Friday, November 22, 2013

Reading lately...

Every decade or so, I like to review my world history. I've recently started reading Andrew Marr's A History of the World. This is in the early pages...
She had a different name. No one has known it for around seventy thousand years. She had one; for she lived among talkative and highly social people. ‘Mother’, for reasons that will become obvious, will do. She was probably young, tough, stocky and dark-skinned. She was a traveller, part of a people always on the move. She was also heavily pregnant. Her tribespeople were hunters and expert gleaners of berries, shellfish, roots and herbs. They carried tools and hides and a couple of babies with them, tied with sinews and skins around adult backs, but there were surprisingly few children in the group. Those who didn’t learn early to walk, keep quiet and keep up tended to die, picked off by predators following the group. 
In their own way the travellers were, however, formidable, armed with spears and razor-sharp chipped-stone cutting edges that had been developed over around a hundred thousand years of hunting, and (if they were anything like later hunter-gatherers) while fighting rival tribes. Their average age was relatively young, something that would remain true of all human societies until very recent history. But there would have been people in their fifties or sixties. It is now thought that the female menopause may have been a useful evolutionary adaptation to provide grandmothers, who could care for the young while younger women were breeding: tribes with grandmothers would be able to support more children to adulthood, and therefore would grow at the expense of tribes without older women.

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