Saturday, November 14, 2009

241. The Baseline Scenarios -- Part 17: On a Clear Day

Many of the attributes I've associated with HBC are regarded as typical for hunter-gatherer groups in various parts of the world. The question I'd now like to consider is: why. Traditionally, anthropologists have tended to assume that there are certain people out there who can be grouped together as "hunter-gatherers" or "foragers," and that many of them have certain things in common, and as a result they tend to treat them as though they are the way they are due to some universal characteristic that we could call, I suppose, "hunter-gatherer-ivity." If they hunt and gather, and have no other visible means of support, that means they must belong to some mysterious cultural sub-species of the human race that for some reason shares all sorts of interesting beliefs, attitudes, methodologies, etc., due, no doubt, to similar "adaptations" to "the environment," that function purely functionally in order to reinforce "functionalist" theories of how and why they are to be found in so many different parts of the world (and so many different environments, as well).

Once upon a time it was fashionable to explain the many similarities as "survivals" from some vaguely defined "prehistoric" or "stone age" era, but no one had the slightest idea of where these survivals came from, or how they could be so widespread, or why these particular groups were still clinging to them after all these many years. Now, of course, all talk of survivals has been banished -- because that would make them "living fossils," and we can't have that. So at this point what we have are "hunter-gatherers," in and of themselves, take them or leave them. The world contains all sorts of people, short people, tall people, capitalists, socialists, democrats, republicans, farmers, bankers, lawyers, politicians, and: hunter-gatherers. How did the get the way they are? Maybe they "jes growed"???

Well, the view from HBP -- our common ancestor -- is very illuminating I must say. From this great height of roughly 40,000 to over 100,000 years ago, straight up, we can look down for miles and miles through millennia after millennia of history. The view is admittedly a bit foggy -- due to hypothetical conditions beyond our control. But with a little more research we might be able to see forever. Or at least as far into the future as now. :-)

And what I see, through a glass darkly, is the likelihood that what they all have in common is their connection with HBC. In other words, if today's hunter-gatherers have so much in common it is not because they all share hunter-gatherer-ivity, but because they all share a common heritage, passed down from generation to generation from a common ancestor. And if you want to contest that theory, fine. It's a hypothesis, so by all means let's test it.

Meanwhile, we can do some very interesting exploring by looking for those hunter-gatherer societies that appear to share most if not all the characteristics of HBC. And I'm wondering whether there are indeed any that share all of them.

There are many other things we can explore as well. For example, we can work our way backward from HBC to see if we can figure out how it got that way. Here, for example, is a description of a Bonobo nest, from Citizendium:
When it comes to building the nest, Bonobos prefer certain trees. . . In order for Bonobos to make a nest, the tree's branches must be strong and flexible enough to be bent over considerably without snapping in half. But they must also have a certain amount of rigidity to them in order for the branch to slightly split. . . To build the nest itself, Bonobos bend larger branches in towards the center and stamp them down. The nest is then filled in with leaves and twigs for padding.
I'll bet the nests are made by females too.

And here is a video clip I've shown before, of Siamang Baboons "duetting" in a manner very much like certain types of P/B style "shouted hocket."

Another interesting project might be an attempt to use HBP and HBC to help reconstruct the physiognomy and culture of the original "Out of Africa" migrants, the band that supposedly crossed the "Gulf of Grief" at the Horn of Africa anywhere from 60,000 to 90,000 yeas ago to enter what is now Yemen and ultimately populate all of Asia, Australia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania with their descendants.

We might also want to take a look a all the other societies in the world, hunter-gatherers, farmers, herders, even modern "developed" societies such as our own, that seem so devoted to warlike, violent behavior. If it wasn't part of HBC, then how did it get started? How and why did head-hunting, cannibalism, witchcraft, torture, war, terrorism, etc., etc., get started if our common ancestors were such peaceful folk? On a clear day we just might be able to spot the point at which all this mayhem got its start. Or maybe it got started in many different ways. No harm in taking a peek . . .

to be continued . . .

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