What social environment did pre-humans evolve in

I think you meant: Whoosh.

I really liked that movie, but it’s not really accurate to say it’s about pre-humans. It’s about Neanderthals and Modern Humans, both of which are “human”, and since we didn’t evolve from Neanderthals, there isn’t anything “pre-” about them.

Also, note that although most people use the term “human” to mean Homo sapiens exclusively, any member of the genus *Homo *can be called “human”. In a nit-picky sense, the OP is asking about Australopithicus afarensis, and its ancestors (assuming, of couse, that A. afarensis is in our line of descent), since that species was our last non-Homo ancestor.

We really don’t know.

All extant apes have widely different social structures. Gorillas have single adult male multiple female harems. Orangutans are solitary. Chimps live in mixed sex bands. Gibbons have bonded pairs. Humans have bonded pairs within mixed sex bands.

So Australopithecines could have been like any of the above, or anything in between, or completely out in left field, we just don’t know. The only evidence we have is that given by Colibri, that Australopithecine males seem to have been a lot larger than females, implying a lot of direct male-male competition for mates, and thus a more gorilla-like system.

It also mixes up the technological timetable; fire, stone tools and throwing sticks were much further apart.

And interestingly, although size dimorphism is often linked to a social system featuring harems, as in the gorilla, the solitary orangutan is extremely dimorphic in size, with males being twice the size of females.

And chimps, bonobos, and gibbons, with very different social systems, all show very little size dimorphism (although some gibbons are dimorphic in color). So it’s basically impossible to tell much about the social system from dimorphism alone.

Not really, because the technology is attributed to different species. The movie postulates that Neanderthals could control, but not make, fire. That’s proabably not true, but we don’t know for sure that they could.

William Sarabande also wrote several novels dealing with this period. I’ve only read the first 5, but it’s very engrossing and detailed.

Were different species about during the same time? There’s a million years beween stone tools and controlling fire. That seems quite a bit of difference not only in biology but in technology to be contemporary.


Let’s back up a bit.

  1. We don’t know for sure when fire was first tamed. We know for certain that Neanderthals had fire, and Homo erectus probably did, too. We can probably put the taming of fire at about 500,000 years ago.

  2. Stone tools were first made, as far as we know, about 2.5M years ago. And they were used right up through the Neolithic (“new stone” age), which ended sometime between 10k and 5k years ago. The first metal tools (copper) in Europe/the Middle East occur about 6k years ago. “Otzi”, the famous Iceman found in the Italian Alps, lived about 5.5k years ago, and he was carrying a copper axe.

  3. Neanderthals and Modern Humans lived side-by-side in Europe between about 40k and 30k years ago. Neanderthals went extinct sometime shortly after 30k years ago. There is some new info which seems to indicate that that overlap was only about 5k years, but let’s not worry about that right now.

Bottom line… when Neanderthals and Modern Humans were alive, both species were strictly “stone age”.

Just to clarify about the stone tools… The very primitive stone choppers from 2.5M years ago weren’t much more than two stones smashed together to make a crude cutting edge. The delicate flint tools made by our ancestors 30k years ago were technological masterpieces in comparison. But, it is surprising how long the same tools were used by our ancestors at certain times. For example, Homo erectus (and his varients) used the same type of hand axes for about 1M years with little or no change.

I was thinking about it, too. At least, with this movie, you don’t have to worry about subtitles or dubbing :wink:

Not to be nitpicky either but the same is true of the Auel books (obviously).

No, Ayla doesn’t invent the nuclear ballistic missle until the fifth book.

WRT the OP: 2001: A Space Odyssey has a chapter or two at the beginning describing a group of pre-humans. I always picture them in my mind as Australopithecines, although I don’t know if this is what Arthur C. Clarke had in mind when he wrote it.

I believe that 30-40 is also the upper limit for human hunter-gatherers due to ressources available within a convenient range. And that these groups split up above this size.

Actually, it depicts a large range of “pre-humans” from ape-like creatures that wouldn’t qualify for a job as Australopithecus to Homo Sapiens.

Besides, the movie is based on a novel written around 1900, if I’m not mistaken. There’s nothing scientifically realistic in it, let alone up to date.

Still a good movie in my opinion.

Given that Homo sapiens and H. neanderthalensis definitely co-occurred, and that *H. erectus * may have survived in Indonesia until 27,000 years ago and H. floresiensis until 12,000 years ago or even more recently, it would seem that 30,000 years ago there could have been up to four different species of Homo extant. Not all of them occurred together, of course.

Or, rather, Ripper’s hijack of the OP…

A French children’s book which has the very basic plot in common with the movie:
The tribe’s fire goes out, and Tom Swift goes to find more. :slight_smile:

Colibri: I had no idea there were different humans alive at the same time save for Neamderthal Cro Magnon.
It seems to me that if they lived that near to each other they would have stolen, er, acquired other technology as indeed they did in the movie.

A Different Flesh by Harry Turtledove has no H Sapiens arriving in the Americas until European explorers show up. They find that the place is inhabited by Homo Erectus, whom the explorers call Sims. Based on (the now controversial, and possibly disproven) theory that H Sapiens hunted the mammoth and a few other species to death, America is also inhabited by mammoths. The stories visit history during various periods-How do Sims and American colonists react to eachother? The presence of Sims and mammoths cause evolution to be discovered earlier. How can slavery be justified when blacks are so clearly human, and Sims are not?

Almost Adam by Petru Popescu and Neanderthal by John Darnton both deal with the discovery of living members of supposedly extinct hominid species.


Is there some place I can see charts of successive versions of human evolution? Charts including Piltdown man. How everything was rearranged after the hoax was revealed. Charts showing A Afarensis as the ancestor of the genus homo. Charts showing Ramapithecus as the ancestor of the Australopithecenes, chimps, and the genus homo. Etc.

Yep, and that’s one thing the movie QfF took some liberties with. Early in the movie there was a tribe that appeared* to be H. erectus, that attacked the Neanderthal clan. That species would not be in Europe (AFAWK) at the same time as Neanderthals and Moderns. But, hey, it was a movie. I liked it. :slight_smile:

*There were no subtitles in the movie, and the languages were made up, so you had to make some inferences. The tribe I’m talking about was significantly hairier than the Neanderthals, and seemed to be more primitive overall.