Could persent day humanity survive 2 million years ago?

If I were to get a random sample of 2000 humans that meet the criteria below, and transport them together to an exact copy of Europe 2 million years ago, (but without any species classified as homo-anything around) do you think they would survive, and grow? They will each be given 1 servicable set of clothing for immediate protection against the elements and a hunting rifle with 10 bullets for protection against beasts, (the random sampling will not include or exclude people based on firearms skill). Other than this they will be on their own. They will have no warning and so will only be able to use knowledge they have right now.

Somehow, once it is done they will immediately understand what has happened.

[li]Aged between 25-45[/li][li]IQ in top 10%[/li][li]No Physical/Mental disabilities or diseases.[/li][li]All speak a common languge[/li][/ul]

Assuming they do survive how long do you think it would take to reach or exceed 2006 technical standards?

The main issue would be disease. There’s no telling what would be floating in the air or what it would do to them.

Still, one would conjecture that at least some of them are going to survive–perhaps finding an island to burn down (i.e. sterilize) and convert to farm land. From there it is just a matter of starting to build out and establishing mines, lumber operations, etc. For getting the population back to modern day standards, the main issue would be to make paper and ink in enough quantities that the survivors could record as much technical knowledge as possible before dying.

Given five generations or so, though, it wouldn’t be too hard to get caught up–most everything was hand made still by 1900, and yet we already can build CPUs that have billions of microscopic transistors in a square inch of space. The main issue would, again, be to establish mills, mines, and factories. Animal life won’t stay much of a threat for too long once we could make fire at need, let along making guns.

Guns? No. Knives, yes. You don’t want weapons so much for protection as more for hunting, food preparation, cutting down trees, etc until they find a source of iron ore. And current blades are going to be far superior to anything your time-travellers will be able to produce for generations. Those guns will be useless after the bullets have been used up.

And isn’t 2 million years ago the start of the last ice age? So it would very much depend on where in Europe you put them and whether they recognised the danger. Spain would be fine; northern Russia would not.

I realised knives would be more useful. I chose guns for the example, as it would give them a few days/weeks where they are more powerful than the local fauna so they don’t get immediately swamped, but as you say wouldn’t be of much use in the long term. If they want cutting tools and better weapons they’ll have to make them out of whatever they can find.

Regarding the Ice Age. good point :smack:

I chose Europe as a ‘mild’ area, so call it Spain for the example.

Thanks for the replies.

What are they going to farm? There are no domesticated animals - no cows, no sheep, no horses, no dogs - and no domesticated plants - no . They’re going to have to find them and gather them and test them. How many people can tell the difference between grass and barley? How many people know how to make paper? Ink? Or are you going to bake clay tablets? How do you heal injuries with no modern medicine available? And I think you’re underestimating the infrastructure necessary for technology, as well as all the individual advances in each field.

As for population, you’ve got on average 1000 women, half of whom are over realistic breeding age, and all of them are past prime breeding age (sorry, ladies). You’re going to see a huge population crash as many children will die within the first few years, not forgetting the women who will die in childbirth (no modern medicine, remember) and will therefore be unable to reproduce further. There should be enough descendants to regroup, but it will take time. Say you get 100 children survive to adulthood - that’s 50 males, 50 females. Not many. Say each female has 10 children (essentially permanently pregnant / nursing from 16 to 35), half of whom die before adulthood. That’s 250 grandchildren. 1250 great-grandchildren, and only at the next generation do we see an actual population increase from the original colony.

Unless they had extremely specialized training and habituated quickly to being an oral history culture, it’s not likely they can survive.

Under the current scenario they won’t even survive the basic food needs needed to sustain a population of 2000 on even a minimal 1,000 per day calorie requirement – minus modern-day vitamin and mineral needs – times 365 days a year without the onset of malnutrition, and malnutrition related diseases, starvation, food posioning, parasitical infections and likely cannibalism.

Other problems (in no particular order)

Contemporary germs/ breeding bodily parasites transported 2 million years would likely negatively toxify immediate environs. Available food sources might be too wild for human digestion. Exposure to European winter elements, lack of specialized tools, lack of adequate shelters, lack of medicine, seed stores, farming equipment and domesticated animals for beasts of burden would halve human population within 2 years. Group would experience zero population growth, assuming they lasted long enough for any children to survive until puberty (I’m being real generous in thinking they wouldn’t make it past two generations). Realistically? Expect starvation, malnutrition, digestive problems, animal-borne diseases, food poisoning, cannibalism, massive decimating deaths and criminal behavior (theft, assault, murder, rape, incest, infanticide.) Intense localized epidemic likely to occur and adversely affect local fungal, plant and animal life. Post-literacy culture would sadly impact the facility of an oral tradition and non-literate dependent memory common to pre-literate agrarian hunter-gatherers; learning curve would fall off rapidly from pregenitor arrivals to second and tertiary time transported humans.


Humans may luck up on cave systems, farmworthy river valleys and pass on operant engineering, carpentry and skills: basic understanding of biology, simple physics, chemistry, psychology, the scientific method, deductive and inductive reasoning, sophisticated math and language concepts, simple toolmaking, fishing, hunting, tracking, trapping, skinning furs, knowledge of weather, seasons and some weaving, firemaking, weaponsmithing, forging metal, some mining skills, basic farming, preventive medicine. But unless they are specially trained, most of the knowledge of that first generation will be unusable for actual wilderness survival. Without access to needed minerals, elements, compounds, and passed on knowledge of helpful herbal remedies, plant and animal husbandry, mid-wifing, medical ailments (like setting broken bones, treating animal bites and managing pain).

I think prehistoric Europe is too harsh an environ. They need to be somewhere like Northeast Africa where the dry weather is conducive to preserving knowledge and artifacts for future generations.

I think that a colony like this would die out to lack of effort, if nothing else. These are not, after all, a bunch of determined colonists who wanted to be here. They’d try to survive and make themselves as comfortable as possible, but I doubt they’d put much effort into building/preserving knowledge for future generations. Besides, there wouldn’t be many future generations, I think; modern women usually don’t think of themselves as breeding machines, and won’t put up with dying of childbirth in their twenties or thirties. Nor are modern men used to thinking of them that way; we are taught not to subjugate and abuse women, and a primitive culture pretty much has to, or die out. The birth rate would be nowhere near the death rate.

Basically, I think most moderns have too high a standard to seriously try.

Oh, why not.

I disagree. I think modern man would realize the situation and act accordingly. Of course we wouldn’t like it, but if that’s how it is, I’m sure we’ll do our best to try and survive and keep humanity intact with knowledge and mass breeding.

Of course my response is to say that we wouldn’t be lazy do to lack of effort, but I do realize the challenges mentioned above (nutrition, desease, etc…) but to say we would lack effort? No way.

With a group of 2000 random people (with top 10% IQs) I’d have to believe that pretty much every knowledge needed will be available. From survival skills, toolmaking, shipwrighting, primitive medicine etc.
And I just don’t see the archiving of knowledge a big deal at all. I’m positive out of that many people they will find someway to write, even if it isn’t efficient. And being the first to exploit tools, none of the flint and near/on surface metal deposits will still be there. And black powder is pretty trivial to make, sure shooting a piece of rock out of a modern rifle with black powder isn’t a great ammount of firepower, but I bet within a couple months they figure out how to how successfully kill with it. And that’s discounting fishing which was a major way of survival for early groups.

Life would be hard for the new arrivials, but other than the plague issue I don’t see any big problems.

I see two issues: first the old “group of colonists surviving from scratch” and second the peculiar circumstances of Europe two million years ago. The former has been addressed in many previous threads so I’ll address the latter.

IIRC, the current cycle of glaciations (which the Earth hadn’t had since the Permian!) began about one million years ago, so I don’t think that would be a factor. I don’t know what the seaons were like pre-glaciation, if northern Europe had the typically cold snowy winters it does now or not.

There probably would be few diseases unless the colonists brought some with them. 2000 people isn’t a very big reservior; a lot of diseases would die out as soon as everyone had been exposed once. Maybe a rapidly mutating disease like the common cold. Maybe chonic diseases like syphilis. There might be diseases like malaria that all mammals are susceptible to, but none optimized for humans.

There would be more megafauna like mammoths and lions than have survived to our rather impoverished present. None of which would recognize humans as a specific threat (other than ordinary wariness). So if the means to hunt were developed the game could be Africa-level rich, at least at first.

Absolutely no domesticated plants or animals. Most animals would be recognizable at least as to genus or family, but I have no idea if the plants we have now would have been present or not. Unless your colonists got lucky they would pretty much have to experiment to see what plants were edible and which weren’t. Desirable plants might be farmed just to keep them reliably available but they wouldn’t be the hyper-bountiful crops we’re used to. Someone might experiment with raising wolf pups but things like cattle and horses wouldn’t even be up for consideration. It would be like trying to domesticate zebras or cape buffalo. According to one hypothesis, true domestication had to be preceded by thousands of years of acclimation to produce herd animals with at least the potential for domestication, like the half-wild reindeer the Laplanders traditionally hunted/herded.

I think in a group of 2000 people you would have enough former Boy Scouts or camping enthusiasts that the skills of “roughing it” would be refreshened and taught. I don’t know how typical I am but I have at least read about how stone tools were produced. If I could find some flint and it was make a stone knife or go hungry, I could probably eventually produce at least a crude knife.

Beyond the environmental challenges I think you’re vastly underestimating the level of manpower required for developing large scale industrialization where lots of entities interact that is required for even a moderately technological civilization. The main issue (IMO) is going to be the tiny population base. You also have a good percentage of the female cohort in the 35-45 age range sub-optimally fertile, and the males in this age cohort may not be optimally robust either. In additional modern females are not likely to be on board with the notion of big families and the risks of childbirth in primitive environment.

It will take (IMO) thousands of years to build up enough population to make a truly industrial society viable.

Unfortunately, I don’t think mass breeding is sustainable without excellent mid-wifing, pediatrics, a focus on lifelong preventative medical care, and a strong, widespread, oral tradition to supplement writing and pass on key skills. (“Sing a song of Sickness, so we don’t have to Die. Stay strong, smart and healthy, This song will tell you why.”)

I also believe just finding food is going to be such a huge problem it’s not even funny. This is a pre-agricultural, pre-fishing, proto-hunting culture with no means to preserve food supplies other than freezing, burying and drying meat and incidental serviceable non-poisonuous plant life. Proto-insects, grubs and larvae will be a huge source of protein until hunting and fishing skills are honed. So will fungi and Containers will have to be invented. Salt-mining would be good trade.

I disagree that the proto-wolf or proto-cattle are impossible to tame as beasts of burden: you’d just have to resort to necessary barbarism. For instance, since reading Guns, Germs and Steel, I’ve entertained the notion that aggressive animal species with shitty temperaments like Cape Buffalo, zebras and grizzly bears might all be made forcibly tractible for domestication if captured young and subjected to what amounts to an icepick lobotomy to keep them passive.

I just started reading Guns, Germs and Steel, and I think it would be no problem. The author talks about how easily and quickly continents and islands became populated. For example, humans crossed the Bering Strait and took up residence in Alaska about 12,000 BC and are known to have spread throughout Canada, the US and Mexico by 11,000 BC, and soon thereafter in Amazonia and Patagonia (so, within 1,000 years.

Jared Diamond writes in Guns, Germs and Steel (somewhat paraphrased):

We would know how to make hunting tools (arrowheads and spears, slingshots, bows and arrows) and easily make bone fishing hooks and there would be plenty of fish to feed the group. We could also easily make rope to make nets to catch fish and birds.

As far as childbirth, if ancient humans were able to survive childbirth and grow at such a rate to spread throughout the Americas in 1,000 years, I am sure modern people could handle it, especially since we know about microbes and infection. And I am sure some of the 2,000 would be doctors, so barring the extremely difficult delivery, I think we could easily increase our numbers.

We also know the geography of the world, so we could migrate to the most advantageous locations. We know what bodies of water are good to live near, what valleys are the most fertile, where we could find animals most adaptable to domestication, etc.

We could quickly develop axes and build log cabins with stone fireplaces in no time. We would have the skills and technology to sew clothing, so the shelter and clothing would help us survive the cold. We know the technology to make leather too. We also know how to smoke food to preserve meat, and we know about using salt to preserve food. We would also be able to easily build watercraft - canoes with paddles and sailboats with sails made of leather or even fabric.

Keep in mind, even the Clovis peoples I mentioned above did not have the technology to preserve food, know about microbes and infection, know how to make shelters such as log cabins, etc. So with that huge head start, I think we would not have any problem surviving long-term from an initial population of 2,000.

I disagree that food will be a major problem. With simple bows and arrows, and bone fishhooks, we’ll be well-fed. Most “megafauna” (As Jared Diamond calls it) are not afraid of humans yet. So getting a wolly mammoth would not be hard…

We could easily smoke the meat or salt the meat. For the smoking, all we need is wood and fire; for salt, we could use salt from seawater. This technology was not used until fairly recently.

We could also easily find wild grains which would keep through the winter. Also, wild root vegetables (the ancestors of potatoes, carrots, etc.)

Also, we know what wild plants were the predecessors to modern crops. So instead of taking thousands of years of trial and error and accidental luck to develop crops, we could purposefully find the wild plants and within decades, have varieties that could be farmed.

Containers would be easy: we know how to use clay to make pottery. Or simply carve wooden containers. Or easily weave straw baskets.

I mentioned fur and leather clothing above; we could also probably use plant and animal fibers to knit and weave clothing. Again, this is a technology that wasn’t developed until pretty recently.

Geologists in the group could be useful in quickly finding metal sources. I am sure some in the group would have knowledge of how to create metal out of the raw materials.

Oh I forgot to answer the OP’s original questions:
Assuming they do survive how long do you think it would take to reach or exceed 2006 technical standards?

Hmmm. I would have to say… 10 to 20 generations? However many years that would be. I have to admit though, that that is a totally wild guess.

nyctea scandiaca. Regularly getting food for a family or few dozen people would not be hard. To regularly feed 2,000 people using stone age technology and no seeds stores will not likely be possible unless they splinter off into smaller groups (and this certainly has risks of factionalism.)

First needs: Finding a safe, plentiful edible water supply. Then protecting it against human and animal pollution.
Secondary needs: Making simple hunting and defense weapons and building tools
Tertiary needs: Initial shelters. Natural canopies. Lean-tos. Ideally, caves.
Fourth: Foraging for edible plants and non-toxic grubs, various crawling and flying invertebrates and small mammals, mmmmaybe proto-fish and birds.
Fifth: Containers need to be developed as quickly as possible. With a population of 2,000 people there needs to be a mechanism for communal and individual food storage. Use nature’s found objects first: dried gourds, crustacean shells, large seed pods, edible, broad flat leaves, animal skins, inflated animal stomachs for leather pouches, tree hollows. Then after immediate needs are met, try expanding our technology using hollowed bones, wood containers, weaved straw baskets, leather stitching. Much later, when fire is mastered, ceramics, glassblowing and metalsmelting might be attempted.
Lastly: Heat. Warmth.

Do not be surprised if significant-to-huge numbers of the initial 2,000 colonists are injured or severely moralized, or killed outright at this point from bacterial or fungal poisonings, or simple plant toxicity, lack of food, illness from weather exposure and/or death by misadventure or accidents. I suspect at this stage plant life and animals might prove to be far more toxic than beneficial to modern-day humans. Even fresh water might have parasites that would make them deathly sick, and if THAT’S true, chances of survival are very grave. They might not even safely boil the water for safe consumption. With what fire? In what container?

Long term shelters: Unoccupied caves near fresh water supplies (ideal) or lean-tos near fresh water supplies. Keep in mind there may well already be predators there. They may be an ognoing source of food and possible domestication, or an ongoing dange.

Firemaking needs to be rediscovered and passed on to as many people as possible.

Next: hunting weapons, crude knives, sharpened sticks, stabbing spears with spearheads, stakes. For short range throwing weapons: rock slings, even rock-and-vine bolos I could see.

Next: building tools like hammers, sledgehammers, wood stakes, wood nails, stone stakes, quartz nails, vines for lashing things together. Shovels, pickaxes, axes. These would need to be made more durable than the hunting weapons, if possible, because these would likelier be for communal use.

Next: rediscovering technology: the so-called so-called “simple machines.” Some would be easy to make, like the inclined plane, the lever. Developing a reliable screw, or gear would be a major technological breakthrough, as would refining the wheel-and-axle or even a simple pulley.

Functional sling shots, bows and arrows capable of taking down game are deceptively complex, unless you’re skilled in making and using ancient technology.

It would be a fine thing if there were enough surplus wood, vines, nails, stone, and bone supplies to begin making simple furniture. Refinement of furniture making skills, along with shelters, would lead to other developments.

All of these things would take a generation or more to refine from basic concepts. To do this you’d need time to build up food stores and practice zero population growth, a working society is possible. Once that happens and population sizes are stable then move on to phase two: an educational based euthenic society.

10 -20 generations is entirely too soon. This might happen within two millenia.

Why ? What’s the incentive ? I’ve read enough history to know that life in a primitive society is a good imitation of Hell; our ancestors tolerated it ( barely ) because they had no idea anything better was possible; we do. To be blunt, how many people would want to bring children into so terrible a situation ? Some would, but I’m sure you’d see a massive population crash, which would be a disaster for such a small population. Plus, with all those rifles I’d expect lots of suicides. Including me, if I ended up in that situation.

I just realized that there were 2000 rifles and 20000 rounds of ammunition.

I wonder if that gunpowder, those shell casings and the metal in those rifles could be used for other purposes? Could you re-forge them into metal tools and weapons, say crossbows or knives? Could they be successfully reverse-engineered to create other weapons and tools?