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lunes, 25 de enero de 2016

“The Great Human Race”: Sobrevivir como somos

Muy pronto en National Geographic Channel se estrenará la serie documental "The Great Human Race", protagonizada por Cat Bigney  y Bill Schindler quienes tratarán de  vivir como nuestros antepasados más primitivos, mostrando tecnologías arcaicas así como posibles soluciones ante las primeras necesidades humanas. Tendrán que sobrevivir en los lugares más inhóspitos ocupados por los primeros grupos humanos, utilizando las herramientas y la tecnología disponible en los albores de nuestra historia evolutiva. Los protagonistas se encontrarán con los mismos desafíos que nuestros antepasados, y tendrán que superarlos mediante la adaptación de su tecnología y comportamiento al medio. Cada episodio nos mostrará cómo hacer frente a las primeras necesidades humanas, y cómo nosotros, como especie, hemos sobrevivido. 

Os dejamos la web oficial de la serie http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/the-great-human-race/ y os recordamos que todos los capítulos serán comentados bajo el hashtag #GREATHUMANRACE 

En este viaje, participará como experto en la temática, el profesor Javier Baena, quien ha sido invitado a contribuir cada semana en la Virtual Roundtable on Humankind's Ancestral Journey donde líderes de opinión y expertos de diversos campos explorados a lo largo de la serie discutirán y analizarán algunas de las cuestiones planteadas en cada episodio. Esta semana, los expertos tendrán que responder a:

¿Cree que los expertos de hoy pueden reproducir con precisión los desafíos a los que se enfrenta el Homo habilis hace miles de años? ¿Y cree que hoy los expertos podrían sobrevivir y prosperar como hizo el Homo habilis?

Este blog será la plataforma en la que Javier Baena responderá a las cuestiones formuladas por National Geographic  cada semana. A continuación, podéis leer sus primeras impresiones.

“The Great Human Race”: survive as we are

Do you think that experts today can accurately replicate the challenges that Homo habilis faced thousands of years ago? And do you think that experts today could survive and thrive as Homo habilis did? 

It’s really hard to answer a question that starts more than 2.5 million years ago. Particularly from a acculturated society like ours (if we compare our knowledge, and societies with the Homo habilis). From the Archaeology, we make excavations and recorded every little testimony from our past using very accurate technologies. But at the same time, during the last decades we have started to use the experimental way (Experimental Archaeology) in order to achieve experiences, to understand past technologies, to experience the past and to understand the abilities needed to survive during our origin. The Experimental Archaeology is an enormous tool for the research with a highly potential for building up hypothesis about the past behavior. However it is quite dangerous when the archaeological reference is not respected or when solutions based on ethnographic data (and so based on the Homo sapiens experience) are applied without any criticism. However, for the understand of this survival scenario in the context of the human origin, the use of a logic about “possible technologies” provides a major interpretative framework. Regarding this aspect, this series provides an excellent showcase to look at ourselves, as we were.

To the stated question, my answer is yes, but with carefully. Our specie had had more than 2.5 million years for loosing what we got in past. Homo habilis and some other ancestors built up their own culture by the experience acquired with the time and mainly under the natural selection laws (if we eat something poison we will die). But our society has built a new culture based on “cultural experiences” that put us away from the Nature. Is like if we are today under the “Evolution Cultural Laws”, still undefined, that drives us into a non-natural adaptive scenario (imagine yourselve to survive without our health system).

This circumstance points to the second question. Could experts survive as ours ancestors did? I certainly do not. We deal with a past behavior and we also have a lot of knowledge about it, but our physical conditions are not the same. We are not the same species. Even our philosophy is not equal, our feelings and the perceptions differ from the past. For example, our perception and comprehension of the death probably is completely different.

As experts of the past, we are specialized in different aspects like lithic knapping, or fire reconstruction, diets in the past etc. but this doesn't mean that we as individuals could survive in the same conditions as the past species. As I said, we have lost the traditional knowledge to survive during more than 2.5 million years.  Is the case of a cinema critic; it's not necessary that he knows how to direct movies to appreciate a good production. If we take a group of people (even archaeologist or survival experts) and put them into the savanna for five years, probably the 99.9 of them die in the starting years. But at the same time very few of them could survive, and that is one of the most impressive aspects of our genus: our extraordinary ability to adapt ourselves to all kind of conditions, to quickly recover the lost knoledge  So if we talk about this 0.1 percent of the human group, the answer would be yes.

Dr. Javier Baena Preysler
Professor of Prehistory and Director of the Laboratory of Experimental Archeology UAM-LAEX

Universidad Autónoma de Madrid – Spain

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