A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man. ... In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
Moreover, I do not foresee a "post-apocalyptic" war between tribes and civilization's survivors. Those survivors, like the survivors of Chaco Canyon, will learn to live in sustainable ways, or die trying. In the interrim, I do not believe they will "come after" foragers, for the same reasons that the Greenland Vikings that Jared Diamond discusses in Collapse did not "go after" the Inuit. We will be relying on resources they fail to see as food. So, I do not see much threat of military conflict in the primitivist approach to the current crisis.
Probably the most spectacular examples of ritualization involve ritualized aggression; as E.O. Wilson formulated the key question: "Why do animals prefer pacifism and bluff to escalated fighting?". The answer is that agonistic behavior is potentially advantageous but also carries very high costs (in terms of the individual's inclusive fitness): possible injury and even death, 'aggressive neglect', etc. (see especially Cronin and Van der Dennen for detailed analysis). For each species, Wilson observes, there exists some optimal level of aggressiveness above which individual fitness is lowered. [Source]
The notion that collapse is a catastrophe is rampant, not only among the public, but also throughout the scholarly professions that study it. Archaeology is as clearly implicated in this as is any other field. As a profession we have tended disproportionately to investigate urban and administrative centers, where the richest archaeological remains are commonly found. When with collapse these centers are abandoned or reduced in scale, their loss is catastrophic for our data base, our museum collections, even for our ability to secure financial backing. (Dark ages are rarely as attractive to philanthropists or funding institutions.) Archaeologists, though, are not solely at fault. Classicists and historians who rely on literary sources are also biased against the dark ages, for in such times their data bases largely disappear. ...
Complex societies, it must be emphasized again, are recent in human history. Collapse then is not a fall to some primordial chaos, but a return to the normal human condition of lower complexity. The notion that collapse is uniformly a catastrophe is contradicted, moreover, by the present theory. To the extent that collapse is due to declining marginal returns on investment in complexity, it is an economizing process. It occurs when it becomes necessary to restore the marginal return on organizational investment to a more favorable level. To a population that is receiving little return on the cost of supporting complexity, the loss of that complexity brings economic, and perhaps administrative, gains.
Collapse loomed, but collapse had definite advantages, as shown by its aftermath. The Germanic kings who replaced the empire in the west were better at defending their (smaller) territories against invaders and could do so more cheaply than the overextended empire. In North Africa, the Vandals (victims of a bad press) lowered taxes and economic well-being grew, until Justinian brought back Roman rule and, with it, imperial taxes. "Investment" in this lower level of political "complexity" paid for itself, so to speak, by being less costly. Collapse is not all bad: a disaster for the state apparatus may not be one for people as a whole. Devolution of power to smaller geographical units is "a rational, economizing process that may well benefit much of the population."
You get tribes, yeah, but you get violent tribes, people who band together in a futile attempt to not starve to death in the near future, in a world with a human population well over its food production capacity.
You get brutal warlords, you get increased disease, you get a horrible nightmare. After a couple generations, you settle into something like feudalism, as certain groups consolidate power, and the rest of them go along with it because they don't have any other options.
A study of African hunters has shown that a virus similar to HIV has passed from apes to humans from bushmeat of the kind that is being sold illegally in the UK.
A leading scientist has told the File On 4 programme that the virus was probably passed on to tribesmen via body fluids when the animals were slaughtered and butchered. ...
"This is the area of the world where HIV came from, and this is most likely the mechanism by which HIV emerged into the human population," he said.
Abject poverty forces such hunters to kill any animal, no matter how rare or unfit for human consumption, and transport it out of the country through black markets.
Posing as rich white loggers and accompanied by an undercover worker from the Last Great Ape project, File On 4 journalists travelled to Cameroon where pygmy hunters offered to kill gorillas, seen as the best meat.
All they wanted in return was the ammunition and the meat of the gorilla to eat.
The journalists were offered the skull, palms, and legs of the gorilla free of charge as long as they could provide the bullets to shoot the animal.
Life expectancies in the Mesolithic were quite low. How do we reconcile these conflicting data? Caspari & Lee suggest an answer in "Older age becomes common late in human evolution," (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 2004, p. 10847-10848), where they note a trend of increasing longevity that goes back not to the origins of civilization, but to the Upper Paleolithic Revolution. If we work under this assumption--that modern, abstract behavior had led to increasing longevity--then the data makes much more sense. We see forager longevity extending through the Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and into historical times prior to being wiped out by the advance of civilization. In those meager areas where they have not been wiped out yet, forager longevity continues to grow longer, even though the marginal nature of their ecosystem makes for a fairly harsh life.
The Shanidar Cave site is most famous for two of its skeletons, I and IV. Shanidar I was an elderly Neanderthal male known as Shanidar I, or ‘Nandy’ to its excavators. He was aged between 40-50 years, which was considerably old for a Neanderthal, equivalent to 80 years old today, displaying severe signs of deformity. He was one of four reasonably complete skeletons from the cave which displayed trauma-related abnormalities, which in his case would have been debilitating to the point of making day-to-day life painful. At some point in his life he had suffered a violent blow to the left side of his face, creating a crushing fracture to his left orbit which would have left Nandy partially or totally blind in one eye. He also suffered from a withered right arm which had been fractured in several places and healed, but which caused the loss of his lower arm and hand. This is thought to be either congenital, a result of childhood disease and trauma or due to an amputation later in his life. The arm had healed but the injury may have caused some paralysis down his right side, leading to deformities in his lower legs and foot and would have resulted in him walking with a pronounced, painful limp. All these injuries were acquired long before death, showing extensive healing and this has been used to infer that Neandertals looked after their sick and aged, denoting implicit group concern. Shanidar I is not the only Neanderthal at this site, or in the entire archaeological record which displays both trauma and healing.
Epidemiological theory further predicts the failure of most epidemic diseases ever to spread in small isolated populations or in groups of moderate size connected only by transportation on foot. Moreover, studies on the blood sera of contemporary isolated groups suggest that, although small size and isolation is not a complete guarantee against the transmission of such diseases in the vicinity, the spread from group to group is at best haphazard and irregular. The pattern suggests that contemporary isolates are at risk to epidemics once the diseases are maintained by civilized populations, but it seems to confirm predictions that such diseases would and could not have flourished and spread because they would not reliably have been transmitted in a world inhabited entirely by small and isolated groups in which there were no civilized reservoirs of diseases and all transportation of diseases could occur only at the speed of walking human beings.
In addition, overwhelming historical evidence suggests that the greatest rates of morbidity and death from infection are associated with the introduction of new diseases from one region of the world to another by processes associated with civilized transport of goods at speeds and over distances outside the range of movements common to hunting and gathering groups. Small-scale societies move people among groups and enjoy periodic aggregation and dispersal, but they do not move the distances associated with historic and modern religious pilgrimages or military campaigns, nor do they move at the speed associated with rapid modern forms of transportation. The increase in the transportation of people and exogenous diseases seems likely to have had far more profound effects on health than the small burden of traveler's diarrhea imposed by the small-scale movements of hunter-gatherers.
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