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‘How Could The Ancients Achieve So Much’
‘In Such A Short Lifetime?’ A Man Question from D.L.
“James, I see that you write much about ancient warfare and the Stone Age. I understand that most of what has been accomplished by men and women over the past hundred years was built upon a great edifice of achievement, ancient achievement. I am curious though, how could the ancients achieve so much in such a short lifetime and under such brutal conditions? Your stories Jackal and Jill and Jacam and Jileth, actually brought this forward into my mind.”
-D. L.
D. our modern statistics on longevity are based on life expectancy at birth, which warps the entire view of pre-modern life expectancy. Below, I try and offer a concise explanation, which is mostly context.
The Four Contexts of Human Existence
1. Pre-modern human [Home erectus, Gigantapithicus, Neanderthal man, etc.]
2. Primitive
3. Ancient agrarian
4. Industrial
5. Modern/Postmodern 1929 to present see ‘Is This The Best Time To Be Alive?’
Pre-modern Human
For Neanderthals and other pre-modern humans life was short and brutal primarily because they had to kill animals with handheld weapons at close range. Neanderthals who survived into their thirties looked like they had been pulled out of a Humvee that was hit by an IED. One fellow was missing an eye, an arm, a thumb and a foot! These guys suffered from no known diseases. However, their main food [according to chemical analysis of their bones] was the auroch—basically a rodeo bull—which they had to kill be wrestling with it, stabbing it, and smashing it with rocks!
For a Neanderthal 35 years old was as old as it is for an NFL running back or a lightweight boxer. If one imagines a world where such athletes were executed at retirement, and that all men were such athletes, you get a good idea of the climate for thirty-something folks in the Old Stone Age.
Primitive Humans
Mature Stone Age hunting and gathering societies, which had not yet invented alcohol, and which did not live with disease bearing domesticate animals, and did not engage in repetitive chores that wear away their connective tissue, produced healthier warriors and women than more technologically advanced societies until the 20th Century. Although few men survived to old age due to constant small scale warfare, male leaders and women living into their 70s was common. As with other apex predators, like lions, most of a primitive’s day consisted of leisure activities.
Ancient Agrarian
Agriculture caused people to live in one place, which encouraged disease. With the addition of domestic animals living in close proximity, humanity acquired the measles, all the pox diseases, and venereal disease [don’t ask how]. The result was that few children lived to age five. This is reflected in the fact that many societies did not name children at birth, and that children were seen as a burden until they were able to engage in the horrid economy which the adults were shackled to.
An agrarian man typically worked from sunrise to sundown doing a small cluster of repetitive motions, resulting in a terribly worn body by about age 30. The woman had it no better, on her knees grinding grain all day long, and becoming arthritic before age 30.
This was a nasty way to live, so conquerors lived according to the more ancient primitive tradition. The apex of the population—the nobility and royalty, being the top 5%—continued to live as primitives, hunting and fighting and enjoying leisure time, and making all of those great scientific, literary, artistic, and military advances.
The common agrarian person was a machine, a brute who ate, worked, shat and died in misery, and was regarded as subhuman by his masters, who lived, essentially, as a primitive warrior class.
Note that the age of majority has always been based on man’s prime as an athlete or war fighter. Ancient Greek warrior-athletes, Roman soldiers and medieval knights were not considered fit for combat until age 21, and were regarded as pretty well shot by 40. This has not changed, with modern boxers and football players considered subpar until age 22 and over the hill by age 35. Likewise, various social rights, such as firearms licenses, drinking privileges, voting rights, and military service, have typically not been granted until the 18-22 year age range. It has also remained nigh unthinkable for a head of state to be younger than 35 years of age. This athletic life span corresponds with the hunting life span of the Neanderthal auroch hunter.
Industrial life for the common man meant servicing machinery that ate and maimed him as often as did the ancient beast of old his hunter ancestor. Children were also fed into the industrial machine, which either literally ate them through accidents or maimed them through the same repetitive stress that afflicted the slave farmer. Due to public sanitation disease was less of a threat, however, the common man was now dragooned into vast war machines, as a dressed up weapon bearing device to be marched around and shot, and eventually discarded. The increased availability of alcohol, already a bane in agrarian communities, became epidemic when man was completely divorced from the natural world in his industrial capacity.
The upper class continued to live as an essentially primitive leisure class, with less and less attention to war and hunting and more toward academic pursuits. The industrial age was the time to be a rich man.
Factoring human longevity from birth is a legacy of modern νаϲсіոation technology and the use of antibiotics, which finally hit full stride in 1929. The pre-modern person usually died in his first five years of life. Medieval children were so little regarded that there is barely a record of how they were cared for. Industrial children were used piteously as wage slaves in dangerous occupations.
But in full modern times it is possible to name a child at or before birth fairly well guaranteed that he or she shall survive to adulthood, where this was not the norm in agrarian and early industrial societies in which child slavery was the norm.
Ironically, areas like Baltimore, have a lower life expectancy for those who reach age five than primitive cultures, with death pretty much assured by late middle age as in agrarian and industrial societies.
Keep in mind, that in all of these societies, beginning with the use of ranged killing weapons that placed the hunter at minimal peril, that there has remained a learned and long lived class of people charged with increasing and storing collective knowledge for the advantage of their kind.
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DLMay 20, 2015

Dear James,

I have two more questions based on two words in the section of text pasted below:

The Four Contexts of Human Existence

1. Pre-modern human [Home erectus, Gigantapithicus, Neanderthal man, etc.]

If the term Home Erectus is a typo, did you mean Homey Erectus or Homo Erectus? And if Homey Erectus was meant, how did light skin remain in the gene pool? If it was Homo you meant, how did a gene pool remain at all?

Sincerely unable to resist,

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