All posts by J. C. Conway

The Paleolithic Past

Hunter gatherer food products

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

pd_g6_unit1_ps1tell, 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.

English: Sorcerer of Le Gabillou (Dordogne, Fr...
English: Sorcerer of Le Gabillou (Dordogne, France) Español: Hechicero de Le Gabillou (Dordoña, Francia) Français : Sorcier de Le Gabillou (Dordogne, France) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

 

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Bin, Tala, and the Fire Star

A catastrophic event occurs. The climate shifts dramatically. Bin and Tala, paleolithic lovers with a surprising command of civilized thoughts and techniques, endure the event, but suffer as a couple Background 1038x692because of their different reactions to it. In an earlier era, we can presume that Bin and Tala would have lived an idyllic life.

They, and their culture, are forgotten in the obscuring mist of time–until 21st Century archaeologists find evidence they existed. (This discovery is at the heart of the Daniel’s dig–a discovery that Andrea consider in light of her own analysis to determine its veracity.)

The conflict between Bin and Tala arises only because of the Fire Star. They disagree about the magnitude of its fallout. Had it been just the two of them, they could have chosen a path–one sacrificing to be background-1.jpgwith the other. But with the lives of their children at stake, Both Bin and Tala take strong positions about the best course of action, and Tala must make a difficult choice.

Will Andrea and Daniel ever learn the full story of Bin and Tala? Or is it enough to know they lived and to learn something about their ways before the sands of time bury them forever?

 

Clovis Tips and Their Controversial Role

Professor Lassiter asserts, and believes that he has proved, that humans arrived on the North American continent at the time Clovis points became used. Daniel challenges that theory. Andrea has not taken a position on the subject, but believes instead that proper methods determine the validity of whatever facts are ultimately shown.

Examples of Clovis points
Examples of Clovis points (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Clovis points in question are thin, fluted projectile points found across the continent in strata believed to be 10,000 to 14,000 years old. Based upon their shape and structure, it is believed the sharp points were created using bifacial percussion flaking. To finish shaping and sharpening the points they are sometimes pressure flaked along the outer edges. Clovis points are characterized by concave longitudinal shallow grooves called “flutes” on both faces one third or more up from the base to the pointed tip.

Bifacial
Bifacial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clovis points were highly effective and their development is viewed as a turning point in human development. Some assert that man’s adoption of Clovis points is directly related to the despeciation of megafauna (large animals, such as mastadons). Whether that is true is debated. But in Hearts in Ruin, Professor Lassiter was instrumental in developing a theory of human culture in North America tied the a Bering Straight land bridge and asserting that no culture in North America existed prior to the immigration of peoples across the icy straight during an ice age. Accordingly, under the Professor’s theory, there should be no evidence of human culture beyond scattered hunter gathering tribes leading to the development of the Clovis point, farther back the the explosion of Clovis tips about 10,000 to 14,000 years ago.

Daniel’s findings at the dig consist of significant layers of artifacts below the Clovis point strata, indicating a human culture capable of making such artifacts long before Professor Lassiter’s theories can accept. This fact, combined with Daniel’s tenacious pursuit of the truth underlying it, puts Daniel squarely at odds with his former department chair.

Naturally, among most true archaeologists and scholars, we would rarely see the deep-seated demonstrated in Hearts in Ruin between Daniel and Professor Lassiter. But rivalries do exist, and young scientists do challenge established ideas in ways that, occasionally, threaten the ego of their predecessors.

For more see

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-clovis-point-and-the-discovery-of-americas-first-culture-3825828/?no-ist

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe/c/clovis_point_spear_tip.aspx

http://csfa.tamu.edu/who.php

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Pamela & Jeffrey

Pamela Ruiz and Jeffrey Montague are students at Southwest Polytechnic Institute and friends of Daniel Fuchs. They have been boyfriend and girlfriend for a number of years. But like many such college relationships, there’s a question about whether it will continue into the future.

There is tension. Jeffrey is close to earning his Ph.D., and he needs Professor Lassiter to get it. But there is a conflict between Jeffrey’s view of archaeology and the professors–a conflict that Jeffrey is avoiding. In the meantime, Pamela is wondering whether her boyfriend is ready to grow up, or whether he will passively bend to secure a future that Pamela supposes would lack the passion she thought they both had in the earlier days of their relationship.

As we learn in Hearts in Ruin, both Pamela and Jeffrey are important to Daniel, and at least Pamela’s insights are valuable to Andrea as well. But will these two young lovers regain the passion they seem to have lost, or is it another college fling destined to fizzle?