Four Things Ancient Humans Had That We Don’t: Our ancestors were more badass than we assume

Fareeha Arshad
Our own species is a relative newcomerElisabeth Daynes/ Science Photo Library

As unbelievable as this may sound, the humans that inhabited Earth thousands of years ago were not dumb. They did not just eat bananas and swing from one tree to the next. If anything our ancestors were smart and brave. Living in the wilderness sharpened their survival instincts. They knew when to fight and when to let go of the urge and live in peace. Our ancestors and their cousins were sophisticated, intelligent, and hard-working.

1. They owned inbuilt pesticide beds

Ancient humans didn’t have one of those fancy mattresses you own, but they were very clever in putting together a comfortable place to sleep on. Archaeologists have discovered remains of cosy grass beds in Border Caves of South Africa, suggesting the existence of beds 200,000 years ago. They laid their beddings above an ash layer to create a dirt-free environment and repel crawling insects.

They discovered remnants of ash were mixed with natural insecticides that abraded insects’ exoskeletons, dehydrating, and even killing them. These fossilized beds bear testimony that early humans not only built cosy homes and comfortable beds. They also knew how to create pesticides, insecticides, and lived in good conditions. They were, in fact, more sophisticated than we originally thought — exhibiting cognitive, behavioural, and social complexity.

2. They had eight other human species to interact with

Studies reveal that there were nine human species that roamed the Earth 300,000 years ago. Cue: your long lost cousins.

Homo neanderthalensis were stocky hunters that inhabited the cold steppes of the European land. Homo erectus were the first to stand upright and lived predominantly in Indonesia. Denisovans inhabited Asia, while Homo rhodesiensis lived in central Asia. Homo naledi, Homo luzonensis, Homo floresiensis were all short species with small-sized brains. They occupied South Africa, the Philippines, and Indonesia respectively. Additionally, the mysterious people of Red Deer Cave occupied large areas in China.

Despite the vast diversity and their thriving population, eight out of the nine species were wiped out. Apart from Homo sapiens, there is no other human population alive. Though there were no obvious environmental catastrophes, most researchers suggest the spread of Homo sapiens as the root cause of this mass extinction. It's scary how we have always been a dangerously powerful and competitive species.

3. They could walk on a pyroclastic flow

A pyroclastic flow is a speeding current of hot gas and volcanic matter. They show an average speed of sixty-two miles per hour and may reach up temperatures of 1830 degrees Fahrenheit. Only such a condition could explain the 345,000 years old humanoid footprints discovered on volcanic rocks in the Roccamonfina town of Italy.

Italian archaeologists and geologists explained that these footprints could be of curious Neanderthals. They could have visited the area during a volcanic eruption when the surface was soft yet cool — most likely not above 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. They lived in a multi-species neighbourhood

Though there were nine different human species throughout the evolutionary timeline, they were scattered all across the earth in different time periods. However, a few studies suggest that around 1,900,000 years ago, three human species cohabited in the same area of South Africa. Though not our direct ancestors, they were all human species — A. africanus, Paranthropus robustus, H. erectus.

Their remnants discovered in the Drimolen Paleo Cave System showed no indication of any violence between the three, indicating that they lived in peace and harmony. The coincidence of three species living in the area could be because of the migration of one or more species due to environmental factors. Much later they could have shifted to other faraway places, scattering their populations across the globe.

What are some of the other things that our ancient ancestors had and we don't? Do let us know in the comments section.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

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