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CONTENTS of entire timeline

CONTENTS of 59,999,999 BC- 51,000 BC Large land and aquatic mammals appear; many kinds of primates appear (almost as many go extinct); an island continent finally disappears for good; the Mediterranean valley turns into the Mediterranean Sea; human beings emerge, develop housing, clothes, lamps, and drugs, breed dogs, use horses; Mars dies (or goes dormant)

This page last updated on or about 10-31-05
a - j r m o o n e y h a m . c o m - o r i g i n a l


Approximately 3,000,000 BC to 2,000,000 BC: A mysterious time of transformative evolution for the creature that someday will call itself "human"

A 'mini-extinction' event now going on world-wide may be helping spur evolutionary changes in the predecessors of humanity.

-- "Nearby supernova may have caused mini-extinction", SciNews-MedNews, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 31-Jul-99, Contact: James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor (217) 244-1073; kloeppel@uiuc.edu

-- "The First Human?" By Robert Locke, Discovering Archaeology, July/August 1999, http://www.discoveringarchaeology.com/

The climate is becoming dryer now, thereby making it necessary to cover more ground faster in search of food. Over generations, advanced hominids evolve longer legs, making them more efficient at hunting and gathering.

-- Walk this way by Matt Walker From New Scientist ["http://www.newscientist.com"], 16 October 1999 http://www.newscientist.com/

Note that much of 20th century humanity will find taller, longer legged people more attractive than others. The reason appears to be evolutionary.

-- MEASURING BEAUTY From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #118, JUL-AUG 1998 by William R. Corliss, citing Albert M. Magro; "Why Barbie is Perceived as Beautiful," Perceptual and Motor Skills, 85:363, 1997

Australopithecus africanus hominids may be eating at least a bit of meat from herbivores now-- or else eating large quantities of sedges and grasses to gain the same nutrients-- as supplements to their historic fruit and leaf diet, similar to that of 20th century chimpanzees.

The possible addition of meat at this time is important. Keep in mind hand tools do not seem to be in use as yet. So any meat acquisition is likely gotten from scavenging after kills by big cats, and in competition with other scavengers such as hyenas.

-- Paleoanthropology (revised 16 December 1999) by Francis F. Steen, Department of English, University of California at Santa Barbara, http://cogweb.english.ucsb.edu/EP/Paleoanthropology.html

A couple million years in possession of powerful imitative speech capabilities has allowed these predecessors of human beings to learn some of the value of a chorus-- multiple voices applied in unison. Such actions can offer a pleasing if somewhat haunting feeling to the primates; a seemingly mysterious premonition of hidden talents, and greater things to come. At least, if such harmonies effect human ancestors in ways similar to how they will do their 20th century descendents.

Loud harmonies may provide a deep inner pleasure to the ape-people.

Humans and other higher animal lifeforms possess an evolutionary family tree which necessarily includes fish at some point in past history. There's numerous places in human genetics and physiology wherein this ancestry may be traced. One of them may include the love of many humans for loud music.

The sacculus (a component of the inner ear's vestibular/balancing system) is notably responsive to acoustic frequencies like those found in music-- at least at high volumes (90 decibels plus). The sacculus is connected to the area of the brain which drives sex, hunger, and pleasure-seeking in general, and can produce pleasure for its owner under these conditions. No other hearing-related function of the sacculus is known to exist in humans as of early 2000 AD.

This might explain music's strong influence upon modern human culture.

Saccular sensitivity seems to peak around 300 to 350 hertz-- but has a full sensitivity range of 50-1000 hertz. The music in dance halls and rock concerts often seem to exploit this sensitivity. The chants of a crowd at a sports event, or the singing of a church chorus may also stimulate the sacculus.

-- Music lovers 'have fish to thank' ["http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_645000/645578.stm"] BBC News Sci Tech, 17 February, 2000

Human beings and many other species have a tendency-- even an instinctive need-- to synchronize their actions with those of their peers. These actions in humans run the gamut from menstrual cycles to rhythmic hand clapping as part of an audience.

Some scientists speculate such human synchrony in acts like applause may be a social behavior first acquired thousands of years ago in the species.

-- Synchronized Clapping a Primal Desire? ["http://www.discovery.com/news/briefs/20000224/misc_applause.html"] By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery.com News, Feb. 24, 2000

The use of chorus begins as random accidents of simultaneous calls achieving harmony, with they and their consequences eventually observed and emulated by the packs purposely later on. Choruses are seen to have unusual effects on not only the pack members themselves, but other packs who hear them, as well as even mighty beasts such as lions, bears, and wolf packs. Indeed, hints of the chorus can be detected in some of the sounds emanating from wolf packs too at times (Did early humans get one clue to chorus from the sounds of wolf packs? Does this signal the initial stirrings of kinship between humans and wolves, which will one day lead to the domesticated dog? Maybe. But keep in mind at this early date that wolves are both competitors and a constant predatory threat to humans in various regions of the world).

Over the millennia a few packs grasp the value of chorus techniques in battles against competing packs, as well as during hunts of great predators and other large beasts. A chorus can make a pack seem larger and stronger than they are-- a terrific survival advantage.

Over time the chorus technique spreads to virtually all of this class of primates, worldwide.

Some (such as William R. Corliss cited below) note with puzzlement the significant presence of genetically encoded musical talents among the human population; after all, what survival advantages might such convey? Hopefully the above text and additional items later in this document help to answer that question.

-- IS PERFECT PITCH FAVORED BY NATURAL SELECTION? From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #111, MAY-JUN 1997 by William R. Corliss, citing Michael Day; "Keeping Perfect Pitch in the Family," New Scientist, p. 19, November 23, 1996 and John Travis; "Pitching in to Find a Musical Gene," Science News, 150:316, 1996

Note that as the use of the chorus spreads among these hominids, its value to a given group will be somewhat proportional to that group's ability to recognize and harmonize with the voices of others in the group-- and to distinguish members' sounds from those of animals which they might be preying upon (or hiding from).

As the power of the chorus spreads across all hominid groups, inter-group competition in related acoustic pattern recognition will intensify. After all, those best able to master and exploit the chorus technique will more often win various survival challenges than those that don't. Intra-group competition of course will also be present, from the very earliest point that the technique is recognized as beneficial to survival.

Does an intellectual 'bootstrapping' process of switching back and forth between marginal improvements in acoustic pattern recognition and trial-and-error tool-making begin to take place now? Could it be that the acquisition of speech and the earliest tool-making capacities are intimately linked?

The part of the brain known as Wernicke's area is one of those responsible for language processing. Scientists have now discovered Wernicke's area also is involved in the predictability of nonverbal events. Thus, learning to speak may depend at least somewhat upon a subsconscious capacity to recognize predictable phenomena.

That is, our intellectual abilities to string together separate actions or thoughts to reach an end-- and realize the likelihood of certain outcomes from such sequences-- may be an important part of our evolutionary acquirement of language.

-- Emory researchers discover a neurological link between language and predictability that operates without conscious awareness ["http://www.eurekalert.org/releases/ehsc-erd030100.html"], EurekAlert! 1 MARCH 2000, Contact: Lilli Kim llkim@emory.edu 404-727-5692 Emory University Health Sciences Center

Note one implication of the above citation is that human predecessors may be developing their sense of past and future in parallel with their struggle to speak and learn to create hand tools. This in turn demands greater conscious memory capacity...

Did language develop at least partially as an extension of grooming behavior? To better deal with larger social groups? Did language begin as social gossip?

Human groups seem to be roughly three times bigger than groups typically formed by apes or chimpanzees.

Did the development of language proceed in several steps, each allowing for (or being nudged by) an increase in the size of social groups? Perhaps the first stage occured around two million BC with Homo erectus. Another stage may have come around 400,000 BC, with language dealing with more abstractions in content.

In modern humans some 66% of dialogues relate to social matters, with a limit of 10% being placed upon any one topic. Same sex groups of both males and females seem to spend similar amounts of time on the same subjects during talks. Where the sexes are not separated, the time allotted to certain conversational topics changes. For instance, the speech time devoted to morals, religion, and other wide-ranging theoretical matters goes up substantially. This may be due somewhat to male verbal preening and competition displays in regards to the women.

The author of the book cited in the review believes women likely invented language, since (for one thing) modern women show better skills at it in general than men.

The evolution of ever more complex language skills in the brain may have helped improve humanity's coordination at precise tasks like tool making-- since both seem to share the same region of the brain.

The author also considers the theory that language evolved at least partly from song. Though from the brief mention given in the review it appears the author believes language came first, and song later-- at least slightly.

-- Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language ["http://www.cis.plym.ac.uk/SciMedNet/library/reviews/9709141024.htm"]; Book review by John Collins of Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language by Robin Dunbar Faber & Faber, 230 pp., ISBN 0-571-17396-9

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