. THE WORLD BEFORE MANKIND .
"Traced as far back as possible in the direction of their origins, the last fibres of the human aggregate are lost to view and are merged in our eyes with the very stuff of the universe. The history of consciousness remains incomprehensible to anyone who has not seen first of all that the cosmos in which man finds himself caught up constitutes, by reason of its unimpeachable wholeness: a system, a totum and a quantum. A totum (unity) from subatomic to galactic- infantismal to infinite- yet, nonrepetitive." -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE: 13.7 billion years ago. The Big Bang released outward, possibly forever,
the matter and energy that would later form all the clusters, galaxies, stars and planets here in the present day.
Whether the original super-dense blob was a naturally occurring phenomenon or created by a force (deity) outside the laws of nature, is unknown.
THE MILKY WAY FORMS: 13.2 billion years ago. Our galaxy is old, it formed early on in its trip outward,
from the same gas and dust that all galaxies have formed from. The oldest stars in our galaxy prove it.
In fact, 2/3 of Milky Way Galaxy history happened before the Sun was even born, the same way
most (almost all) of Earth's history went by before the earliest caveman walked the African savanna.
BIRTH OF THE SUN: 4.6 billion years ago. We were once a nebula. The Sun and all the planets formed
from what must have been a nice nebula of gas and dust, as discovered by Immanuel Kant (1755) and
confirmed by Pierre de Laplace (1798). Once enough matter came together at the center of the cloud, it hit an essential critical mass,
and the Sun turned on its natural nuclear fusion furnace, which has been shining ever since, giving out
neighborhood in the sky a new cosmic lighthouse, by which tall ships may steer the depths of space.
BIRTH OF THE PLANET EARTH: 4.54 billion years ago. On the outskirts of the original rotating cloud,
gas and dust accreted too, but none of the other coagulations were massive enough to ignite as a star. Earth
and all the other planets, comets, moons and asteroids found their places in the Solar neighborhood.
Scattered impacts (and a Giant Impact) would yet to add additional matter to the young Earth's mass.
HADEAN EON: 4.54-3.8 billion years ago. For a billion years, Earth circles the young Sun without any life
around to see it. As Earth grows and clears its area in space of matter, another planet (smaller than Earth)
approached and collided with Earth. From the wreckage, the Moon is formed. At the same time, during the
'Late Heavy Bombardment' phase, comets struck our world rapidly, bringing with them all the
water that we still swim in and drink today. The crust hardens by the end of this 'infernal' Eon.
ARCHEAN EON: 3.8-2.5 billion years ago. Super simple life, prokaryotes without even a nucleus,
'dominated' the landscape for two billion years, taking the meager energy available from non-living material
(organic molecules of air and liquid ocean). The atmosphere thickened, and then cyanobacteria emerged,
using chlorophyll systems that converted sunlight into energy. Eventually, these bacteria were able to store
organic molecules and use them later... food. So they were fruitful and multiplied. These b
acteria also added a waste product into the atmosphere that changed the course of history... oxygen.
PROTEROZOIC EON: 2.5 billion years ago - 542 mya. Plate tectonics reshape the look of the Earth,
continents emerge, at one point the whole planet was covered with ice, called the 'snowball earth.'
Oxygen, the gas we breath, became more dense, and that gave more energy for things to grow bigger-
and grow specialized parts and a core from which complex directions can be handled: the nucleus.
These new eukaryotes dominate, and are still the primary cell type on Earth- even our cells are eukaryotes.
5/6 of Earth's history has passed by now, and there is nothing more advanced than an amoeba. About 800 mya, multi-cellular organisms came into being.
PHANEROZOIC EON: PALEOZOIC ERA
CAMBRIAN PERIOD: 542-488 mya. "Explosion of Life." Microscopic life, on Earth for most of its
long history, now takes a great leap forward and grows to the point it is visible. After eons of inferno
heat and freezing waste, the temperature warmed. Complex animals such as mollusks date from this time,
swimming along the long coastlines of continental shelves. The earliest fossils are from the Cambrian,
and our phylum, chordata, dates from this time, when some creature developed a primitive backbone.
ORDOVICIAN PERIOD: 488-443 mya. The Age of Arthropods sees many new and large sea borne
species emerge. Moss, plankton, trilobites, and octopus are all here, and on land, plants and scorpions.
But land is a harsh place: gravity to pull down your bone-less body, UV rays, bad weather, more energy
needed for motion and even eating. Its a wonder they came up at all. But they did, and it is well to
remember that even we still have to drink a certain amount of water, or else we die. As well, is it a
coincidence that the salt in our blood is the same concentration as salt in the sea?
Not at all. It is a reminder that most of our relatives lived all their lives underwater.
SILURIAN PERIOD: 443-416 mya. It was destined that land, the great unknown place, this niche
'up there,' had to be conquered by life. Plants colonized first, they crept out and stretched their leaves
toward the Sun, while rooting down into the ground for water. For animals, meanwhile, the sea was so
rich in life that the 'eat or be eaten' scenario meant anything that could creep out onto land while
keeping water inside somehow, had an advantage. So some (thanks to tides leaving them stranded constantly)
developed a way to get oxygen from air, not water (much harder to do). It required a lung.
The earliest lunged creatures evolved from fish and still had their gills, we call them amphibians.
DEVONIAN PERIOD: 416-359 mya. Arthropods (spiders, scorpions and some insects) crawl on land.
Fish dominated the seas. But amphibians on land were doing something new: in water, streamlining is best,
but on land where the medium is air, more leverage is given to appendages (that will eventually allow
us to manipulate the cosmos around us, in a way dolphins, which have as large and developed
as ours, simply cannot). Also, fire is essential for technology, and is impossible in the water.
CARBONIFEROUS PERIOD: 359-299 mya. All the dead plants and creatures that had existed on Earth
up to this point, have fallen into the ground and decayed, ashes to ashes and dust to dust. This leftover dust
and ashes, the accumulation of it all, has been enough to make all the fossil fuels that we are now burning in our cars.
PERMIAN PERIOD: 359-299 mya. Amphibians ruled the land, but laid eggs in the water. Over time,
some laid the eggs on land, but needed a special kind of egg so the young could live in the harshness
of land- an egg surrounded by a thin shell of limestone. Permeable to air but not water: oxygen gets in,
water cannot get out. The result was an animal that, unlike its parents,
could live on land its whole life: reptiles. Whatever happened to 'rest in peace?'
PHANEROZOIC EON: MESOZOIC ERA
TRIASSIC PERIOD: 248-205 mya. Reptiles were very successful and dominated the land. Also, a branch
evolved into some little creatures, furry, warm blooded and which had hair: mammals. But the Triassic was
the Age of the Reptiles. They differentiated and some became huge, some fast,
some predators, some prey. They became dinosaurs, but also alligators and turtles.
JURASSIC PERIOD: 205-146 mya. Primitive mammals are still around, the descendents of which are
with us today: duck bill platypus, marsupials like kangaroos and opossum. But dinosaurs ruled the Jurassic.
The tallest and largest creatures that ever existed on Earth came into being, while some reptiles
moved back into the sea. Without humans, nature saw a wide variety of thunder lizard walk the planet.
CRETACEOUS PERIOD: 146-65 mya. Some mammals develop the capability to 'keep the egg inside
the mother's body' until the baby was mature. These placental mammals could diffuse food from
the mother's bloodstream to the baby, and wastes could be diffused back. The Age of Dinosaurs continued,
Tyrannosaurus Rex lived, and many others. As had happened before, a comet racing through space
collided with Earth, sending the planet into biological mass extinction. This killed all the dinosaurs, but some
mammals survived due to their unique traits- so did birds. The first primates appear, able to use their hands to pick things up.
PHANEROZOIC EON: CENOZOIC ERA
TERTIARY PERIOD: 65-1.64 mya. In a world suddenly empty of competitors, mammals took over
the niches leftover by dinosaurs and reptiles. They grew very large, differentiated more from each other,
and some, the primates now, (insignificant from 65-45 mya), evolved in the direction of eyes, hands and
brains. Lemurs date from that time. But anthropoids developed nails instead of claws, and thumbs. Some
chimps lost their tails (30-17 mya), but stayed small like gibbons. Great apes 9 ft. tall also arrived, but
one of the species of chimp became hominids 6 mya, (australopithecine man), who lasted until 1.5 mya).
QUARTERNARY PERIOD: 1.64 mya - Today. Bipedal, vertical motion is what we are good at. Bears
and chimps can walk on 2 legs, but prefer 4. We don't. Our genus (race), Homo, began with Homo habilis
man (2-1.4 mya). The successor, Homo erectus' (1.6 mya - 250,000 years ago), had a spinal cord that
made him upstanding, and able to leave Africa. H. erectus was supplanted
by Homo sapiens before the Ice Age, all throughout the eastern hemisphere.
CIVILIZATION. Some people built cities for mutual defense. Jericho (Israel) is one such city, the oldest
continually settled place on Earth. Catal Huyuk (Anatolia) is another, as are Ebla (Syria) and Susa (Persia).
These were isolated places. One of the great developments occurred now, the Agricultural Revolution-
farming- which meant that some humans would move from food gathering to food producing. In Europe and
the Middle East, wheat and barley were harvested, in China, rice, in India,
wheat, in Africa, sorghum and millet, in the Americas, maize and potatoes.
CIVILIZATIONS. While civilization in the singular was built by neolithic tribal groups through the increasingly
complex, urban, phenemenon in the ancient Near East, Egypt and later India and China, civilizations in the
plural have diverged from these wellsprings. They are the most meaningful geo-spatial features today in the
post-Cold War world, because they embody the broadest cultural identities people have. The nation-state system
(devotion to the idea of 'country') of world order, dominant since the 1600s in the West, is itself losing ground to them.
Proto-Humans and Humans: Hominid Skeletons
LUCY. A remarkable find in 1974, Lucy is the oldest proto human (hominid) ever found, dated to 3.2 mya. The skeleton is a 40% complete australopithecine, found by Johansen near the Awash River in Ethiopia. She was named after the song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," by the Beatles. She probably didn't actually have any, though, she couldn't afford it. With a 500 cc brain, however, Lucy's descendents would one day find ways to get men to shell out half a year's salary for them.
OH-62. A 1.7 mya Homo habilis found by Johansen in 1986. Located in Olduvai Gorge, Ethiopia, Mr. OH-62 had a more human face than Lucy his ancestor had, and used tools. He had an 800 cc. brain and spread from the original East African wilds to the southern part of the continent. His H. habilis compatriots discovered (tamed) fire, and their name, habilis, means 'handyman. Indeed, the specimin at right is as intent in what he is working on as a modern plumber is, scoping out for a leak.
JAVA MAN & PEKING MAN. Both of these guys are famous finds from mankind's Homo erectus period, a little over 1 mya. Both were found quite a ways from East Africa, Java Man, found in 1891, lived in today's Indonesia, while Peking Man, found in 1923 lived in China. This means H. erectus had traveled far. He used hand axes and, as the picture shows, adapted well to his environment by using and eating Asian bamboo. These advances were thanks to his 1200 cc. brain, but he probably didn't know that.
CRO-MAGNON MAN. A spectacular find in France in 1868 yielded the first true human being, named 'Cro-Magnon' after the cave he was found in. He is a true Homo sapiens- though the oldest prehistoric European ever found, he in fact differs little from modern Europeans (despite being about 40,000 years old). Only in robustness is he different (he and his people had more than we pip-squeaks). He ate like we do (carrots, meat, grain, beet, onion, turnips... all of which grew in the wild). His womenfolk made clothes, while he made homes out of caves, bone, fur, hide, tree branches etc., in essence, he was what we call today a Paleolithic 'caveman.' His outstanding cave paintings in France and Spain are the first evidence of abstract art and imagination in history. They were usually of animals, with the thinking that life would imitate art, or that their representation would somehow influence their hunt.
OTZI, THE ICE MAN. Hikers in the Alps found Otzi in 1991, and he had all of his accoutrements with him, freeze-dried. He yielded a great picture of what prehistoric life was like 5,300 years ago, during the Neolithic period. He was a shepherd flocking sheep across the Alps when he died, murdered (there was an arrowhead in his back), and he had insulated boots made from leather and stuffed with grasses, a bow, dried meat in his backpack, trail mix made of seeds, and an ax. Otzi's compatriots had domesticated dogs and goats, too. So our taxonomy goes like this: KINGDOM: Animal. PHYLUM: Chordata (backbone). CLASS: Mammal. ORDER: Primate. FAMILY: Hominid. GENUS: Homo. SPECIES: Sapiens. Welcome to the new world.
The Hall of the Bulls at Lasceaux, France
Luck on the hunt and honoring the animal
The Cave Art at Altamira, Spain
Close up image of Cave Art in detail
Fertility Icon: The "Venus" of Willendorf
Good luck charms like these were made in hopes of successful childbirth
in a time when in order for your line to go on, your wife would have to bear c. 5
children that 2 might survive to reproduction age themselves
Uncovered by German archeologists in 1996, Gobekli Tepe near Catal Huyuk is so far the world's
oldest religious monument, a "shrine atop a hill" attracting people with religious feeling. Animal
bones indicate people barbequed when the pilgrims came, possibly from 100 miles around
Interestingly, hunter-gatherers made it before the Neolithic transition, in 9000 B.C.
Stonehenge in England was raised around 3000 B.C. Here it is at night, when druids would have arrived to commune with the sky
The caves of Mt. Carmel in Israel, where Neanderthal and Homo Sapien lived side by side
Modern site of Jericho, the oldest human settlement, located in Israel - built around 8000 B.C.
Jericho had a population of 2,000 at the time and was the largest settlement of people on earth
Representation of Catal Huyuk in Anatolia, built nearby the site of Gobekli Tepe not long after Jericho to the south