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You’d Never Survive During The Stone Age, Here’s Why


These days, nobody goes anywhere without an
incredibly powerful supercomputer in their pocket, ready at a moment’s notice to dispense
the sum total of all human knowledge. But not so long ago, our ancestors were struggling
to survive using rocks. Think you could survive the Stone Age? Well, think again. It’s incredible what modern medicine can do. Heck, doctors can even perform full face transplants
now. But that’s with the help of anaesthetic, very
precise tools, and a lot of computers. Mankind didn’t have any of that in the Stone
Age, or even really have the basic knowledge of anatomy that came much later, but they
were still performing surgery. Archaeologists have the proof too, and it’s
as bad as you think. Freiburg University archaeologists were working
in France when they excavated a group of 7,000-year-old graves. Among the bodies was one belonging to a man
who had been about 50 when he died, and he had two holes in his skull. The wounds were very deliberate and very clean,
with none of the surrounding cracks and damage expected from a violent injury or accident. One of the holes was about 2 and a half inches,
the other around 3 and a half. Oh, it gets worse. Archaeologists say that the wounds were very
clearly made at two different times, and that the man showed somewhere between six months
and two years’ worth of healing. Flint tools, which are actually sharper than
steel tools, were likely used. According to CNN, archaeologists have uncovered
evidence that early surgeons were even practicing on cows sometime around 7300 BC. Stone Age people weren’t exactly foodies,
but they still needed to eat. And there’s no question about the fact Stone
Age people ate other people. University of Valencia anthropologists discovered
10,000-year-old human bones in a cave on the coast of Spain that showed very distinct markings
indicating human meat was on the menu. The evidence is striking, and includes human
bones with bite marks. If it helps, there was no sign of violence,
so the people were probably already dead before they were dinner. They weren’t the only ones, either. According to The Guardian, archaeologists
have been able to find that Stone Age people moved to Britain about 14,700 years ago, and
settled in Somerset. And they had perfected the art of butchering
to get the most amount of meat possible, and they used the same techniques on the bones
of men, women, and children that they did on animals. So at least everyone was treated equally. The idea of human sacrifice is one that makes
for some uncomfortable thoughts about just what kind of people we are, and it’s definitely
nothing new. In 2007, archaeologists released news via
LiveScience of some disturbingly bizarre discoveries made when excavating graves dating back to
about 27,000 years ago. One contained the remains of three young people,
including one with congenital dysplasia, one that was lying face-down, and another that
was positioned to be reaching toward the hips of another. It was an odd burial, and they discovered
other odd ones, too. There were a handful of graves that contained
multiple sets of remains, and many were remains of young people or those who showed signs
of severe deformities. The fact that there were so many graves with
multiple bodies suggests that human sacrifice was definitely a thing, and the bodies were
placed like that on purpose. Why? It’s impossible to tell exactly what the circumstances
were, or who the unfortunate people chosen to be the sacrifices were. Evidence of human sacrifice has been discovered
in an eerie number of places. LiveScience reports that human sacrifices
were discovered buried in a 4,000-year-old cemetery in China, and the practice continued
into the Iron Age. Hate going to the dentist? Put it off as long as humanly possible? It’s a cakewalk now, at least compared to
what it used to be. It’s entirely possible that death might have
been a viable option instead of heading to a Stone Age dentist. According to discoveries made by the University
of Bologna, dentistry was being practiced at least around 13,000 years ago, and it was
about as horrible as expected, with ancient teeth showing signs that sharp stones were
used to scrape out cavities and tissue. The really strange thing is that the process
Stone Age dentists used was very similar to modern dentistry. At least in Italy, cavities were cleaned out
then sealed with a black tar called bitumen. In 2012, archaeologists reported on a 6,500-year-old
tooth discovered in Slovenia. The poor unfortunate owner had cracked the
tooth, and it was filled with beeswax. Next time you start thinking about all the
things you’re thankful for, be sure and add Novocaine to the list. Science has come a long way in figuring out
what’s best for the human body. It wasn’t even that long ago smoking and drinking
while pregnant were viewed as being OK! So that same sort of medical knowledge in
the Stone Age must have been very wrong, right? It seems so. In 2018, Washington University anthropologist
Erik Trinkaus published a paper on the strangeness that he saw in Stone Age remains. Trinkaus picked 66 Stone Age skeletons from
people who had lived between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago, and who had visible deformities. Two-thirds of the diagnosed conditions were
recorded as either rare or extremely rare. So, what’s going on here? Trinkaus found that it wasn’t just about poor
nutrition or a lack of medical knowledge; he found that many of the conditions were
genetic, and that led him to the conclusion that small, close-knit communities of people
living far, far away from others led to a fair amount of inbreeding – and that led to
the high rates of severe deformities. It’s not all bad news, though. In 2010, The New York Times picked up the
story of Burial 9, a 4,000-year-old skeleton discovered in Vietnam. He had been paralyzed as a child by Klippel-Feil
syndrome, lived at least a decade beyond that, and was proof that even millennia ago, there
were some people willing to be caretakers for those who needed them the most. You go, humanity! For as long as people have been people, and
maybe even before that, they’ve been trying to kill other people who aren’t them. Anyone who thinks Stone Age man might have
been more willing to work together for survival, sorry. Turns out, they were just as likely to kill
each other as humans are today. In 2016, the University of Cambridge published
discoveries that pointed to good old fashioned ancient group violence. A group of skeletons, including men, women,
and six children, were found near Lake Turkana in Kenya, and they died about 10,000 years
ago. There was no question their end came from
anything but a massacre, with the bodies showing severe cranial fractures, broken hands and
ribs, and stone projectile tips lodged in the bones of some of the men. Since they weren’t buried, researchers suggest
those people have a dubious honor: being the victims of one of the earliest known instances
of human conflict. A similarly horrible scene was found in 2006. This one was about 7,000 years old and located
just outside Frankfurt, Germany. According to The Guardian, the remains of
26 children and adults were found sporting the usual signs of blunt force trauma associated
with using rocks for weapons. There was also posthumous damage done to the
bodies and researchers suspect it was done as a very clear message to others in the area. Well maybe there was violence, but it couldn’t
have been that bad, right? Wrong, says Dr. Rick Schulting from Queen’s
University, Belfast. He looked at the remains of 250 people from
Neolithic Britain, and estimated people had a one in 20 chance of having their skull fractured. He summed up his findings with: “We generally think of Neolithic people as
living peaceful lives – they were busy looking after crops and rearing livestock. But it was a much more violent society.” Most of those in their sample were wounded
by clubs, flint arrowheads, and speartips, and one woman even sustained injuries from
a stone axe. But it’s tough to determine just how violent
these societies were, because there’s only so much archaeologists can learn from bones. Soft tissue injuries, for example, wouldn’t
leave evidence behind. They do estimate the chance of dying from
a violent death in even small societies might be as high as 33 percent, and speculate some
of the violence is probably domestic and some might even be ritualized. Theories that the Stone Age was pretty violent
are also supported by 7,000-year-old skeletons uncovered in Denmark, belonging to people
who had been killed by arrows to the throat and blows to the skull, probably thanks to
other people, and not Uruk-hai. Anyone born today is a Homo sapien. People born in the Stone Age might have been
something else, though, and if that was the case, well, they were pretty much doomed. Take Homo erectus. They were around in the beginning of the Stone
Age, but disappeared. Archaeologists have long wondered why, and
according to researchers from The Australian National University, part of the reason was
an inability to adapt to a changing climate, while part of it was that they were just downright
lazy. Essentially, they just used what was around
them instead of exploring, discovering new places, and making new tools like the other
branches of the family tree. There’s Neanderthals, too, a close relative
of humanity that also figured out how to use stone tools, create fire, made artwork, and
lived in small family groups that allowed them to care for the sick and elderly. Advanced, yes, but they still went extinct
for unknown reasons. Even those fortunate enough to be born Homo
sapien weren’t guaranteed to survive. For instance, the entirety of the Clovis culture,
a group of hunter-gatherers who lived in North America – were completely wiped out about
13,000 years ago. Hate deciding what’s for dinner? Think it might be easier if there were fewer
choices? It may have been easy for Stone Age man to
decide what was on the menu, but shopping was a lot harder. When Leeds Beckett University decided to look
into just what kind of hunting methods prehistoric hunters used, they found that one of the ways
they brought down big prey was by picking up a stone and throwing it. Complicated? No, but believe it or not, it was effective. They started with a series of 55 ball-shaped
stones recovered from archaeological sites. They then turned to simulations, and found
that for an expert stone-thrower, 81 percent of the stones could have inflicted some massive
damage at a distance of up to 80 feet away. The spheres were perfect: not too heavy to
throw well, but heavy enough to do damage. In 2012, researchers from The University of
Wisconsin found that early humans were working together to hunt as much as two million years
ago, selecting specific animals then targeting them for the kill. And humans preferred healthy adult animals,
which are, of course, the hardest to kill. Better get working on that throwing arm. Here’s the thing about kids: they’re soft,
squishy, and dumb. It’s not surprising that for a lot of human
history, childhood was one of the most statistically dangerous times of life. According to UC Santa Barbara anthropology
professor Michael Gurven, if a late Stone Age person made it through childhood, they
had a decent enough chance of seeing their 50th birthday and beyond. But earlier, it was very different. The majority of people died before they hit
30, and the switch came with advancements in tool-making and technology. According to Scientific American, it was only
about 30,000 years ago people lived long enough to meet their grandkids, which was a huge
deal. With the emergence of a grandparent generation,
it’s thought it not only afforded early humans the chance to pass down potentially life-saving
information by word of mouth, it also shifted some of the responsibilities onto a whole
extra group of people, allowing younger folks the opportunity to do more than just eat,
sleep, and die. That kicked progress into high gear, but only
at the end of the Stone Age. Until then? Yeah, you were probably going to die young. Everyone’s familiar with the idea of plague,
especially the one that hit 14th century Europe and did a serious number on the entire population. That was bad, so just imagine when it hit
5,000 years earlier. According to the Technical University of Denmark,
there were several strains of plague active at the end of the Stone Age and going into
the Bronze Age. Plague covered Europe and Asia in what they
described as pandemic proportions, wiping out entire civilizations. And we’re talking about a lot of people. At the time, some settlements had as many
as 20,000 residents living there. Many died, cities were abandoned, and the
few survivors fled, taking the plague with them. While they stress that exactly what happened
is still a mystery, they do say it’s likely the plague led to a major collapse of Stone
Age civilization, and given that the World Health Organization says bubonic plague has
up to a 60 percent mortality rate if untreated, it killed a ton of people along the way. Mankind has come a long way since the Stone
Age, and it’s easy to feel a little superior. But there’s a good chance modern man wouldn’t
do any better at surviving. In 2014, Britain’s Channel 5 aired a show
that was designed to find out. It was called 10,000 BC, and it took a group
of 20 people and plopped them down in the Stone Age. It didn’t go well. History Extra talked to Klint Janulis, the
survival expert on the show, which he stressed was meant to be more about the social and
anthropological aspects than the survival side of things. Because of that, they made some allowances
from the beginning, because modern people just wouldn’t be able to adapt without a leg
up. Aside from the fact it’s impossible to know
exactly what Stone Age clothing looked like, participants also needed to be given shoes. While our ancient ancestors would have gone
barefoot, modern people just don’t have the tough feet that would have allowed for that. They also couldn’t make containers like the
ones actual Stone Age people would have made and used, so they were given more modern ceramics. There were also a ton of surprises, like their
attempts at using reindeer hides for blankets. Those quickly became infested with maggots,
so yeah, if any mad scientist ever shows up in a time machine and gives you the chance
to go back and live a simpler life in the Stone Age? Maybe don’t take them up on it. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
eras are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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