The Sapiens’ Saga

The cognitive revolution refers to a shift in thinking and communication, or as Harari refers to it, “the point when history declared its independence from biology” (Harari, pg. 37). Many like to consider it the fine line between sapiens and other human ancestors. This revolution coincides with the production of art in multiple mediums and an abundance of symbolism. This revolution contributed to the development of civilizations by allowing people to create and enforce symbolic behaviors that defined their community and separated them from other groups. The agricultural revolution is undoubtedly a hallmark of our species. The agricultural revolution occurred all over the world within a thousand years, give or take, but is primarily studied in the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia. Essentially, this is when humans started cultivating crops and livestock opposed to foraging and hunting them. As far as characterizing humanity and developing civilizations goes, “The Agricultural Revolution certainly enlarged the sum total of food at the disposal of humankind, but the extra food did not translate into a better diet and more leisure. Rather it translated into population explosions and pampered elites” (Harari, pg. 79). This revolution stratified societies creating the power imbalance necessary for creating laws and conflict that bound communities by centralizing a societies resources.

Harari explains why homo sapiens became dominant through these two revolutions. He focuses on the tangible consequences of these revolutions such as stratification, religion, etc. Harari thoroughly supports his arguments with both archaeological and contemporary evidence. I buy it, except for his argument about the cognitive revolution. We have evidence that neanderthals practiced symbolic behavior such as burial. Knowing this, sapiens and neanderthals are on an equal playing field where Harari discusses them having the mental capacity of a chimp. Something other than differing psychologies lead to sapiens outing neanderthals. I would also like to point out that there is ample evidence of neanderthal DNA within our own- meaning these two species successfully interbred, therefore they can technically be classified as the same species. So, did we really dominate? Or just mutate together by combining our gene with those closely related to us to create the human race we are today?