Ancient Man and the Disco Ball
By Charlie Bright
(This paper has nothing to do with disco balls)
Thousands of years ago, primitive man walked the earth very similarly to the way he does today. We can discern this from the cultures that remain nearly intact from that time, and by analyzing what remains from those ancient peoples. Technologies change, making life easier for people, and ensuring the survival of the species (things like medicine and modern farming techniques), but the people themselves change very little.
Ethnographically, people like the !Kung bushmen are very specialized. In actuality, any and all of the remaining societies that have survived outside of mainstream culture must be very specialized. There are few places in the world untouched by civilized man (perhaps none at all), and the only places that have managed to elude him thus far are the regions that are generally unwanted. These places, like the Kalahari, Arctic Circle, and South American Jungle, are the only locations containing native people living in their traditional ways. All of the people living in these places have to live in a very specific way, or they simply cannot survive on what the land gives them. Of, course all of the ethnographic records we have show highly specialized people, we killed all the ones that lived where they could be more generalized and still survive.
The archaeological record shows us what the intelligent ethnographers preach; there is more out there than what we see, and we are constantly underestimating the cultures that came before us. The widespread use of tools like harpoons and spears, the spread of pottery and boxes, and the actual contents of ancient stomachs (like the Ice Man's) show us that ancient people were once more variable than they are now. Considering that ancient men spread from Pittsburgh to South America in an incredibly short span of time (though from whence they came is unknown), ancient people must have been very adept at adapting.
Archaeologists are trying very hard to understand the ethnographers. They do this because they want to understand just what it is that they are digging up, and the best way to find out is to ask the people who use them. Of course they are not perfect, and some archaeologists dig competitively (almost like tomb raiders), but overall, we can learn a lot about ancient people from the work of these two groups of scientists working together with the past and the present.
Mastodon State Park is a Clovis kill site, and is one of the most famous sites in Missouri. Aside from this, it stands as proof that the Clovis point (which spread like furbies 12,000 years ago) had been in this area. Other evidence, like small bony vesicles in the ground, provide us with even more insight into what life was actually like 12,000 year ago.
Clovis points are valuable archaeologically because they spread at a specific time and all that are found seem to come from that era. We can determine a lot about the people who made the famous kill at Mastodon State Park (though at that time there were neither States nor parks) by the Clovis points they left behind. The mineral, for example, in one of the points comes from a strata only found near Jefferson City, quite some distance from the Park. From this, we can tell that the people moved a lot in their lives, and the direction that they had been travelling.
A Clovis point is a long sharp blade used at the end of a spear to give extra penetration when spearing an extra thick mastodon. These points are made of one stone by cutting a flute (a groove) through the middle, and then cutting large flakes from the side. Making a Clovis point without breaking it when doing the flute is incredibly difficult and takes immense talent. Using other, larger rocks, men would strike the stones they wanted to shape until they were close to being spear points, and then finish them almost artistically...
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