What do we know about our Paleolithic past? We know about the diet. We’ve seen some of the art. But the fact is, what we call the “Paleolithic” period ran for such a long time that our knowledge of recorded history is little more than the blink of an eye in comparison.
The term “Paleolithic” was coined by archaeologist John Lubbock in 1865, derived from Greek palaios (παλαιός), “old”; and lithos (λίθος), “stone”, meaning “Old Stone Age.”
The absence of a written record permits only deduction from evidence uncovered through archaeology. So our understanding of Paleolithic human culture comes from archaeology and inductive comparisons to modern hunter-gatherer cultures. As far as we can
tell, humans hunted wild animals for meat and gathered food, firewood, and materials for their tools, clothes, or shelters. Human population density was very low, around only one person per square mile. Like contemporary hunter-gatherers, Paleolithic humans enjoyed an abundance of leisure time unparalleled in both Neolithic farming societies and modern industrial societies. At the end of the Paleolithic, humans began to produce works of art such as cave paintings, rock art and jewelry. They also began to engage in religious behavior such as burial and ritual.
Interestingly, the paleolithic span of time in which human hunter-gatherer bands roamed the Earth was at least several hundred-thousand years, and might perhaps have been as much as one million years. Considering human civilization and its written records date back no more than six thousand years, that time frame is staggering, and while it is certainly possible that humanity progressed steadily throughout that entire time, it is clear that if there were rises and falls, there were tens of thousands of years or more between such rises and falls to erase most, if not all, evidence of those peaks and valleys in human prehistory.
Naturally, in the absence of evidence supporting such conjecture, science correctly assumes the opposite. Skepticism is healthy in such endeavors. But that healthy skepticism is what, at the core, is challenged in Hearts in Ruin. Daniel and Andrea face evidence, albeit fairly meager, that something more advanced than hunter-gatherer culture existed long before any accepted rise of civilization.