9 comments on “Prehistoric Human Population Estimates (Prehistoric Demographics)

  1. I saw you hinting at this in your article concerning the number of artifacts found in Libya not being possible because the population wasn’t there to produce all these. But something keeps nagging at me about that, not sure what yet but the question will come to me eventually. I think these may have accrued over a long time, several ice ages. 🙂

    But I keep looking at the numbers since 1800. Population has increased 800% in only 200 years. I keep wondering if there was a time in “prehistory”, even if for only a few hundred years, where conditions and resources may have been ripe for increased fertility, lower mortality rate and a longer life span? Only to be reset and started over like you mentioned?

    And if concentrated on only two Continents, could this actually be quite significant?

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  2. As a mater of reference consider the Cambrian Explosion in which it is now theorized that small environmental changes triggered major evolutionary developments specifically due to an increase in oxygen thought to have been “temporary.” Researchers now suspect an increase in oxygen to near modern levels could have spurred this explosion. It is possible that something similar has happened more than once in the past.

    I think environment plays a major role in human population numbers and is simply not a backdrop to human development. For example, researchers now believe that prior to the dawn of the last ice age hominid population numbers were high and as the ice age got into full swing those numbers began to drop somewhat drastically. which is expected. After the last ice age ended around 15 kya human population numbers began to increase and have continued to increase into our modern day. BTW the latest figures say global population is now falling as birth rates have gone down but researchers are unsure as to exactly why.

    There was a time on this planet when everything was big. Giant vegetation, giant animals, etc. Obviously some form of ancient human ancestor was around at that time also or none of us would be here today. Was that AHA also giant sized? Were environmental conditions just right at some point in the remote past when AHA population numbers increased dramatically perhaps nearing modern population numbers?

    Fact is we are not 100% certain so anything is possible. From another angle if we take the Hopi oral traditions seriously then there have been 3 ages before our own today and each of those ages saw humans evolve from hunter-gatherer societies to high tech societies that rival our own today only to become greedy and amoral and be knocked back into the Stone Age rather suddenly to start over again. If we consider the Hopi stories to be factual or near factual then we must conclude that there were at least 3 eras in the remote past when humans have a high society with high technology. Are these stone artifacts remains from one or more of those previous ages mass produced by some technology for some purpose?

    If what is found in southern Libya and at Calico Hills are not artifacts then they must be geofacts and there is some as yet unknown nature process that mimics human stone tool technology. Or is it the other way around? Did humans mimic some natural process we are unaware of?

    Something is missing in all this. Something we don’t yet know or do not yet understand. One thing I am 100% certain of is that our ancient human ancestors certainly didn’t have anything to do but sit around making millions of stone tools all day lol.

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  3. I agree and understand, But I just can’t help but figure in a few added factor possibilities.

    Like this area being a possible unique source quarry for a much larger trade area, and for this particular source being utilized through three or more ice ages.

    I know that all the ancient quarries here in the desert are factories also. Most of the stones are reduced from a core to a more portable blank on site or very near by. Then transported for distant trade as a quality blank.

    But in this, the word Quality is super important. I’m sure you have played with knapping yourself like I have and know that because of the unpredictable characteristics of stone, the success rate of producing a quality usable blank or finished tool of any sort is very very small.

    I have thrown away and gave up on cores, core flakes, blanks and almost finished tools at a rate of probably 100 to 1 or even more. As you know the losses far far outweigh the keepers.

    Then there is loss or damage during use of each tool, Even though stone tools are very sharp they are also very fragile and break easily. The breakage, loss and need for replacement rate must have been incredible! In later eras just Imagine the loss of Atlatl dart or spear point losses alone! Just about every miss meant a loss of that point!

    It appears they are including all “Artifacts” that show signs of being man made so this would also include the very high number of pieces that were tossed because they were not finishing out as preferred.

    I think out of necessity they had no choice but to spend every minute of their available time in between meals working stone. Then accrue this in one area through 3 ice ages? With these factors it might be a little more possible?

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  4. Yes and I even have a view “battle scars” to prove I’m messed around with knapping lol. This, as you suggest, could be an area used repeatedly for a long, long time as might also be the Calico Hills site. The more ancient humans became sophisticated the more stone tools became important to the point of becoming absolutely necessary for survival. A cache had to be available for replacements I’m sure be that small or large or somewhere inbetween. Now wouldn’t it be funny if in these certain areas and others that they had people who did noting but produce stone tools all day long? Mass production born! Fact is we don’t know but what we do know is that at this site are found some geofacts and some artifacts so we must try to figure out what was going on as is true with the Calico site also.

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  5. Honestly… I think there was mass production happening. Human nature dictates that some are better at a skill than others. Just like now one person can get the knack of a skill and some just can’t. They can make do and get by, but never become a master with a high success rate and productivity rate.

    So I think it was possible that those who were good at working rock set up shops and traded tools for food so they could keep working and producing tools as a trade. We have a site near here that was indeed a factory, a huge area is layered with flakes and chips. And we know they produced stone not just for themselves but for trade.

    I could see them having master craftsmen with different skills traded to survive. Like you say, it would be pretty hard to find time to hunt if you always had to make all your own tools too. 🙂

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    • And so what you are proposing is that there was a “division of labor” during the Stone Age and that indicates civilization which is much more than simply hunter-gatherer-nomadic people. These sites (Stone Age lithic factories) may be yet more evidence that our ancestors were NOT the savages they’ve been made out to be 🙂

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      • Oh absolutely… just like in every family now! if the chores were not spread among the members they would never get done. The chores needing done to successfully survive were incredible. I am sure that is why they came together as clans and tribes. It bettered their chances of getting everything that actually needed to be done completed.

        So even in a small Clan one or two did nothing but work rock all day because they happened to be the best at it while others hunted and others gathered wood, Etc. I also think they had a currency system. Finished tone tools and rough blanks were the first currency for sure! 🙂

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  6. Like you, I think they were ever much as intelligent as modern humans in current society, They just had limited resources and technology to work with. But If a simple Capuchin Monkey can problem solve, understand profit and loss, and possibly have “theory of mind” why not an early human species? It makes no sense to say they were not capable of this level of intelligence.

    But to prove this one would first have to be intelligent enough to consider it possible. And this is where the problem lies. lol

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