We have all faced that unreasonably hard history exam question which we considered unimportant. Personally, even though I like history, often during exams, I wanted to burn the question paper only because of that one question from an unseen chapter.
However, fortunately, I’m not the only one facing a hard question from history exams since all of mankind themselves are facing that same hard question they’re still struggling to find the answer to and that question is “What is it that made mankind the entity it is today?”. Of course, this question has an explanation, however, I am that overthinking student who still thinks since there’s more space for my answer there must be something we all missed out on.
Therefore, we might have explanations but perhaps we missed out on something. Something which might have granted us a few more marks. In order to figure that out we shall first jump into what we know!
It is said that humans are at the top of the food chain. It seems our story is likely to be more interesting than any other factor concerning us. So, what made our story so eye-catching? How did our ancestors manage to dominate the nature itself? The answer obviously lies in the power of our brain, our most important and also the strongest aspect that sets us apart from the “Animal Kingdom”.
To understand our rise to the top, we must look at when we were at the bottom. According to Yuval Noah Harari, about 2.5 million years ago, humans evolved from the genus “Homo” in Africa along with the “Stone age” and after 500,000 years humans started evolving into different species and spreading out to Eurasia.
Naturally, humans were not physically stronger than a tiger as a tiger had monstrous strength and physical characteristics far superior to a mere human with just hands and feet. However, it should also be noted that our ancestors evolved their cerebral capacity and intelligence rather than only brute strength and being completely honest, in an environment where “survival of the fittest” was a literal rule no one with a sane mind would develop only their intelligence for centuries and generations!
Moreover, only a pack of wolves ould be more than enough to tear down a considerably large group of humans armed with only stone tools. However, our ancestors surely learned from their environment to their full potential which led to developing their 5 senses up to a substantial level in order to survive in the most efficient way.
However, prehistoric humans were much more in the mercy of mother nature. Our ancestors had to adapt to a dominance hierarchy that set us almost at the bottom of the food chain and forced us to evolve in order to rise.
Yes, that evolution power was intelligence development. The earliest men and women, 2.5 million years ago had brains of about 600 cubic-centimetres. Modern sapiens destroy the earlier competition by averaging between 1,200-1,400 cubic-centimetres. However, since this evolutionary process of our intelligence was sure to be lengthy, our ancestors remained comparatively weak for generations and centuries while other animals developed their physical traits to out-mobilize our own.
It is also a fact that our brain developed being accustomed to prehistoric surroundings and that still impacts today’s mentality. For example, according to ‘Annals of behavioral medicine: a publication of the Society of behavioral medicine by Louise C. Hawkley, and John T. Cacioppo’ – “Your body cares about your social needs because millions of years ago it was a great indicator of how likely you were to survive.”
Since it was a crucial deciding factor tofit in to communities to secure their basic needs such as shelter, food and security. It was highly unlikely for an individual to survive alone against such deadly predators that could in fact kill a human like a walk in the park without much difficulty. Our ancestors may have been weak in terms of physical raw strength, however they had something which most mammals could never hope to achieve and that is the ability to cooperate so flexibly in large groups. Therefore, staying in a large community and around others would reassure them of their survival in an environment which had predators lurking everywhere to jump at its prey and of course, a lone human would surely be a walking duck against predators with big claws packing enough power to tear them apart.
Our intellect, reflexes and instincts all developed dependent on our ancestors’ surroundings. That said, if we break it all down to a short speculation, our ancestors basically analyzed certain entities or perhaps the environment itself and using its similarities from both physical and social environments created ideas that copied the scenario but modifying it in such a way to make use of it. For example, seeing peculiar shapes of rocks and banging them into each other will soon prove one point and that is most rocks that are rather in a pointy shape will likely to be sharper and have a power which makes it a handy tool to use when cutting meat or killing prey.
Spears and swords emerged from that very idea of having pointy figures used as a tool to hunt and prepare meals. It can also be said that every child learns things such as speaking and walking by learning from their parents, of course a child is not likely to understand when a parent gives a task to an infant but they can surely copy their parent’s movements or acting patterns in order to communicate or learn how to walk.
“The weak have the potential to be the strongest of all since they possess the ability to outclass those who have strength with the power of knowledge, therefore I believe in the potential of humanity” – Yuu kamiya (author of no game no life)
Having the ability to learn and think, humans were rather gifted in terms of intellect and cooperation with others. Therefore, an individual may prove to be weak on his own but they are the strongest when united with others.
In a tedtalk by Yuval Noah Harari he explained “If a chimpanzee and a human was to be put in an island, it would be a more realistic approach to assume that the chimpanzee would survive way better than the human. So, does that mean a human is inferior to a chimpanzee? If so, then why are humans dominating the earth and not chimpanzee? Chimpanzee are also our closest relatives. The answer lies in co-operation, Humans are social beings and if you put a chimpanzee against a human. I would certainly put my bets on the chimpanzee and even if you put 2 chimpanzees against 2 humans, I wouldn’t change my mind. However, if it’s 1,000 chimpanzees against 1,000 humans it is most likely that the humans would win without much difficulty”
Hence proved by this statement, that humans can communicate with large groups rather flexibly and effectively than any other animal which gives humans the advantage by a large margin over any other mammal enabling us to establish the empire of Mankind.
As generations passed, our ancestors started organizing and building social structures leading to large communities slowly developing into a thriving civilization.
It surely is quite an interesting topic to talk about our ancestors history! The story of a insignificant mammal almost at the bottom of the food chain, rising out to the top in order to dominate the whole earth itself. Our ambitions grew from conquering the land to the skies and then the space, finally reaching the moon and now our expectations lie in colonizing other planets. A simple child looking out to sky will never realize that the mystery behind our ancestors story is a far wider canvas than the mystery behind our universe itself. We might not prove to be the greatest creation of god but we can sure bet on our lives that our story of dominating the top by surpassing all limits we ever faced would be sufficient enough to be recognized as the greatest novel written by god himself.
So, let me ask you a question that you can be very well assured you’ll encounter in the future and that is, “have you found the reason behind the unanswered questions that lurk in your curiosity?” Those who shall manage to find the answer, shall also know how to solve the riddle to unveiling the farthest ocean of mankind which is yet to be discovered.
Anindo Ibrahim is an eighth-grader at BAF Shaheen English Medium School and College.