Genesis and Pre-history


#1

Could anyone recommend to me some resources that discuss or incorporate recent data on human prehistory and how that may map to or correspond with the Genesis accounts?

My interest in these topics has recently been revived, and I’m curious about how a lot of observed data may fit together, particularly from around 70,000 years ago and onward, but some points of interest 200,000 years ago and further back. I’m thinking of things such as:
[LIST]
*]Existence of different human culture groups in different parts of the world dated far in the past
*]The “Great Leap Forward” hypothesis (a.k.a., “Out of Africa”) that shows behavioral modernity ~70,000 years ago spreading from a central point
*]Evidence of human activities that might indicate powers of the soul–rational thought, self-awareness, spirituality in things such as burial customs, cave paintings, language
*]Co-existence of different human subspecies until relatively recently (classifications being somewhat arbitrary, these may reflect different tribes or peoples in the Genesis account)
*]Evidence (or lack thereof) of catastrophic events at various points in time, such as the Toba supereruption (74,000ya) and the last glacial period and end thereof–with accompanying floods from rising seawater and drainage of great inland lakes, etc.
[/LIST]

I know the years can be an issue for some people, and that’s open for discussion. But the observed data themselves are there and thus are of interest, whatever they indicate (whether they are attributed to incorrect times or not).

What I find interesting is that while science is still developing pretty rapidly in these areas with a lot of changes to best fit the data, it is still indicating some interesting things. For example, when God breathed a human soul into Adam, we would expect to see, from his descendants, the emergence of evidence of the powers of the soul–like complex language, culture, religion, etc. And there seems to be a lot of evidence of things like this–just Google the “Great Leap Forward” hypothesis.

There also seems to be evidence for varying “tribes” of people arising, perhaps even explaining the line of Cain, potential other peoples for the Children of Adam to marry, the Nephelim/Giants, etc.

So I’m curious to see what’s out there as for a synthesis or interesting parallels drawn between the Genesis account and observed data of human pre-history.

Any references for me?


#2

Evolution is a banned topic.

Peace,
Ed


#3

I know. I’m not looking to discuss evolution. I want to discuss pre-history. Human culture and civilization around the globe prior to recorded history has left evidence. Scientists have given dates to what they’ve found, but they generally don’t try to tie this in with the Genesis accounts of pre-history, from Adam through the Flood.

So unless pre-historic civilization, anthropology and archaeology are off-limits, too, I don’t see what the problem here would be.


#4

Human history begins with Adam. Perhaps what you are looking for is data explaining what our world was like without humans.


#5

I think the first step would be to get believers in Adam and Eve to offer some reasonably narrow time frame (say within a few thousand years) within which to start looking for evidence. Good luck with that.


#6

Perhaps I need to rephrase the question from a different angle.

Has anyone attempted a timeline or synthesis of events/civilizations set alongside Genesis (pre-Abraham)?

Most of what I have seen either focuses on Abraham and onward or shortly before.

Granny, cornbread's suggestion is part of what I'm interested in. We're still missing a lot of information (much of which we may never find), but that doesn't mean we can't consider what we do have.

For my part, I accept the Catechism's direction that some details in Genesis were intended figuratively rather than as technical, scientific accounts. Assuming fine-tuned accuracy of Scripture becomes problematic on issues like generational ages, especially considering that we have four different major accounts of antediluvian ages (Masoretic, Septuagint, Vaticanus, and one other I can't recall). You could call those roughly accurate (as they differ overall by about 1000 years from the shortest to the longest time lengths from Adam to Flood), but it would be difficult to assume one account of "963 years" is truly accurate, particularly when another account gives a different age.

So, yes, we could assume 4-6,000 years ago for Adam and see what lines up with that, in terms of cities and settlements and so forth before and after that time.

I personally find it more interesting to look for whatever evidence of Adam and his children by looking for what we would expect to find them leaving behind--habitations where we'd see evidence of the human soul being expressed (the traits of which are self-awareness, rational and abstract thought, spirituality). Things like burial rituals, complex art, evidence of complex language. The thresholds for these can be fuzzy, I know, but we have some interesting clues. It seems candidates for earliest cities are being dated to 9-13,000 years ago, for instance.

I've got pretty busy evenings the next two days, but maybe I'll work together some of the things I find interesting and lay the dates next to each other. Like dates of early cities, domestication of crops and animals, human migrations to different areas (especially if they were isolated after that time, as I understand the Australian aborigines to have been after 40-50,000 years ago or so), dates of major catastrophes like the Toba and Thera eruptions and the collapse of ice dams in the Black Sea, etc.

That's essentially what I was looking for from other people, to see who else has also gone to that trouble.


#7

As the queen of procrastination, I’ve thought about a time line but have never found the time. If I were starting one, I would begin with the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, and then work backwards and forwards from that point. By the way, I’ve seen the dates for these paintings change according to book editions.


#8

I would tend to agree that such cave paintings are evidence of rational thought and awareness, and hence likely to have been produced by humans and not merely advanced hominids. There do seem to be other paintings dated earlier than Lascaux, though–even to 40,000 years ago rather than the 17,000 or so that I am currently seeing for Lascaux.

Interestingly, Pope Benedict XVI seems to be directing our attention to relationship with God rather than some of these other externals. Perhaps he is seeing that it may be possible that advanced animal intelligence could produce many of the things we see among hominids that appear quite human-like, but leaving that august title to much later periods.

Here is the quote I’m referring to:

The clay became man at the moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought of “God.” The first Thou that – however stammeringly – was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which the spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed. For it is not the use of weapons or fire, not new methods of cruelty or of useful activity, that constitute man, but rather his ability to be immediately in relation to God. This holds fast to the doctrine of the special creation of man . . . herein . . . lies the reason why the moment of anthropogenesis cannot possibly be determined by paleontology: anthropogenesis is the rise of the spirit, which cannot be excavated with a shovel. The theory of evolution does not invalidate the faith, nor does it corroborate it. But it does challenge the faith to understand itself more profoundly and thus to help man to understand himself and to become increasingly what he is: the being who is supposed to say Thou to God in eternity. (Creation and Evolution: A Conference With Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo, S.D.S. Stephan Horn (ed), pp. 15-16)

Thus, our human pre-history may be as recent as 10,000 years, or earlier at 50-70k, but our ancestors may well have lived alongside “advanced hominids” capable of some complex activities, but only by animal intelligence and not by human spiritual souls.

This is what I find very interesting. Genesis may even refer to some of this pre-historical saga in how it talks vaguely about Cain and his line, and about the Nephelim. Other cultural relics like “dwarves,” “trolls,” “elves,” and “fey” may also refer to these others.

I’m wondering what the world of our first ancestors was like :slight_smile:


#9

I don’t think anyone knows for a fact. I doubt there were pre-humans or hominids The term “souls” falls outside of any scientific inquiry. It does not exist. We do have humanoid animals alive today but they have no relationship to the “special creation” of man. Since our current crop of humanoid animals do not do very complex things, I think it can be safely assumed that they never did in the past.

Peace,
Ed


#10

To which humanoid animals do you refer?


#11

Past 5,000 years prolific for changes to human genome


#12

There are no humanoid animals.

And we are drifting inexorably into the topic of evolution.

http://gifsoup.com/webroot/animatedgifs1/1483865_o.gif


#13

Arunder - I don’t know much of anything about the subject, but enough to believe that your very good and interesting questions deserve better answers than you’ve gotten so far. Sadly, I can’t offer any. But I found a that CS Lewis’ sketch of the growth of God consciousness in “Problem of Pain” (strange to find it in that book) was, while not ‘scientific’, a lucid and insightful overview.

Peter


#14

[quote="Arandur, post:8, topic:313020"]

Interestingly, Pope Benedict XVI seems to be directing our attention to relationship with God rather than some of these other externals. Perhaps he is seeing that it may be possible that advanced animal intelligence could produce many of the things we see among hominids that appear quite human-like, but leaving that august title to much later periods.

Here is the quote I'm referring to:
" The clay became man at the moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought of “God.” The first Thou that – however stammeringly – was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which the spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed. For it is not the use of weapons or fire, not new methods of cruelty or of useful activity, that constitute man, but rather his ability to be immediately in relation to God. This holds fast to the doctrine of the special creation of man . . . herein . . . lies the reason why the moment of anthropogenesis cannot possibly be determined by paleontology: anthropogenesis is the rise of the spirit, which cannot be excavated with a shovel. The theory of evolution does not invalidate the faith, nor does it corroborate it. But it does challenge the faith to understand itself more profoundly and thus to help man to understand himself and to become increasingly what he is: the being who is supposed to say Thou to God in eternity. (Creation and Evolution: A Conference With Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo, S.D.S. Stephan Horn (ed), pp. 15-16) "

Thus, our human pre-history may be as recent as 10,000 years, or earlier at 50-70k, but our ancestors may well have lived alongside "advanced hominids" capable of some complex activities, but only by animal intelligence and not by human spiritual souls.

[/quote]

From what I read, it is possible that humans and some hominin species lived in the same area. The problem is that, as one anthropologist said, "DNA can fly." What he meant was that the contamination of sample fossils, etc., is a serious concern. Regardless, it would be safe to say that many kinds of animals lived alongside ancient humans just as animals do today -- well not exactly alongside of us.

The key, as is indicated above, is the difference between highly sentient animals and Adam and Eve's descendants who had a rational, intellective spiritual soul.


#15

And from Triumphguy

There are no humanoid animals…

Whatever we propose, we must deal with data. We must attempt to explain what is observed, not merely hand-wave it away, ignore it, or impugn the motives and work of everyone studying it. We can take issue with dates, but we must present reasons for that. We can take issue with what the remains and archaeological evidence means, but we must deal with what was actually found.

So here are some fair summary references:
Human Prehistory
Timeline of Human Prehistory
Stone Age

If you map that to the appearance of human-like remains and behavior (like controlled use of fire, more advanced tools, etc), you have different scientific classifications of the those remains (hominids other than homo sapiens sapiens). Those may be in error, but you’d have to provide some reason as to why they are wrong.

You may be willing to attribute all of that to “humans,” but I wouldn’t place Adam and Eve that far back. I lean towards the pre-historical marker of “Behavioral Modernity” as perhaps the most likely of many possible candidates for Adam and Eve, out of a Garden of Eden in Africa (see “Out of Africa” hypothesis and the “Great Leap Forward”).

Among many other interesting things, that would place Adam and his children as living at the same time as Neanderthals and possibly others–which may give rise, as I mentioned earlier, to this lingering idea in our psyche of things like “dwarves” and “trolls” and whatnot, and it may align with some of the narrative of Genesis. If you want to call Neanderthals a tribe of man (Adam’s children), then you’d need to go back further in time.

So did Adam’s children contend with these other creatures? What kinds of now-extinct animals would our ancestors have lived among, perhaps harnessed as part of their dominion of nature? What major geological and climatological factors did they experience (like major volcanic eruptions, ice ages, etc)? I find it fascinating to consider what like may have been like for our earliest ancestors, and science is beginning to reveal more details of that past–but much of it depends on when and where we place our ancestors.

Other interesting markers in prehistory include the times at which use of clothing has been observed (nakedness being one of the things of shame after the Fall), and the beginnings of crop farming (working the earth being part of the curse of the Fall).

The term “souls” falls outside of any scientific inquiry.

Of course. Never said otherwise.


#16

[quote="PeterJP, post:13, topic:313020"]
Arunder - I don't know much of anything about the subject, but enough to believe that your very good and interesting questions deserve better answers than you've gotten so far. Sadly, I can't offer any. But I found a that CS Lewis' sketch of the growth of God consciousness in "Problem of Pain" (strange to find it in that book) was, while not 'scientific', a lucid and insightful overview.

Peter

[/quote]

Thanks! I'll check that out. May be a while, though; my reading list is quite long, I move through it quite slowly, and there's already a lot of C.S. Lewis stuff on there (I love him!). But maybe I can scan ahead and find that section...

From Grannymh:

From what I read, it is possible that humans and some hominin species lived in the same area. The problem is that, as one anthropologist said, "DNA can fly." What he meant was that the contamination of sample fossils, etc., is a serious concern. Regardless, it would be safe to say that many kinds of animals lived alongside ancient humans just as animals do today -- well not exactly alongside of us.

The key, as is indicated above, is the difference between highly sentient animals and Adam and Eve's descendants who had a rational, intellective spiritual soul.

DNA contamination wouldn't throw off reconstruction of a bipedal skeletal structure and behavioral traces found along with the remains, like use of fire and tools and such. Scientists have classified these remains in various ways, and they may be wrong--they may all be tribes of man, or they may be less than what they think.

The reason that I find "Behavioral Modernity" and the "Great Leap Forward" theory interesting is that they seem to be describing those traces of human habitation that may have been left by our first true ancestors--Adam, Eve, and their children, with their human capacities of reason, self-awareness, faith and spirituality.

Pope Benedict XVI in that quote I mentioned seems to suggest that the use of fire and tools and whatnot may not be markers of humanity, and that faith and relationship with God would be the exalted characteristics that would set Adam and his descendents apart from whatever else was living. Thus, we may see evidence of human-like creatures using fire and complex tools both at earlier dates and contemporary dates, and even living in the same area, as you point out, but obviously not being the same.

That's one of the things I find so interesting! Our first ancestors living alongside these other creatures. Makes the world of myth and fairy story more real, in that life was once more similar to that--that there once may have been creatures much more similar to those in such stories than we encounter today.

If you look at pre-history and see a likelihood of Adam and Eve at one point or another, you can see some clues as to what they went through, what their children achieved, where they migrated, etc. Set them back far enough and they hunted mammoths and defended their children and their hunting herds from sabretooth tigers. They may have endured the glacial maximums of the Ice Ages--maybe even seeing a cycling through of glacial maximum and minimums (like the interglacial period we're in today).

We can look at the archaeological evidence of pre-history and attribute some of the finds to our ancestors, looking at them with wonder and thinking on our fellow man at that time and place. Or we can say, "no, that would have been before Adam and Eve; those are just relics of animal habitation," and not give that find the same sort of reflection we would to the lives of fellow humans.


#17

One issue that needs to addressed is that aboriginal Australians have apparently been on that continent as a distinct genetic group with virtually no outside genetic admixture for at least as long as 40K years and possibly even longer. If Adam and Eve existed, then it would seem to have been prior to the aboriginal's arrival there. However, if it's also true that plant domestication began about 10K years ago and that Cain was the first crop farmer, then it would seem there is a 30K year gap to contend with.


#18

Source for the Aboriginal claim?


#19

Why ? …and closed for so long now !!

Shouldn’t this topic be opened again ? Can’t Catholics defend the Church against all attacks ? Otherwise, it appears to some that the Church can’t speak to the topic, or doesn’t wish to.


#20

I don’t think this thread is about evolution, because the evolution theory makes a hypothesis about how humans come into existence, before the prehistory.
There is a little interference, the Neanderthals, which were presented in a “monkey like” appearance in order to make the theory more plausible; now they say that the “ape like” walking is not realistic, actually they drew that conclusion from a skeleton of an individual who had arthritis. By today standards, they would have full human rights.
I think human prehistory was rather short. People are too smart. There should be tons of artifacts, stone tools; the caves would be littered with them.
And I don’t trust their dating because they really match the data to a theory.
And language is a total mystery.


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