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Thread: Prehistoric life vs Dark Ages--cleaned

  1. #1 Prehistoric life vs Dark Ages--cleaned 
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    Um, is it me or is has this section never been here before? Anyway, I subtly remember from my course in geography about Catal Huyuk (and nomadic cultures before). Why does life in Catal Huyuk seem so peacefully primitive and serine while the Dark Ages (which one would think to be much more advanced) seemed to have such a dark shroud of gloom over life? Am I just not seeing it right or do you think life was relatively worse? If so, why? Because the way I see it would mean overall quality of life decreased as European civilization advanced into the dark early stages of the Middle Ages.


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    Quote Originally Posted by brody View Post
    Why does life in Catal Huyuk seem so peacefully primitive and serine while the Dark Ages (which one would think to be much more advanced) seemed to have such a dark shroud of gloom over life?
    Perhaps because it is prehistory and so we have no record of how hard people's lives were?

    (On the other hand, I doubt the Dark Ages were as relentlessly bleak as popular presented. The name suggests the sun never shone, etc. But I thought it mainly referred to the lack of intellectual activity at the time?)


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    It is mostly how it is portrayed to most. Catal Huyuk and that time period i'm sure was fairly tough, and the Dark Ages is around the time after the Western Roman Empire was formally broken apart, although it was in major decline for at least 100yrs previous to it formal 'end'. The Dark Ages only apply really to western Europe anyway. The Middle East was 'flourishing' under new found Muslim rule, and the Far East was relatively stable.

    Life as a Hunter Gatherer, had its ups and downs, but on the whole they would have been lots healthier, and more enjoyable life. (Less hard labour)
    Last edited by StukInaaroc; March 14th, 2012 at 06:52 AM.
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    Actually getting a living as a hunter gatherer is more difficult and involves more hard labor than agriculture. Also it produces no surplus and no food stores to last through lean times. Not so long ago a scientist stuying the native american people of the southwestern US determined what their diet had been. He studied "feco liths", basiclly mummified shit, to determin this. (aint science exciting). In any case he put himself on the same diet, gathering his food in the desert. He lost something like 50 lbs. He determined that as a hunter gatherer he burned nearly all of the clories he took in, in the effort to gather his food.
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    Generally smaller amount of people, so less food needed, and yes, surplus for lean times. Surplus leads to wastage, and possession issues, and excessive jealousy from other communities. Also to slave labour and oppression.

    But hunter gatherer, only had to forage for what they needed at any one moment and they were able to move about instead of a fixed sedentary life. And 1 fat wild boar or a large stag or something would feed a community of 20 or so quite well for a while, cause of all the wild fruits and berries and stuff they foraged.

    Burning nearly all the calories you take in sounds like a fairly healthy and fit way to live. Hunting trips would have taken however long, but they wouldn't have done it all day everyday. The way they would've in the 'Dark ages' and even now.
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    thoughts:
    I dont know about the specifics of the hunter gatherer society you refer to but the middle ages had feudal warlords and warfare(with armies that could be fed without having to plow fields on a daily basis themselves). I imagine that generally speaking hunter gatherers were in many cases their own boss or were part of a small community, life was harsher for natural reasons as opposed to social reasons and you probably shared the food you hunted among people you knew personally and had a relationship with, in many cases probably had respect of others for providing food from a sucessful hunt, as opposed to toil and have some or most of it taken by feudal lords that could have treated those that provided the food (peasants) as shite and sub-class subordinates while being little more than criminal gangsters and claiming to be noble-regal-anointed(etc). I imagine tribal warfare skirmishes and feuds was not a pick-nick but was probably relatively simple, where as in the middle ages people were tortured by elaborate gruesome techniques, beheaded, burned alive and eviscerated for a host of reasons including being accused of dealing with the devil or other imaginary character, or not worshiping the exact and correct variant of a religious dogma. The middle ages had more use of Money along with the crap that goes with it; Usury and exploitation/serfs, land as Property(this and everywhere in sight is the kings land you are forbidden to hunt to feed yourself, now starve), more Hierarchy with its abuses, and more swindle (religion). Hunter gatherers probably died of many diseases, but cities with lack of sanitation and greater population with greater contact might have increase the actual scope (and visibility) of middle ages epidemics (Black Plague).
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    Whilst the hunter gatherer went through bad times the good times often meant a degree of leisure which is evident in their everyday tools and utensils so often being elaborately decorated. Population was low and spread out and warfare was probably more sporadic. Whilst the life for a hunter gather could get harsh and brutal I suspect most lived better more of the time than the serfs and slaves, soldiers and peasants during the 'Dark Ages'. The workload would - most of the time - be less onerous and they were more likely to share in the abundance in the good times.
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    I had trouble finding non-paywalled access but Cassidy CM. "Nutrition and health in agriculturalists and hunter-gatherers: a case study of two prehistoric populations." in Nutritional Anthropology appears to show evidence that hunter-gatherers overall had better nutrition, less disease and better health than nearby agriculturalists. It's a single case study but other scholarly articles - also finding it hard to get full access - appear to show similar results. This site and this discusses and quotes extensively from Claire Cassidy.

    "Biological changes in human populations with agriculture" by Clark Spencer Larsen also supports the conclusion that the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture didn't result in better health. It does support the assertion that the shift to agriculture tended to result in reduced skeletal growth rates but not in all cases.

    Cassidy shows higher infant mortality amongst the hunter gatherers and that case study showed regular seasonal periods of food shortages whereas for the agriculturalists food shortages were less frequent but more prolonged famines. But anemia was common for the latter but absent for the former - who also showed much less dental decay and less evidence of bone infections. But there are a lot of factors that are case dependent and there would have been advantages and disadvantages to both lifestyles. Agriculture supported greater population certainly, and ultimately to allow specialised trades and innovation to occur. And it's a long way between the initial shift to agriculture and the situation in medieval Europe. But overall I think I'd prefer to be an ordinary member of a hunter gatherer community than a peasant in medieval Europe.
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    The best guide we have to hunter/gatherer societies are recent ones, such as those in the Amazon and in Papua New Guinea. Prof. Stephen Pinker compiles information about these in his new book, and in this video.
    Steven Pinker: A brief history of violence - YouTube

    Life as a hunter/gatherer was not nice. Violence was rife. Inter-tribal warfare killed off up to 80% of the males of specific tribes routinely. As one result, polygamy is common in those societies, since there is a shortage of mature males.

    As to nutrition, this cannot be generalised. Some communities were well nourished. Some very badly nourished. Depends to a large extent on the environment they lived in and the specific skills they possessed. Periods of famine were not uncommon in many communities. If the hunters make a good kill, they feast. They may be followed by a period of virtual fasting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fabos View Post
    Thanks--it shows the trade offs in a reasonable way.

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    I'll doubt there much or any claim that hunter-gatherers were nutritionally better off or larger than modern industrial peoples.
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    I'd be wary about over-generalising about inter-tribal violence, just as with reliability of food supply. The effects of ENSO on SE Australia for example would see a great deal of variation in food availability for the indigenous hunter gatherers year to year; that unreliability of rainfall has also been suggested as a reason that agriculture would have been difficult to develop in Australia.

    I think Anthropology has not been as objective as it could when explaining the hows and why's of change within human societies. I recall generalisations/classifications of the levels of development of different societies using the introduction of pottery making and styles of stone tools - which classed the inhabitants of much of the South Pacific as 'primitive'. They had no flint and there was no clay, but they built quite sophisticated oceangoing craft routinely navigated beyond the sight of land. Or the subject that first drew me to this forum - human hairlessness; there's been more than a century of speculation about that but evolutionary anthropology has only recently managed to notice that human hair has a sensory function!

    t seems like these questions involve a lot of speculation, often from very limited evidence.
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    "life was like a walk in a supermarket"

    Im not sure the Donner Party would agree with that. That depends on the region and the season. In my area supermarkets are lot more comfortable and food filled then a frozen forest in january.

    But I have no problems imagining (or fantasizing about, tropical island paradise) that there are probably regions where climate and vegetation etc is so favorable that it makes life easier as a robinson crusoe hunter garherer than medieval peasants in russia.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aristarchus in Exile View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by icewendigo View Post
    "life was like a walk in a supermarket"

    Im not sure the Donner Party would agree with that. That depends on the region and the season. In my area supermarkets are lot more comfortable and food filled then a frozen forest in january.

    But I have no problems imagining (or fantasizing about, tropical island paradise) that there are probably regions where climate and vegetation etc is so favorable that it makes life easier as a robinson crusoe hunter garherer than medieval peasants in russia.
    Indians lived in the same conditions as the Donner party. They knew how to live in it. The Donner party was ignorant of any aspect of it.

    Yes, I know, but that's not the question I was referring to. I was NOT talking about surviving or just living, but about quality of life that is claimed to be similar to a walk in a "supermarket", which I still think is affected by region/climate/environment and season. Inuits lived in arctic conditions in snow igloos eating meet and fat for a good part of the year, there's no question you can live in these conditions, "They knew how to live in it" too, but I would not choose that over a tropical area in which a great variety of resources are nearby and the weather is pleasant, and it definitely is not similar to walking in a "supermarket"
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    I think Aristarchus may have been a bit overcome by romanticism. The pre-European indigenous people of North America did not live lives of ease. They had to work, and they did not eat well, except part of the time.

    For a start, they were not hunter/gatherers, except those to the further north, where life was genuinely very difficult. At least not for the past 4,000 years. They were mostly farmers, and maize was a staple crop. It was not the maize of today, which is genetically superior. It has smaller heads, and needed much tending. They had no horses. No metal tools. Stone and wooden tools to tend crops, and the risk of raiders from other tribes, who were out to steal their crops, kill their men, and rape their women.

    Something similar to this has been the rule, not the exception, for hunter/gatherers also. Collecting food with difficulty and with frequent periods of hunger. Inter-tribal warfare. Tools and weapons of stone and wood. Not a nice life.
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    plus the fact that a maize-rich diet can lead to anemia :

    Maize, an older term for corn, is a plant that humans developed from a wild grass native to Central America called Teosinte. Like most grains, maize is relatively low in iron when compared to other food sources. According to an article published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in November 1999, maize is also high in phytates, which inhibit iron absorption. Although iron can be added to foods to help prevent iron deficiency and anemia, corn contains a large amount of fatty acids that can interact negatively with the added iron.

    see also IRON DEFICIENCY AND MAIZE
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR View Post
    plus the fact that a maize-rich diet can lead to anemia :

    Maize, an older term for corn, is a plant that humans developed from a wild grass native to Central America called Teosinte. Like most grains, maize is relatively low in iron when compared to other food sources. According to an article published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in November 1999, maize is also high in phytates, which inhibit iron absorption. Although iron can be added to foods to help prevent iron deficiency and anemia, corn contains a large amount of fatty acids that can interact negatively with the added iron.

    see also IRON DEFICIENCY AND MAIZE
    The Indians used Lime to process their corn, enabling corn's full nutrient value.
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    If you live in Dark Ages London, then you wouldn't worry about food: you'll worry about desease/shit/dirt and plague... , and same thing happen in Paris before Revolution; river contaminated with toxin from hide/animal-skin industry + the same filth of any city at its era which lead to perfume industry but also an explosive angry rampant citizen which lead to a killing of all royal people (and any people that wear nice stuff), and same thing happen in industrial New York where alot of migrant were 'imported' as 'labor' (force labor) living in cramped room with tick/lice breeding rampant without toilet or water and outbreak of cholera plague killing people happily. Food is certainly enough, this is evident from the specialization of workforce existing in this era (if food not enough then everyone need to hunt or grow food and life will be 'hard work' anyway). -You can learn more about filthy city of the world from BBC documentary : "Filthy City".

    Certainly living in this city mean being sick, and being sick felt really terrible; you wouldn't even chew on KFC if you are sick (meat are plentiful in old London, but later it was BANNED because it is too filthy).

    London sit during the Dark Ages, but they are excluded from the slave or landlord system because the King give them the privilege (of freedom) due to their tax return...
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    I think Aristarchus may have been a bit overcome by romanticism. The pre-European indigenous people of North America did not live lives of ease. They had to work, and they did not eat well, except part of the time.

    For a start, they were not hunter/gatherers, except those to the further north, where life was genuinely very difficult. At least not for the past 4,000 years. They were mostly farmers, and maize was a staple crop. It was not the maize of today, which is genetically superior. It has smaller heads, and needed much tending. They had no horses. No metal tools. Stone and wooden tools to tend crops, and the risk of raiders from other tribes, who were out to steal their crops, kill their men, and rape their women.

    Something similar to this has been the rule, not the exception, for hunter/gatherers also. Collecting food with difficulty and with frequent periods of hunger. Inter-tribal warfare. Tools and weapons of stone and wood. Not a nice life.
    Please see: Samuel Hearne - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Please read: Coppermine journey : an account of a great adventure by Samuel Hearne, Farley Mowat
    British 'explorer' Samuel Hearne made a cross country winter expedition over about 18 months, travelling through two winters, from Hudson Bay to the western Arctic accompanied by two or three hundred natives including families with women, children. They procured food by hunting and trapping on the way. There was no hunger. Enroute they met a lone Indian woman whose husband and child had been killed by a war party, and who escaped the man who wanted her as his bride, but who had killed her husband and child. She lived alone in the woods for about two years before being found, in perfect health, perfectly able to live well off the land by herself, by Hearne's party. European visitors to North America were astounded by the quality of Indian woodwork, and could scarce believe items had been made using no modern tools. Indian technology still exceeds modern technology's ability at making cutting edges, their obsidian arrowheads and knives sharper than surgical steel. Native technology for using wood is still in use in some parts of the U.S. southeast, but the technology, using wood "splits" is now so obscure I can't find reference on Google. I found this, however: basket weaving - Bing Images

    Please see: First Peoples Hall | Canadian Museum of Civilization
    Here you will see the exceedingly high level of culture of hunter-gatherers of Canada's west coast natives. Their Jade carvings exceed that of ancient China's highest culture.

    The natives did war on each other, as did all the European cultures mass murder each other, but at the time of European first contact a great religious confederacy had begun and had spread very far which historians say would have, in a very short time, united all or most of the tribes in North America in a great culture of peace.
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    Obsidian flakes properly obtained are sharper than surgical steel - one reason they are used by choice in microtomes for making very fine slices of tissue in pathology labs.

    Arrowheads of obsidian likewise - more brittle, and far more expensive, they do cut better and penetrate better than steel points.

    The pre-European indigenous people of North America did not live lives of ease. They had to work, and they did not eat well, except part of the time.
    They worked much less than the white agriculturalists (the women did the majority of the farming in most tribes, a greater than 50% difference in applied labor right there) and not all tribes grew maize - many of the tribes of hunter/gatherers of North America were taller and healthier than the early white colonists.

    The buffalo hunting Northern Cheyenne after adopting horse culture - which they used exclusively for hunting and travelling and war, and not at all for farming - were the tallest people on earth for a while.
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    Hunters gatherers were in low population density areas, perpetually kept that way because life was so harsh. (duh!) Life was anything but easy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Which only proves, Aristarchus, that you are not the only romantic.
    This Hearne guy I do not believe. I believe the more rigorous research of anthropologists.
    Obsidian can be very sharp, admitted. It is glass, after all. But sharper than surgical steel? That is a massive exaggeration.
    Skeptic, all you had to do was google obsidian. Of course you won't believe ice aura either.

    As far as 'that Samuel Hearne guy' he lived and explored in the time the anthropologists today study.
    His account is first hand personal. He was a British naval officer. You would be much better educated if you read the book, but of course, if you are AFRAID CHICKEN SCAREDY CAT to learn something which will blow your preconceptions out of the water, all I can say is keep your head in the sand, big chicken.

    "Obsidian is ...... and are still used as surgical scalpel blades.[4]
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Hunters gatherers were in low population density areas, perpetually kept that way because life was so harsh. (duh!) Life was anything but easy.
    Population of North America at time of first European contact has been conservatively estimated at 50,000,000. The largest pyramid in the world was found in the Ohio Valley, the town associated with it was estimated to have a population of 200,000. Some tribes grew corn, beans and squash, tobacco .. but they were not farmers, they had no plows .. and why should they work hard at planting when 'edible everything' was super-abundant all around them?

    Even Australian aborigines practiced agriculture of a sort:
    "Many reasons have been put forward for the lack of agriculture in Australia, but it is only recently that it was realised that they did in fact practice a form of agriculture, firestick agriculture. They not only used fire to hunt, setting fire to grass to chase out animals to aid in hunting, but regularly burnt limited areas to increase the availability of new grass to feed the animals they hunted, maintaining the populations of their prey species sustainably for many thousands of years. Not only did they maintain their hunting lands in the condition their prey species preferred, they are also thought to be possibly, at least partially, responsible for the spread of dry eucalypt forests after their arrival, because this type of vegetation is fire-resistant."

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    What Captain Cook said of the Australian Aborigines.

    "From what I have said of the Nature of New-Holland they may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon the Earth, but in reality they are far more happier than we Europeans. They live in a Tranquillity that is not distrurb'd by the Inequality of Condition: The Earth and sea of their own accord furnishes them with all things necessary for life, they covet not Magnificent Houses, Household-stuff & ca, they lie in a warm and fine climate and enjoy a very wholesome Air, so they have very little need for clothing and this they seem to be fully sensible of, for many to whom we gave Cloth & ca to, left it carelessly upon the Sea beach and in the woods as a thing they had no manner of use for. In short they seem'd to set no Value upon any thing we gave them, nor would they part with any thing of their own for any one article we could offer them; this in my opinion argues that they think themselves provided with all the necessarys of Life and that they have no superfluities'.
    The attitude of the Aboriginal people to the agricultural practices of the white settlers on their land can be seen from the statement of an Aboriginal woman in Arnhem Land when watching a Fijian missionary working in his mission garden who became concerned that a few of his plants had died. 'You people go to all that trouble, working and planting seeds, but we don't have to do that. All these things are there for us, the Ancestral Beings left them for us. In the end, you depend on the sun and the rain just the same as we do, but the difference is that we just have to go and collect the food when it is ripe. We don't have all this other trouble.' In areas such as the Daly River, they avoided exhausting yam beds, always leaving enough scattered plants to provide the next season's crop for harvesting. This sort of attitude was actually widespread across Australia. Their intimate knowledge of the plants and animals on which they depended allowed them to avoid overexploitation of any particular food source. This aspect of their culture was overlooked by nearly all the Europeans who came in contact with them. It allowed them to use the same plants and animals continuously for about 60,000. Instead of hording food in times of plenty they realised that by avoiding overexploitation of a food resource in times of plenty they ensured the continuance of the food resource for the future. There were a number instances that were observed of this practice in various places. One example is Aborigines observed to refrain from killing stingrays for food because it was the breeding season for stingrays."
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    Population of North America at time of first European contact has been conservatively estimated at 50,000,000. The largest pyramid in the world was found in the Ohio Valley, the town associated with it was estimated to have a population of 200,000. Some tribes grew corn, beans and squash, tobacco .. but they were not farmers, they had no plows .. and why should they work hard at planting when 'edible everything' was super-abundant all around them?
    AiE, don't just copy bits from webpages you found here, give us the reference you used as well please.. I am quite suspicious of the 50 million number.
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    One example of the miserable, downtrodden, starving conditions of aboriginals in North America.

    Monk Mound. Pyramid of North America
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER View Post
    Population of North America at time of first European contact has been conservatively estimated at 50,000,000. The largest pyramid in the world was found in the Ohio Valley, the town associated with it was estimated to have a population of 200,000. Some tribes grew corn, beans and squash, tobacco .. but they were not farmers, they had no plows .. and why should they work hard at planting when 'edible everything' was super-abundant all around them?
    AiE, don't just copy bits from webpages you found here, give us the reference you used as well please.. I am quite suspicious of the 50 million number.
    The 50,000,000 was from memory of something read .. but it was only North America, not North and South.
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    It seems you were correct, but it is around 50 million for the whole of the Americas. Nobody is exactly sure though:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_history_of_indigenous_peoples_of_the_Am ericas

    Interesting
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER View Post
    It seems you were correct, but it is around 50 million for the whole of the Americas. Nobody is exactly sure though:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_history_of_indigenous_peoples_of_the_Am ericas

    Interesting
    This article gives a high of 112 million for the whole of the Americas. Population history of American indigenous peoples

    I have seen historical photographs of 'Eskimo' towns in the arctic which contained hundreds of inhabitants .. before european contact they often lived in permanent houses rather than tents and igloos. The Eskimo/Innuit were highly artistic, they had enormous amounts of time for culture, as their stone carvings, drums and music show.

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

    If the people at the arctic circle could prosper like that, how much more could people at lower latitudes? Our picture of aboriginals is based almost exclusively on the generated hatred of conquering people for the people they had to murder to take their lands and resources. We 'educated' white people are still mostly totally ignorant of the cultures which were here before us. There was a four story apartment building in the U.S. Southwest, for instance.

    Also, the Indians had regular trade between points as distant as Labrador, where they got a specific obsidian, to Central America, where they got a specific semi-precious stone. This kind of trade certainly negates the standard caucasian picture of Indians as cave dwelling apes killing each other like flies.
    Last edited by Aristarchus in Exile; March 19th, 2012 at 11:23 AM.
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  30. #29  
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    Aristarchus

    Monk mound is rather similar to Silbury Hill in England.
    Silbury Hill - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Primitive peoples constructed a number of impressive structures, including Stonehenge and the henge at Avebury.
    That says nothing of how well they were fed.

    I relate to New Zealand Maori more than North American indigenous people. I know they had something of a feast or famine life style. Skeletons of old time Maori have been studied and the bones show times of malnutrition. New Zealand has always had fertile soils for agriculture with plenty of rain. However, the Maori were a primitive, stone age people, with a limited range of crops, and times of famine were frequent.

    On obsidian.
    I am very familiar with this material, and have handled it many times, since vast amounts were produced in the NZ Mayor Island volcano. Top quality obsidian, widely used by our pre-European Maoris. They called it 'tuhua' and traded it by canoe in large amounts up and down the entire country. It can be chipped to produce sharp edges, certainly. But not to scalpel sharpness.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    It can be chipped to produce sharp edges, certainly. But not to scalpel sharpness
    An obsidian arrowhead made to pre-Columbian aboriginal standards in North America is sharper and cuts better than the best steel arrowheads commercially available.

    Microtome blades in pathology labs are made of expensively, inefficiently, and frustratingly flaked obsidian because equivalent precision and sharpness is not obtainable in surgical steel or similar materials. These microtome blades are sharper than scalpels - significantly sharper.

    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    Hunters gatherers were in low population density areas, perpetually kept that way because life was so harsh. (duh!) Life was anything but easy.
    Life may have been harsh, in many ways, but the working hours were considerably less, and the people who did that work were taller and stronger and had better teeth than the European agriculturalists who first encountered them. The San people, right now, in one of the harshest environments on earth for subsistence hunting and gathering, work about half the hours per year of a comparable subsistence wet rice farmer in southern China.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aristarchus
    Our picture of aboriginals is based almost exclusively on the generated hatred of conquering people for the people they had to murder to take their lands and resources.
    Not really. More significantly, it is based on the early encounters between white people and red cultures that had been all but destroyed by disease - estimated mortality of 70 - 90%, just prior to the white people's arrival in their region.
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    On obsidian

    I have worked with obsidian myself, trying to chip and flake it. I certainly could not obtain scalpel like sharpness. If it can be done, then it is not easy.

    On our picture of aboriginals.
    My picture of Australian aborigines is warped and twisted by seeing them sprawled in the grass at Broome and at Fitszroy' s Crossing, drunk out of their skulls. My picture of New Zealand Maori is far more complex, since I have socialised with them under many conditions, ranging from the work place to parties, and including some who were criminals. North American aboriginals I cannot really picture, except as part of the image generated by Hollywood, which I am sure is inaccurate.
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    I have worked with obsidian myself, trying to chip and flake it. I certainly could not obtain scalpel like sharpness. If it can be done, then it is not easy.
    I've seen at least one pathology lab with a little terra cotta figurine set in a shrine in the microtome bay - I was told it was the "God of the Microtome", and it was propitiated for success at shaping and setting microtome blades.

    No, the skills of the stone age artisan are not easily or quickly acquired. The standard tool kit and requisite skills of the Cheyenne buffalo hunter are quite likely to be beyond your capability, just as you probably could not make clothing capable of handling a standard Minnesota winter (as every Ojibwe wife did every year, with a needle and other tools she made for herself), or a waterproof four man and load birchbark canoe with paddles, let alone something like an umiak with a full complement of gear sufficient to kill a whale on the open ocean.

    If it can be done,
    It's routinely done. It's standard. It's common. It's all over the world. It's all over the internet. It's not a matter about which there is the slightest doubt.
    Last edited by iceaura; March 19th, 2012 at 08:50 PM.
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    Just did a google search looking for obsidian in microtome blades. Glass blades are mentioned, but not obsidian. Also steel, tungsten carbide, sapphire and diamond. Obsidian seems to be conspicuous by its absence.

    Are you sure you are not getting confused between hardened glass and obsidian? Obsidian is sometimes called volcanic glass, and has a glass-like nature. But it is an impure rapidly cooled volcanic rock called rhyolite. It seems to me to be a very unlikely material to be used in something as precise and sophisticated as a microtome blade.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Just did a google search looking for obsidian in microtome blades. Glass blades are mentioned, but not obsidian. Also steel, tungsten carbide, sapphire and diamond. Obsidian seems to be conspicuous by its absence.

    Are you sure you are not getting confused between hardened glass and obsidian? Obsidian is sometimes called volcanic glass, and has a glass-like nature. But it is an impure rapidly cooled volcanic rock called rhyolite. It seems to me to be a very unlikely material to be used in something as precise and sophisticated as a microtome blade.
    Obsidian Rock

    I think you're in a tired phase, Skeptic. I'm not good with search engines but had no trouble finding the references.
    This world is an exhausing place.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ”skeptic”
    Are you sure you are not getting confused between hardened glass and obsidian? Obsidian is sometimes called volcanic glass, and has a glass-like nature. But it is an impure rapidly cooled volcanic rock called rhyolite.
    Obsidian is a glass. Glass is the name of the kind of stuff obsidian is. There’s better and worse obsidian, for things like arrowheads and cutting tools – the aboriginals of NA knew where to find the best, or with whom to trade for it.

    This is the second Google hit under Wikipedia on the topic, right at the top of the page. Can’t miss it:
    Obsidian Volcanic Glass
    Obsidian is mineral-like, but is not a true mineral because it is not crystalline and does not have a well-defined chemical composition. - - - -
    - - - -
    In addition to its use as a gemstone, obsidian has been used in cardiac surgery, as well-crafted obsidian blades have a cutting edge many times sharper than high-quality steel surgical scalpels, with the edge of the blade being only about 3 nanometers wide. Even the sharpest metal knife has a jagged, irregular blade when viewed under a strong magnification. When examined under an electron microscope an obsidian blade is still smooth and even.
    Eye surgery, maybe more often. And any lab doing histology on unembedded tissue (not in plastic).

    The underestimation of stone age technology is a common blind spot of the modern age – the first Europeans to encounter aboriginal ocean going boats in the High Arctic (kayaks, umiaks, etc) were meeting the fastest and most seaworthy craft of any kind on the planet. They were also looking at the best cold weather clothing available anywhere until very recently, harpoons and other whaling tech superior to their own, and some of the smartest human beings ever to have lived. Likewise elsewhere. A military observer once described the early 1800s Cheyenne force he met as "probably the finest light cavalry in the world" if I recall the quote correctly - that was a commendation of their gear, as well as their horses and riding skill.
    Last edited by iceaura; March 20th, 2012 at 01:00 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aristarchus in Exile View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Hunters gatherers were in low population density areas, perpetually kept that way because life was so harsh. (duh!) Life was anything but easy.
    Population of North America at time of first European contact has been conservatively estimated at 50,000,000. The largest pyramid in the world was found in the Ohio Valley, the town associated with it was estimated to have a population of 200,000. Some tribes grew corn, beans and squash, tobacco .. but they were not farmers, they had no plows .. and why should they work hard at planting when 'edible everything' was super-abundant all around them?
    The mistake you're making is combining the hunter gatherer society, which I was referring, and the highly socialized corn based societies of the America's that were NOT hunter-gatherers.

    I don't dispute there may have been relatively large native populations (though I do think 50 million is WAY overestimated), but I think we are talking about different type of living.

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    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; April 4th, 2012 at 02:17 PM.
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    If we go far enough back in pre-history, it's clear that food must have been plentiful. Neanderthals had much larger food requirements than homo-sapiens. It's one of the extinction hypothesis, that climate change reduced their game and they died out while Sapiens survived because they couldn't weather the shortages.

    Neanderthal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Studies on Neanderthal body structures have shown that they needed more energy to survive than any other species. Their energy needs were up to 100–350 calories more per day comparing to projected anatomically modern human males weighing 68.5 kg and females 59.2 kg.[74] When food became scarce, this difference may have played a major role in the Neanderthals' extinction


    So anyway, I see no reason to doubt that Sapiens of that time would have been well fed also, considering their needs were smaller. The world might have been different back then. Maybe hunting megafauna gave better yields than hunting whatever they hunt in New Guinea today?
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    I don't mean to interrupt the discussion, but it is possible to compare actual prehistoric people in Europe with the Europeans of the Dark Ages, as per the OP, rather than with modern post-Columbian Europeans.

    It is also possible to compare hunter gatherers in reasonably equivalent environments elsewhere with the Medieval European norms - the discovery of North America brought literate and observant Europeans from our own historical background into direct contact with pre-historical stone age peoples of several different modes of living in good environs, not (as they are today) relegated to difficult and impoverished corners of the landscape. Some of these peoples seem to have had modes of life more or less comparable with stone age Europeans (the buffalo hunting Northern Cheyenne and other western or northern tribes would compare with the hunter/gatherers, the Sioux and Chippewa with the semi-nomadic hunter/gardeners, the Iroquois and Cherokee with the more settled fishermen/hunter/gardeners before draft animals, etc), with the added circumstance that, like Dark Age Europeans at frequent intervals, they had been recently raddled by plague. So apples to apples, pretty much.

    As with other hunter/gatherers and hunter/gardeners and fishermen/hunter/gardeners in suitably rich environments, many of the prehistoric peoples of Europe were taller and stronger and had better teeth and so forth than the agriculturalists of Medieval Europe - even the ones of the Dark Ages (an obsolete term, btw) which seems to have been a time of relative prosperity (for the plague survivors) between two eras of abject misery for most people.

    As the better summaries and overviews are not welcome as posts here, I leave the curious to meander the intertubes for themselves - Google searching "Komlos height average Cheyenne" and "Cro Magnon height teeth" and "Komlos Medieval Europe height" and "dark ages teeth europe" and similar should do ya. Some interesting comparisons with prehistoric fisher/gatherers, differentiated from hunter/gatherers, are worth chasing across the web as well.
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    It also just plain makes sense that Cro-Magnons (or whatever one is pleased to call them) would be taller, stronger, healthier .... etc as those traits are very useful to a hunter/gatherer. Even watching the TV version of Jarred Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, during the parts where he hangs out with tribesfolk in New Guinea some of those tribal dudes he's hanging out with are pretty well muscled. I want to think they must work out, but then I remember they're tribesfolk with no access to a gym.

    Also we can't compare hunter/gatherers who are living in the same world with civilized agriculturalists and expect that to tell us everything about the time before civilization (it may tell us somethings though). By virtue of their military superiority, the agriculturalists always live in the best lands, forcing the hunter/gatherers to locate somewhere the agriculturalists don't want to live.

    In modern times especially, hunter/gatherers are almost always overpopulated in their regions (from the perspective of their lifestyle) because the recent incursions of settlers from abroad will have reduced their hunting grounds. The gatherers that get pushed out of one area will have to go into another area already occupied by other hunter/gatherer tribes, reducing the size of everyone's hunting grounds.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    It also just plain makes sense that Cro-Magnons (or whatever one is pleased to call them) would be taller, stronger, healthier .... etc as those traits are very useful to a hunter/gatherer. Even watching the TV version of Jarred Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, during the parts where he hangs out with tribesfolk in New Guinea some of those tribal dudes he's hanging out with are pretty well muscled. I want to think they must work out, but then I remember they're tribesfolk with no access to a gym.
    I've seen that. Interesting video. As for your thought, you don't need a gym to get muscle tone at all. It's just an organized place to do exercise.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Even watching the TV version of Jarred Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, during the parts where he hangs out with tribesfolk in New Guinea some of those tribal dudes he's hanging out with are pretty well muscled. I want to think they must work out, but then I remember they're tribesfolk with no access to a gym.
    As one who has spent time in PNG and met many of those tribesfolk, I must disagree.
    Sure, many are well muscled, but that is more due to lack of fat, creating great muscle definition. Overall, they are small.
    I am six foot tall, and I feel like a giant there. Average height is well below European average. If you want to meet a good sized Melanesian, go to Fiji, where they make rugby players!
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