Hominidae – A clever family not to be ignored

Humans, Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Gorillas and Orangutans, the Great Apes. These are the modern members of the Hominidae family. Yes, there are other Apes – Gibbons are Lesser Apes and belong to the family Hylobatidae. Gibbons are close relatives to Great Apes but not as close as many extinct Hominids.

I read an article recently after seeing it on a friend’s Facebook Wall. Let me be clear, I’m talking about a friend from my off-line life, a friend of some 32 years. So a friend that I know has an inquiring mind and won’t mind that his posting of an article on his FB Wall inspired me to write, albeit against some of the thrust in the article he shared.

The article in question is entitled 20 History Questions They Refuse To Answer In School a rather emotive title which actually caused me to tread lightly. This sort of title is related to the sort of articles on the internet that shout ’25 Amazing Easter Eggs hidden in Back To The Future we never noticed!’ which then just points out all the bits of plot and background detail that in all likelihood half the people you know have noticed on screen many times.

My article assumes that Evolution is a fact, basically because I accept the evidence. I rarely mention politics or religion on this Blog, but in this article I guess I need to include some facts about my beliefs, so that this article can be read in context. My beliefs aren’t open to debate just being stated for the reason stated, to give some context as to where I stand.

I’m a Christian, not as good a one as I used to be, faith isn’t easy sometimes. I used to be Overseas Mission Secretary at my local Church. I used to be very involved in many things, mostly revolving around the Church Family. I’m also a Trade Unionist, not really relevant for this article on Evolution but mentioned to show I have a varied belief system, which I do not think is at odds. I’m a scientist, no capital letter in that title – I describe myself as a Writer but in this case I’m a scientist (if you don’t get the distinction feel free to ask me). I studied Chemistry and Biology to O’level standard (GCSEs in modern UK terms, High School Diploma to some other countries). I read books, research papers, websites and I watch documentaries on science, nature and history.

The article that inspired me to write dismisses evolution and religion. It states that education tells us that Human History only started 8,000 years ago and that Religion states Human History is only 6,000 years old.

Let’s tackle Religion first as the assertion that Religion is only 6,000 years old shows a blinkered understanding. The earliest religious beliefs that are currently considered by science comes from a period roughly 30,000 years ago. Stone Paintings in the Bhimbetka rock shelters in India. These dwellings were made a World Heritage site in 2003. Hardly hidden knowledge and clearly much older than either the 6000 or 8000 years that the article insists we are limited to. The paintings include figures described as ‘sky chariots’ and ‘nature spirits’ (or Yakshas) and some have linked this early religion to Hinduism. The link above is to the UNESCO website to show some details of the paintings, it doesn’t mention religion as UNESCO tend to take a non-religious approach.

So not only are the years quoted in the article questionable but the assertion that things are hidden from us is also undermined.

Of course facts are hidden, misrepresented and obscured. Clearly this happens – the simple adage that ‘History is written by the victor’ is one of the truisms of life. Look at what we know of Rome’s enemies for example, much of what we know now is from recent study. History told us that Britain was a mysterious island shrouded in mist and inhabited by all manner of strange creatures. Some historians painted Britain as a wholly unknown place before Julius Caesar’s failed invasion. Yet recent finds show that Pre-Roman Britain traded with mainland Europe long before Caesar visited.

I cite for this the Beaker People who traveled throughout Europe, settling and spreading their knowledge. They reached Britain roughly 4,000 years ago. Goods reached Britain from the Hallstatt civilization from Central Europe long before Rome arrived. There are also signs of Britain trading with distant Phoenicia by sea (likely the Phoenicians visiting Britain than the other way round perhaps). Indeed the fact that Phoenicia traded with Britain for Tin is perhaps one reason Julius Caesar decided an invasion was worthwhile. Rome mined Tin and Lead within a few years of invading under Claudius.

Knowledge has been lost many times. Europeans lost the knowledge of metal gears, first with the fall of Ancient Greece to the Romans and later the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire. In the Renaissance this knowledge was re-learnt by trade with Islam. However obviously much knowledge will have been gained and lost during ancient times.

We don’t know for certain how Stonehenge was built in Britain or the Pyramids in Egypt. We can conjecture and speculate but we don’t know. Those facts are lost to time. However what we know of those people is that they had the same problem solving skills we have today. They had the same intellect. They could conjecture and speculate themselves. They could create things of outstanding beauty and they could be as gentle or as cruel as we can be today.

But I have concentrated too long on Humans, just one member of the Hominidae family.

Our close relatives are all just as amazing. Those that went before and those that share the Earth with us now. Tool use dates back to at least 1.8 Million Years. Fire was harnessed at least 1 million years ago. This dates to well before Modern Humans evolved. Much of the research in to primitive Hominidae is new, much of it in the last two decades, so some might be excused for thinking differently. Indeed when evidence exists during times when certain Hominidae overlap there is still dispute as to which species was responsible.

Now consider our relatives that share the Earth with us. Those others of the Hominidae family, the Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Gorillas and Orangutans. They are all but the same as us. When we watch them in their family units we can recognise their behaviour. Chimpanzees make and use a variety of tools, including some colonies that have the skills to make and use spears and clubs. The land that these Hominidae live on is often at threat from Humans. mostly from our aggressive farming techniques such as Palm Oil but also through our other activities, including our wars.

Spare a thought for our close relatives as much as you might your fellow Human beings. We don’t own the Earth, though we act as though we do.

Suffice to say our history is known going back a long, long way in to the past. We are learning more with new sites, new findings. It isn’t a secret unless it is still buried. Knowledge is out there for us to obtain. I’ve only included a few links to illustrate my points. There are so many others that you can find on the internet – there are plenty in print too if you prefer books – look at Professor Alice Robert’s website for a few.


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