the last “glacial period”(and the start of the most recent “interglacial period”) ended approximately 10,000 years ago (p.1.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_age).
This scientific data about a “glacial age ” or “ice age” is very critical to us if we are to properly explain what exactly happened to the “Neanderthal”Man ,when as a “particular human specie” it began to share the “same living space” with another “human specie”,the “Cro-Magnon”Man, 45,000 years ago,starting from Central and Western Europe.It is also very significant to understand what an important impact geological and climatological changes have had on “human evolution”.It is not by “accident of nature” that when the last “glacial period” ended about 10,000 years ago, that we witness the beginnings of the first “organised human communities” and of course the first signs of “human civilization”.This started in the Middle East ,and more specifically within the territorial expanse drained by the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.It is then ,that human beings for the first time,see themselves as living entities being “apart from nature”(anthropocentric)*, since they are able to manipulate(irrigation),control(living dwellings) and exploit(agriculture,livestock,animal and human labour) nature΄s ingredients in order to secure and ensure their long-term survival ,even their own immortality(complex burial structures).Since the outset of “human society” and of course of “human civilization”,Humankind has tried to “transcend” the “checks and balances” of nature,whose “universal order” working in a chaotic yet harmonious way(movement of atoms in all matter),encompasses the whole mosaic of our “blue planet”;the living and the non-living,the physical and the non-physical,the material and the spiritual.”Civilized Humans” could have continued to evolve naturally and creatively like their “ancestors”,the Cro-Magnons and the Homo-sapiens;understanding, respecting and cooperating with nature΄s and life΄s “checks and balances”.These “civilized human beings” chose instead to transcend and “transgress” this “universal order”, and it was “then” that the “creative adventure” was lost for humanity.Our “human lives” and our “human existence” became “unnatural”!!!!!!!
We have the scientific evidence which shows that the “Cro-Magnon”Man started emigrating to the European Continent 45,000 years ago,spreading throughout the same territories or living spaces of the Neanderthal.Looking back at the time cycles of “glacial” and “interglacial”periods,we know that 45,000 years ago ,Earth and the European Continent were experiencing a long-term “glacial period” which peaked 20,000 years ago ,as we have previously mentioned.This means that most of Western and Central Europe were covered by glaciers and thick sheets of ice.There was a significant decrease in the atmosphere΄s temperature,and as the ice and snow-fields grew ,there was a considerable reduction in forests,plant life and of course animal life.”..Europe changed into a sparsely vegetated steppe and half desert during the last Ice Age (glacial period)…”(p.4.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neandertal).
We know that the “Neanderthal”Man had specific attributes that did not really change through the course of “evolution” (200,000 years),which means that this “human specie” did not evolve “naturally”,improving and refining the various “human potentials” and “human qualities”-those “human ingredients” which the “cro-Magnon”Man will use so effectively.In their pattern of life,there was a deep-rooted “one-dimensional” nature which not only proves that they did not use their imagination and naturally a “dialectic thought process”(eliminating the less effective choice),but that it also limited their ability to distinguish the ineffectiveness of their own “holistic”** quality of life;meaning at all levels.If we were to take a modern example in order to demonstrate this weakness in Neanderthal΄s perception,we could choose a successful businessman or company executive,who even though has achieved his goals of wealth and social status(one-dimensional goals by their nature),he has no personal life,no free time ,no real emotional affinities with people and a rapidly declining health(high blood pressure,diabetes,anxiety,mental depression,a weak immune system,etc.).This one-dimensional nature affected every aspect of Neanderthal΄s life ,especially his or her “social behaviour”;the key factor to Neanderthal΄s “natural elimination”.For example,Neanderthals did not roam around or migrated from place to place,while they stayed (in caves) near a constant food source(p.1.www.helium.com/items/1256887-neanderthal).Their main food source was meat ;especially meat from big game hunting,like reindeer,bison,red deer,wild horses and gazelles,while they sometimes hunted and ate mammoth and woolly rhinoceros(p.2.www.localhistories.org/neanderthal).At the same time,they competed for the same meat source with other powerful animal predators,such as the cave lion and the cave bear(p.2.www.essays.cc/free_essays/f4/rsk197.shtml). Due to a lack of “imagination”,a “dialectic thought process” and “human initiative”(breaking the everyday standards and routines),the Neanderthal,after 200,000 years of evolution,had developed a simple spear with a limited range,never refining it into a projectile weapon.They used these spears to stab their prey or their enemy predators,stalking them first ,and then making actual physical contact with the animal;wounding it or killing it.This was a very dangerous and risky routine, first of all because the Neanderthal went after big game animals,and second,the animal could be killed only through direct physical contact.
Once the forests turned into flatlands during the “glacial period”,the big game animals decreased dramatically in numbers and it also exposed the Neanderthals to mortal dangers;there were no trees where they could stalk the animals and had to hunt in the open with no protection.Something else which we should mention here ,is the fact that due to Neanderthal΄s anatomical built,being heavily-set with short legs,running after their prey was very cumbersome,expending precious energy under “very cold temperatures”.(p.4.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neandertal).
Here,I want to focus again on the fact that the “Neanderthal”Man had a “static” human personality for 200,000 years, meaning that he remained in one particular location(caves),near a constant food source(p.1.www.helium.com/items/1256887- neanderthal),and “naturally” there were negative implications and after-effects for this “one-dimensional” approach to “survival” and “evolution”.A very critical factor to this type of existence, was the lack of “human communication” between the different Neanderthal groups.This meant that “language communication skills” had not been refined through time,and the exchange of ideas and vital information(for survival) had been obstructed.Anthropologists have discovered that in two neighbouring Neanderthal living sites,located a few kilometres apart,there were serious technological differences.For example in the first site, the people made use of a vital everyday tool such as a fishhook,while in the second site there was no fishhook to be found(p.1.www.helium.com/items/1256887-neanderthal).This complete “disinterest” in having open and constructive communication with their neighbours,is a first indicator that the Neanderthals had no “affinities” for their “fellow human specie”;that there were no inner “human feelings” of “altruism” and “empathy”.There was a complete absence of an “all encompassing vision” of their “specie΄s” survival,welfare and development.This is also the exact cause why after 200,000 years of evolution,the Neanderthal was not able to invent projectile weapons which would have been “more effective” and “safer” to use,but came to depend exclusively on simple spears which required direct physical contact with their prey.Without this sense of a “common welfare” through an exchange of “ideas” and “feelings”,there could not be a “holistic vision” of their own existence through “time” and “space”,therefore the “human quality” of “imagination” was obsolete and non-compatible in the context of their everyday behaviour and their limited priorities.Neanderthal΄s lack of “mobility”,”communication” and “imagination” was disastrous when the forests disappeared and their constant food source of big game animals dwindled,since these animals moved to warmer territories with richer plant life.It was disastrous because this “human specie” could have migrated with these big game animals,but in order to do this they had to first understand the “ineffectiveness” of their monolithic life style.Such an “understanding”(human quality),entailed “communicating” with each other,taking “initiatives” to change their “life patterns”,and utilizing their “imagination” and a “holistic view of life” in order to produce new patterns of life styles,attitudes and types of behaviour.Those everyday human ingredients which could be more “effective” in coping with the harsh geological and climatological conditions of a “glacial period”.
The Neanderthals did not practically change their everyday habits much or quite evolve,so what were the consequences? We have already mentioned that without the cover of forest trees ,the Neanderthals with their primitive and ineffective weapons had to chase after their prey in the open space,and the risks of getting killed were enormous,if we also add to that the difficulty in moving quickly due to their stocky built and short legs.The energy which the Neanderthal had to expend was enormous and many times fatal.The fact that Neanderthals depended largely on meat for their main food source(as in Western societies today),meant that with a rapidly diminishing big game animal population,only the very powerful male- hunters could remain healthy and strong,since they “…enjoyed the fruits of hunting and isolated themselves from the females,unless interested in reproductive duties;leaving the females and children to scavenge on their own…”(p.1.http:// serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_cult).This last critical information provided by anthropologists,demonstrates perfectly the absence of any human feelings of “altruism” and “empathy”,as well as an ignorance in “direct” and “basic” human communication.As a consequence,the women and the children were just subsisting,and were constantly suffering from undernurishment and disease.In the long run ,this “state of affairs” greatly weakened the Neanderthal “human specie”, since only strong and healthy females can bear strong and healthy children,who in turn could evolve into strong and healthy childbearing young adults.From the data registered by anthropologists examining the skeletons of Neanderthals, there are indications that their maximum life span was 40 years(p.2.www.essays.cc/free_essays/f4/rsk197.shtml),while we have already mentioned in the first part(Part A) of our essay that Neanderthal skeletons which have been found, ranging in age from infancy to young adulthood,show from the quality of their teeth that tooth growth stopped due to disease or malnutrition(p.1.www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2006).There were also signs of “cannibalism”,first because they found in Neanderthal sites human remains with no animal remains,while in some of the skeletons of younger inpiduals, there were marks associated with “butchery”(p.1.www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2006).
So while the “Neanderthal”Man was struggling with his natural environment and with his own “ignorance” and “ineffective” life style,there appeared in the scene the “more effective” human specie,the “Cro-Magnon”Man.It was a “new type” of human specie;a human “willing” and “able” to use all those “human qualities” which separated him or her from the rest of the animal world.It was a “human specie” with “feelings” and “sentiments”(altruism,empathy) for his or her “fellow human specie”,caring about their welfare and quality of life.It was a “human specie” always on the move(mobility),trying to discover the places,the means and the ways to live a better life!!This mobility created the circumstances for the exchange of ideas and goods(communication),which initiated a “dialectic thought process” which affected every aspect of everyday life, from the refinement of the human language to the refinement of tools and weapons.The mobility and the communication factors also created the incentives for “a goal” and “a purpose” affecting “all”,not only in the “short run”(survival) but also in the “long run”(vision).This vision of “universal goals” enhanced the “human imagination”,which allowed this new “human specie” to locate mentally his or her own existence,not only within a framework of “time and space”,but also within a framework of “human aesthetics”.Now nature could blend with “human artistic creations”(cave paintings),physical death could be interpreted through metaphysics(shamanism)***,and the joy of life could be expressed through music(musical instruments). With all these “human qualities” energised and active,the “Cro-Magnon”Man,did not have to physically eliminate the “Neanderthal”Man through combat,the “effectiveness” and the “quality” of his or her life,made the existence of another “human specie”,the Neanderthal,obsolete and null within the context of the “checks and balances” of nature.
In the next part of my essay,we will examine what was so extraordinary about the quality of life of the “Cro-Magnon”Man, and how this quality of life made the “Neanderthal”Man obsolete within the natural order of things;a natural state which we “modern human beings” are very fast approaching,even though we try very hard to “hide our heads in the sand”!!!
* anthropocentric- considering human beings and their existence as the most important and central fact in the universe.
** holistic- dealing with or treating the whole of something or someone,and not just the part.
*** shamanism- a religion practiced by indigenous people of northern Europe and Siberia that is characterized by a belief in an unseen world of gods ,demons and ancestral spirits.