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The Life of Ancient Humans

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posted on Apr, 9 2016 @ 02:00 AM
Human minds are completely tethered to the other, because as I always love to stress, the mind you have, in its very nature, is constructed from countless iterations of self-other interactions between the organism-human (a general term for your biological ancestors) and the target in the environment - other humans. The target, the other human, slowly emerged over aeons, coming forth into it's fullness, or humanness, as the face shed its fur, and the cheeks began to smile and the brows to frown. The evolution of our human faces was occurring in parallel with a brain-mind that could manage to perceive more in the affectvity and intentionality of the other. The other possessed some curiosity for the self. And a mimetic dynamic of self matching self exploded into becoming a fullblown "orthograde" attractor, such that each actor functioned with reference to gaining the 'approval' of the other.

At some point, perhaps as far back as Homo Erectus, humans evolved the capacity to inhibit their affective arousal. This capacity of course is unique to humans, so it shouldn't be surprising that only we, human beings, have evolved a special branch of very large motor neurons of a very unusual nature (nucleus ambiguus: ambiguous neurons) that essentially function to regulate and control the dynamics of sympathetic and parasympathetic neurons. In other words, your ability to consciously control your breathing is made possible by the connections between your cortex, basal forebrain and ventral vagus nerve.

This nerve structure is not mere physiology, but the physical embodiment of an ontological shift in biological evolution. When one creature no longer lives within its own head, epistemologically blocked off from the experience of the other. Humans evolved to know, to have a representational power which we call "objectifying", because the intentional state of another hominid had become satisfying enough a motivational target to yield affective reactions and perceptual discoveries that allowed the mind to reach high definition. This point is not sufficiently appreciated enough: sympathy, or love, is the basis of mind. It is only when the destructive competitive emotions typical of primates, itself a function of the environmental stressors that act upon their biology, that inhibits the evolution of an orthograde (stable) curiosity into another conspecifics phenomenology.

Imagine our ancestors 600,000 years ago. Not 6,000 years, as some superstitious people believe. Go back 600,000 years ago, to the time period of Homo Heidelbergensis, who've reached a stable state, somehow passing the earlier Homo Erectus ancestor, with the facing expressing more by being less hairy, the human form practically modern with the humorous being separated from the scapula, which indicates a species who throws. So throwing, which means hunting, which means a complex organization of self-other representational flows. How could we conceive or think of the Heidelberganian mind, in light of its many cranial convergences with modern humans?

It's so hard for anthropology to shed the philosophical bias that assumes deceit or guile as the source of the evolution of the human brain. Yet how could that be so when traumatology, a special branch of psychology which studies the psychological processes of trauma and the effects trauma has on the brain, shows deleterious losses in neural volume as a consequence of negative or neutral affectivity (traumatic affects i.e. traumatic anxiety and numbness/dissociation) and gains in neural volume following interpersonally focused psychodynamic therapy. Gains are both in white and grey matter in the orbitofrontal and dorsolateral cortex; and loss of neural volume in the amygdala (indicating a much desired loss of threat circuitry).

The evidence indicates that a safe environment with infrequent environmental traumas - such a predation - probably acted as a scaffold for the gradual evolution and development of an ape cognitive system into one that became more and more centered not on the self, but on the way the self can be adapted to ally the self in cooperation with other selves. In this way, two selves with this similar motivation will 'converge' on a common external referent, say a stick and the meaning of the stick as a possible tool to kill an animal with. There are two levels to this picture, which needs to be distinguished. On the inside, in affectivity and motivation, the expectancy of Heidelberg man is not negative, and doesn't assume that the other will say no to him or not respond. On the contrary, his affectivity seems inclined towards the positive. The act - killing another animal, no doubt, is harsh; yet the evolution of man must have passed through such contingencies that make survival possible. The real meaning is in what these cooperative pursuits meant, not merely in the hunt, but in the capture, the preparation, and the jubilee that followed.

It is quite possible that Heidelberg man had fire, and so with the hunt came the night; and the fire pits both cooked their capture and provided the background for the expression of affects most suitable to the night. In the light of the fire and the moon and the sonorous music of nature behind them, the hominid condition up until then (with body form and technological adaptations supporting self/other differentiations) fostered existential insights into self-experience, and the spontaneous "gathering together" around a common metaphysical experience.

Fire in the Night

Ecological conditions conspired to create Humans. It seems a definite threshold, when crossed, keeps the organism established. Fire was such a threshold for human beings, and when we first accomplished it and then applied it to our digestion, the amount of metabolic energy usually given to the immune seemed to have been taken up by the brain. Indeed: was it the nighttime conversations around the fire that the human mind was made? It makes much sense: the coinciding of two biological processes - a mind processing the evaluations and judgements of the other, and feeling connected with and interested in the meanings being formed and shared; and one is eating: food is being eaten and the energy is being absorbed by the a brain reveling in being known by the other.

The brain grew in the night, and its appropriate too. The night breaks down differences in things. The blackness of night brings all things into common unity. Yet - in fire - in a little tiny flame, a light emerges: what better metaphor for our ego could there be? It was in the night, eating food, and bypassing the usual metabolic pathway from gut to immune cells, and redirecting from gut to neurons in the brain, that consciousness snuck its way in to the world.

The conversing apes, grunting, speaking, eating, laughing, and sharing a common awe for their own reflectivity. The awe was no doubt mediated by the fire and the power of their own capacity to create it. The world around them, so conditioned and reflexive, yet ancient Heidelberg man, knowing his prowess and knowing his difference, can't help but feel this full-body gnosis: Life is Amazing. Did this affect, too, spur the human mind forward? Who could possibly doubt that the ancient cave paintings of so-called cro-magnon man was anything but purposeful, religious, and so predicated in the phenomenological power of awe?

posted on Apr, 9 2016 @ 04:09 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte

What if your assumption of fire is wrong

It all becomes a bit naff

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