[extropy-chat] random caveman thought

Technotranscendence neptune at superlink.net
Sun Dec 17 15:26:05 UTC 2006

On Sunday, December 17, 2006 1:38 AM spike spike66 at comcast.net wrote:
>> ...Just the one that cavemen would want, not civilized men...
> Is it not striking how deeply this term "cavemen" has
> penetrated our language?

No.  It's not really that new of a term.  It's had decades to sink in,
so it's not striking, though, I agree with you below that it might
mis-shape views about prehistoric peoples.

> We all know it refers to ancient people, but consider
> how few caves there are in this world.

But the regions known to be inhabited by prehistoric humans have lots of
evidence of cave usage -- some even for dwelling.  Granted, really big
extensive caves are rare, but rock overhangs and shallow caves seem to
be plentiful in many places in the world.  Where do the bears and other
animals that "nest" underground find places to hibernate?:)  Of course,
this could also be selection bias -- evidence found in caves is more
likely to be preserved.  (It's also true that some of the cave evidence
was misunderstood because some nonhumans probably dragged humans or
their remains into their (the nonhumans') cave lairs for processing.
Later, we might be mislead to thinking the humans actually lived their.)

> There are surely not enough caves to shelter a sufficient
> population to be self sustaining.

I disagree.  It would depends on population size.  Yes, it's unlikely
that caves able to comfortably house modern humans with a reproductive
community (let's say 150 souls) would be plentiful, but very small
natural shelters able to house a family or a slight larger band might be
another matter.  Also, the humans wouldn't likely spend all their time
in the caves.  Likely, they would be shelters for the night or against
bad weather conditions.

> Protohumans must have been capable of building shelters
> of some sort from the time they split from protochimps.

I don't disagree.  Of course, shelter-building is not a specifically
human or primate or even "intelligent" traits.  Bugs and birds can do
such.  The only problem would be confirming such shelters for
proto-humans.  My guess would be that the evidence would be scant even
if your view is correct because a sort of nest of grass would be
unlikely to leave much in the way of evidence for archaeologists or
paleontologists to find, especially if such shelters were temporary.

> Only a fortunate few humans would have discovered caves.

It really depends on where these humans or protohumans were.  E.g., in
Vermont, there are shallow caves all over the place.  It's easy to
imagine early humans here -- though I'm using this as an example and not
arguing actual "cavemen" lived here circa 50K BCE. -- easily find and
using them.  It's also true that once caves are found out, they're
likely to remain found -- either being passed down to subsequent
generations or found out by rivals.  (Humans might have also followed
bear back to their caves and merely evicted (read: killed*) the
residents and took over.)

> These fortunate few would be at least as civilized as their
> non-cave-dwelling cousins, for they would need to work out a system of
> living in cooperation with as many humans as the cave would hold.

I don't think this is a specialized skill.  Humans probably had a basket
of cooperation skills -- as some other primates do -- and these would
likely be easily adapted to cave-dwelling.

> They
> would need to band together in common defense of that cave, otherwise
> larger group would attack and take that natural shelter.

As, no doubt, often happened.  I mean there's no reason to suppose using
a cave means one must be able to defend it from all comers.  No doubt,
actual cavemen would've been overrun, from time to time, by other humans
who then also became cavemen.



*  This is not to deny that humans were more likely scavengers than
hunters, but a small band armed with primitive weapons would probably be
able to chase off if not kill a bear.

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