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Aspects of Human Evolution

The Role of Adaptations in Hominid Development

Climate changes have an essential effect on the development and evolution of organisms since they support natural selection processes. Particularly challenging climate conditions require organisms to develop adaptive behaviors, and failure to do so usually results in extinction. Hominid development was also influenced by climate changes, and the sequence of glacial and interglacial stages in particular. While glacial periods resulted in the increase of global ice mass and the reduction in average temperatures, interglacial periods brought more warmth and resources (Pollard et al. 10). The alteration between the two had a significant influence on hominid development.

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On the one hand, interglacial periods prompted the emergence of bipedalism since species moving on two limbs could move further and relocate with their group. This, in turn, helped them to avoid predators and find more food and water resources. On the other hand, glacial periods were associated with food scarcity and cold, which prompted hominids to adapt by finding new sources of food and warmth.

For example, Homo erectus adapted to the cold climate by forming bigger groups, using fire, and strong bipedalism. These behaviors enabled this species of hominids to survive in the new environment and contributed to future development by supporting physical and cognitive development. Next hominids adapted to changes in the environment by developing new skills, such as the domestication of animals. Hence, climate adaptations facilitated both the physical and cognitive development of hominid development.

New Perspectives on Human Development

As evident from the primary resources, humans have created multiple narratives to explain the development of our species. The earliest theories were strongly connected to religious beliefs and doctrines. For instance, in the Indian tradition, all living and dead creatures were believed to be part of Purusha, having grown out of his sacrifice (Pollard et al. 39). The development of scientific thought allowed for a more in-depth exploration of human origins. One major discovery of the nineteenth century that propelled our understanding of human development substantially was the work of Charles Darwin on evolution and natural selection (Pollard et al. 5).

This work was critical because it introduced the notion that humans evolved from earlier species, thus prompting more research from biologists and anthropologists into the connections between modern-day humans and our possible hominid ancestors.

Additionally, improvements in the study of geology enabled scientists to locate more fossils of hominids. Using these fossils, scientists were able to expand the knowledge of human development over time. The study of fossils was vital since it provided foundations for theories that certain conditions in the environment shaped our ancestors’ lives, causing them to develop physical and cognitive skills (Pollard et al. 5). For instance, the increase in bran size and bipedalism were deduced from the examination of hominid fossils. Overall, Darwin’s theory of evolution and other scientists’ work on geology contributed to modern perspectives on human development.

Art and Homo Sapiens

Art is a significant part of modern culture and society, and it had a substantial impact on our development as a species. The development of art demonstrated several characteristics in which Homo sapiens was different from ancestral species. First of all, Homo sapiens’ art showed the capacity to appreciate the beauty of nature and its many forms. Ancient art was primarily focused on the conditions in which Homo sapiens lived and included sculptures and illustrations of animals, life, and other members of the group. Secondly, art was instrumental in storytelling, which contributed to the improvement of Homo sapiens’ cognitive skills and culture. Many illustrations drawn by ancient humans could be read in succession, thus acting as a means for remembering and passing on a particular event.

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Future development of art also served to demonstrate and build upon Homo sapiens’ skills for abstract and conceptual thinking. At various points in time, humans used these capabilities to create art and for interpreting its meaning and creating associations and impressions. The increased role of art in society prompted further improvement of these skills, thus contributing to the development of the species’ cognitive abilities. Finally, art has also been concerned with enhancing and developing Homo sapiens’ sense of self, which was among the key characteristics distinguishing them from the earlier species. By gaining the ability to create art and convey deeper meaning through it, humans have developed their sense of self along with other vital skills.

Pastoralism and Agricultural Societies

The origins of pastoralism and agricultural societies were tied mainly to human development and the conditions in which humans lived in the past. The development of humans prompted an increase in their group size. With larger groups, reliance on hunting and gathering could not suffice the nutrition needs of all group members. Additionally, population increase was associated with the larger number of children to be cared for, which restricted the number of people available for food sourcing activities. Hence, the development of agriculture and pastoralism served to satisfy the needs of expanding groups in terms of nutrition.

The relationship between pastoralism and agricultural societies is also essential for consideration. According to Pollard et al., the domestication of animals and the cultivation of plants provided a sufficient supply of food for most groups (23). With the development of people’s skills and capacity for agriculture, some groups could settle down to form agricultural societies, which represented the next step in human development. Still, some groups got accustomed to the pastoral lifestyle instead. As explained by Pollard et al., there were two types of pastoralism with different relationships with settled agricultural societies (23).

Transhumant herders were often complementary to settled farmers since they produced dairy and meat products and exchanged them for grains and other goods. Nomadic pastoralists operated independently from villages and often conquered settlements to obtain money and goods. They also acted as links between various settlements by transmitting ideas and transporting new people and goods.

Development of Agriculture and Gender Relations

There are some significant differences in the social organization of hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies. One of the dimensions in which these differences exhibit most clearly is gender relations. As explained by (), in hunter-gatherer societies, each adult member contributed to the group equally. There was some stratification of roles based on gender, where women were involved in gathering and taking care of children while men were hunting (Pollard et al. 34). However, these differences stemmed from the physical features of the two sexes and did not have a significant effect on the social standing of genders within the group.

The development of agricultural societies prompted the increase in group size and stratification of activities. For example, the new lifestyle enabled people to engage in skilled labor and trade, thus accumulating wealth and status. Since women’s tasks remained mostly unchanged, these differences concerned more men than women. While women were responsible for caregiving and household activities, men gained access to trade and could earn more money, which brought them more power and social status. The changes that occurred during the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural societies continued to affect gender roles and relations until modern times, thus shaping the lives of women and men in later stages of human development.

Work Cited

Pollard, Elizabeth, et al. Worlds Together, Worlds Apart. Concise ed., vol. 1, W. W. Norton & Company, 2015.

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