Size Matters: The Brains of Early Man

Both the Cognitive Revolution and the Agricultural Revolution are fundamental events that lay all the ground work for the successful society we live in today. These events didn’t happen overnight however, they occurred over tens of thousands of years spanning generations and cultures around the globe. The Cognitive Revolution took place approximately 70,000 years ago when humans began developing what could be described as “imagination” (Harari, p. 20). This expanded way of thinking leads to humans creating a social network within groups. Humans could now express more specific and complicated thoughts which would ultimately lead to a more successful species with a much better chance of surviving. The Agricultural Revolution takes place roughly around 10,000 B.C., when humans began developing and progressing at a faster rate. Now realizing that the hunter/gatherer way of life isn’t necessary, humans begin to settle down in areas as opposed to following food. Humans could build thriving camps and societies without the need to constantly be on the move. Farming became the standard, and it was better, more successful way of living for these humans. This easier, less stressful way of life meant more free time for these early humans, and thus allowing the art, religion and the like to begin taking shape.

According to Harari, the homo sapiens conquered the earth because of their unique languages and culture. As far as physical abilities go, the Neanderthal was superior to the homo sapiens, but the homo sapiens larger brain capacity allowed for the social aspect of tribes to evolve, thus further separating the two groups. This heightened level of thinking allowed for complex relationships to form within groups of homo sapiens. This created a more reliable form of communication between homo sapiens, allowing for the fast transfer of information and more cooperation in groups. I’ve heard this theory before, but Harari explains it very in-depth, and I agree with every aspect. The speed at which early humans grew intellectually is astounding, and Harari is very good at explaining the smaller details that might get lost in a broader explanation. I didn’t think anything was persuasive, mostly because these claims are all based in fact and science and comparing it to other scientific readings on the same topic lead me to believe Harari isn’t making stuff up as he goes. I would say that Harari’s beliefs are my own, in that we both agree on how homo sapiens became dominant.

2 thoughts on “Size Matters: The Brains of Early Man”

  1. I have to disagree with you on a few things, but first I’d like to agree with you when you say, “Harari’s beliefs are my own”. I completely agree with the way Harari describes the evolution of homo sapiens. I disagree with you when you stated the hunter/gather way of life wasn’t necessary anymore. I don’t think agriculture was born out of necessity, it was more like an accident. As Harari states, agriculture was a trap once they started farming, and then the farming was completely necessary for their societies. I highly doubt the farming life was better then the hunter/gather life. Harari states that they had to work more hours per week and more strenuous labor in manners our bodies were not evolved for. Also, early farming lead to a lot of men fighting to the death to defend the crops they were growing from other home sapiens. The early farming life was truly terrible for homo sapiens, and I wish the agriculture revolution never would have happened.

  2. First off, great title. I’m glad you brought up the aspect of growth in population. This was definitely a consequential need for the agricultural revolution. Hunting was still necessary, however, but not as necessary. Diet was probably the most balanced at the beginning of the agricultural diet, as it introduced a more stable source of carbohydrates. At the time, hunting was for the source of protein. Needless to say, humans were on a more ketogenic spectrum. Just living on an “agricultural” diet would have resulted in an unhealthy and unbalanced diet and the human race, as we know it, would have evolved to something much more different than to what it is today.

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