Puzzles of Human Evolution
There are many questions about our origin which we still grapple with without compelling answers in sight. What happened to Neanderthals? Did we contribute to their extinction? They were more aggressive and they were killed off by humans who were more cooperative, is it true? What caused us to become bipedal and lose our fur? Is the theory claiming that we spent some significant time living in water and, therefore, shed our fur and got an upright posture tenable? We do not know when language first appeared and how it evolved. Is it really the case that eating cooked meat along with gossiping and setting up intrigues made our brains so big? And so on and so forth.
It looks like we are not really certain about our past at all. Add to that various enigmas which befuddle us a great deal like the mysterious Gobekli Tepe in Turkey (the whole city built 12000 years ago – how come if humans did not know even metals and farming then?), the mystifying Dwarka in India (the sunken city which was a center of vibrant culture some 9000 years ago), the perplexing giant spheres of Costa Rica (how could they be made without metal tools?), or the Voynich manuscript (no one can decipher it, no one has a clue why there are so many drawings of nude women and plants there) to name a few. Another paradoxical thing about humans is that apparently our genetic diversity show the signs of being very limited which means that in the past there were very few surviving humans on the planet who later on gave rise to all us inhabiting all the continents (albeit Antarctica - not on a permanent basis). What caused that bottleneck in the past?
Some scientist argue that the mega volcanic explosion of Toba (Indonesia) might have contributed to creating severe conditionals for humans, forcing them to subdue non-sharing and violent instincts and foster more extensive communal and cooperation ties. This explosion took place during the existing ice age about 73000 years ago exacerbating bitter climate conditions. The consequences of the volcanic winter might be felt even 10000 years after the event. Nevertheless, in its wake there was the cognitive revolution when humans first started to show their creative powers.
Leonard Shlain in his “Sex, Time, and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution” maintains that the cognitive revolution (which occurred about 50000 years ago) was triggered by men recognizing the fact that children were fathered by a concrete individual, so part of the man lived in his offspring, and by realizing that each of humans would die (death was prevalent in this distant past, still awareness that I, the concrete person, would necessarily die even without being killed by an animal or another human was just emerging).
Those who are interested in the above or similar issues are urged to get familiar with, for instance, Nick Lane’s second edition of his “Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life" (2018). If you happened to have your own interesting surmises upon the origin of humans, please let us know by writing at firstname.lastname@example.org