Written by Yup Lee
Human evolutionary history is far more interesting than we could have ever imagined.
For millions of years, our ancestors lived in groups segregated according to sex. They met the opposite sex only once a year for a brief period of time solely for the purpose of reproduction. In fact, they had an annual mating season for millions of years.
Under such circumstances, our male ancestors faced great difficulty in predicting the oncoming mating season, or the estrus of their female mates every year. It was an arduous challenge, but they overcame it ingeniously by developing various kinds of time-measuring devices, which made them increasingly intelligent over time. Two examples of such devices, the domestic dog and the extinct cave bear, are presented here.
Man had established a special relationship with dogs and bears on his own initiative because he desperately needed their help to solve his sexual problem.
Today, most of the dogs in Korea are in shackles. They are shut in by gates or tied up by leashes. In contrast, they were free just some decades ago. They could move about as freely as their owners did, through dog-holes that were usually made at a corner of the house gate.
At that time, they spent lazy days taking a leisurely walk along the streets and alleys of the neighborhood, lounging about in front of the house gate, or enjoying a nap and sunbath some-where in the yard. In most cases, they were free to do whatever they wanted. Consequently, the dogs in the neighborhood or village were free to interact with one another, resulting in the occasional fights and matings.
Dog fights often drew small crowds of spectators but usually accounted to no more than several minutes of growling, struggling and biting until one of the opponents ran away with its tail stuck tight between its legs. It was ritualistic and some-what boring. On the other hand, matings between dogs made spectacular scenes but did not draw crowds of spectators.
Domestic dogs are conspicuous because of one aspect of their mating behavior, even if it is not unusual among canids: their mating time often lasts twenty to thirty minutes since the coupled male and female genitals can not always be separated before that time.(1)
In my childhood, I had come across dogs mating in the streets or alleys in broad daylight several times. The dogs often embarrassed and upset many passers-by, causing them to react in several stereotypical ways: perverse young men would kick the helpless canine couple; young women would blush painfully and run away from the scene; respectable ladies and gentlemen would pretend they had not seen anything and quicken their pace; and the wife of a nearby mom-and-pop store owner, fearing that the scene would keep embarrassed customers away from her store, would come out with a bucketful of cold water to douse them with the erroneous expectation that the cold shower would cool down and decouple the amorous dogs.
Then, how could something awkward both to dogs--at least, some Korean dogs--as well as to their masters--at least, some Koreans--have come to happen originally? The facts themselves seem to hint that men and dogs have had a kind of special relationship from a time beyond the memory of man.
If so, such a relationship would have been established originally by the initiative of man but not by that of dogs because hominids with their superior intelligence should have been in a position to manipulate dogs. In this sense, man is the one to be blamed while dogs are innocent victims.
For what reason could man have taken the initiative to establish a relationship with humble dogs? As the proverb, "Necessity is the mother of invention" implies, man had probably been in need of something dogs had but he lacked. This pushed him into inventing a systematic method of utilization of that "something". In this sense, man established some sort of relationship with dogs on his own initiative, but not vice versa.
Then what could man have been in need of? In order to answer this question properly, the mating pattern of our distant ancestors, among other things, should be understood first because the peculiar mating pattern of dogs had been so closely connected with that of our ancestors that the former provides a good clue to the latter.
What kind of a mating system then, did our remote ancestors have? This question is directly related to a social system they had. Some scientists conjecture that early hominids might have had a kind of family system in which adult males and females lived together in groups or in pairs, with their offspring.(2) Another scientist speculates that they were monogamous, forming a kind of family similar to a wolf pack.(3) Still another imagines that they originally formed matrifocal groups which changed over time into a kind of nuclear family when males began to take an active part in raising children.(4)
Quite differently, early hominids had neither a family system--nuclear or extended--nor matrifocal groups. They formed distinct male and female groups which lived separately in different areas for millions of years until the emergence of villages. They met members of the opposite sex only once a year for the purpose of reproduction. In fact, they had an annual mating season in the past during which they were promiscuous.
Such systems of marriage known as monogamy, polygyny and polyandry are quite new and novel to hominids. They were invented only after our wild ancestors settled down in villages and subsequently, the physiological phenomenon of the annual female estrus vanished. This means that the marriage systems mentioned above are less than 10,000 years old, a mere fraction of millions of years of human evolutionary history.
How and when the annual mating season appeared and disappeared is a topic interconnected with many other unsettled questions on hominid evolution, which will be taken care of elsewhere.
If it is indeed the case that our ancestors had an annual mating season and that male and female groups lived in different areas, what kind of problems in successful mating would they have faced? The biggest problem they confronted was the timing of the mating season. Female groups would not have experienced much difficulty in detecting the arrival and departure of the mating seasons since they would go on heat themselves and look for mates, guided by physiological tides which shifted annually within their bodies. On the other hand, male groups faced a serious problem in finding out the arrival of the mating seasons because they did not possess an inherent, effective means of detecting them.
As a result, it was a great challenge to our remote male progenitors to predict the timing of the mating seasons. If they could not anticipate it with some degree of accuracy, their chances of winning mates once a year were slim, which would be a serious threat to their existence. To them, it was the end of the world. Their fear of "the end of the world" has been handed down from generation to generation for millions of years up until today. This is the root cause for modern-day apocalypticism.
For these reasons, they eventually began to make every effort to measure and keep time, leading to the development of various time-measuring devices. In a sense, human evolutionary history is the story of man's arduous struggle with time until human beings were finally freed from the reins of the annual mating season. In the course of this struggle, our male ancestors developed many ways of measuring and keeping time by making use of resources readily available in their own habitats.
Human evolutionary history is that of the great horologists and foretellers who made a great contribution to the survival of our species. They were the true heroes of mankind whose great legendary achievements are concealed behind the cold, silent hominid fossil bones discovered accidentally here and there.
In brief, our male ancestors developed hundreds of time-reckoning devices in response to the frequent swings of climate in their surroundings. They made every effort to devise an increasingly sophisticated method of measuring and keeping time. As a windfall for their painstaking efforts, their intelligence advanced by leaps and bounds.
Had our ancestors lived in mixed-sex groups in the past as present-day chimpanzees and gorillas do, our male ancestors would never have felt the need of predicting the timing of the oncoming estrus of their mates. Then, human intelligence would have never developed to its present level.
As further proof, there is a far greater number of male scientists than female ones today because our male ancestors had the initiative to develop methods of measuring and keeping time for millions of years while our female ones kept themselves busy nursing and raising children entirely on their own.
It will be discussed elsewhere exactly what kind of time-measuring devices were developed and how they were used. Only two of them will be presented here as examples.
The relationship between man and dog was established unilaterally by the initiative of male hominids of the remote past who were in desperate need of predicting the oncoming mating season. It was for that purpose that they stumbled upon a certain kind of wolf which eventually evolved into the domestic dog.(5)
In the course of groping for information about the onset of their own mating season, our distant ancestors happened to find out that the annual mating season of a certain kind of wolf preceded theirs by a predictable period of time. In other words, they discovered that their female mates came into estrus some time after amorous wolves of a certain kind began to mate each other. Consequently, they started to use these wolves as their rudimentary time device to predict the estrus of their female mates. From then on, as soon as they observed mating activity among these wolves, they would set out to seek for their mates. Those wild wolves were especially useful because they could be seen relatively easily in the very act of mating due to their peculiar mating pattern and because they reminded male hominids of their own matings.
In a sense, dogs were "dream animals" which foretold "dream time". They were originally used by man neither for hunting nor for guarding homes. Rather, they were something to be watched attentively. They were a kind of primeval calendar.
The real meaning of dogs to man, however, was buried in oblivion as the phenomenon of the human mating season disappeared over time under the impact of great changes and upheaval in human society. Consequently, something wonderful turned into something embarrassing, and now, dogs in the act of copulation are mistreated and chastised by at least some members of the forgetful human race. In spite of this, dogs are much more fortunate than another type of "dream animal": the cave bear.
The cave bear had inhabited some parts of Europe for about 300,000 years(6) until the time when they finally died out about 10,000 years ago. They are extraordinary among extinct animals because tens of thousands of their remains had been discovered in each of many caves of Europe.(7)
How did the enormous amount of bear remains get into those caves in the first place? Some scientists have reasoned that generations of cold-blooded cave bears had used those caves as their place of hibernation for tens of thousands of years and that the remains of cave bears which happened to die for some reason during the winter sleep had been accumulated there one after another over that span of time.(8)
But how was it possible that the cave bears left behind their remains in certain caves generation after generation for tens of thousands of years in contrast to most other species of hibernating animals which left behind few corpses? It stands to reason that the contemporary hominids were behind the scenes: they manipulated the cave bears to hibernate only in certain caves with entrances which they could keep and watch with relative ease.
Most present-day bears hibernate as cold-blooded animals. In north temperate zone they are known to hibernate four to six months, depending on their habitats and state of nourishment from late autumn to early spring. Even though there is no data at hand on the cave bears regarding this matter, it is very likely that they hibernated in a very similar fashion even if the length of their hibernation differed somewhat from glacial times to interglacial times.
It is this periodic nature of the cave bear's hibernation that had great value for its contemporary male hominids. It provided essential information for their survival: the reappearance of the cave bears awakened from the deep winter sleep near the beginning of the spring season was a signal for them to search out their mates immediately for reproduction.
In the Petralona Cave of northern Greece, numerous fossil bones, including those of a hominid and a Deninger's bear were discovered.(9) The Deninger's bear is thought to have been an early form of bear which later evolved into the cave bear.(10) Based on the age of the hominid fossil bones discovered together with those of the bear, that of the bear can be estimated to be as high as 700,000 to 800,000 years old to as low as 350,000 to 400,000 years old.(11)
The discovery of the fossil bones of a hominid as well as those of a Deninger's bear in the same layer of the same cave floor seems to hint that the Petralonian man had already made use of the Deninger's bear as a device to forecast his mating season. He might have captured and raised bear cubs for that purpose. He might have even tried to breed them selectively by the repetitious process of trial and error. Moreover, his descendants including Neanderthals would have continued to carry out his work to ultimately produce a new breed of bear known as the cave bear, another type of "dream animal," which walked out of the cave it hibernated every year some time before the onset of the hominid mating season.
Man had a special relationship with bears. Such a relationship would have been established some hundred thousand years ago because he was already in constant need of something to help him measure time in order to anticipate his own mating season.
Cave bears were a near-perfect time-reckoning tool developed by hominids. They were improved continually by their breeders into a more and more accurate time-measuring tool with the result that they became oversensitive to frequent changes in climate. Therefore, they had to be "calibrated" in unique ways from time to time, in accordance to the changing climates of their habitats: they were forced to hibernate in certain caves at certain altitudes(12) by the hominids involved; and, depending on the circumstances, either males or females were selectively used.
For instance, in the Dragon Cave of Austria, skulls of female cave bears were discovered en masse at a certain layer of the cave floor.(13) It was, no doubt, the work of hominids who had manipulated cave bears behind the scenes.
In the case of the grizzly bears which inhabit North America today, females are known to wake up from their winter sleep one to three weeks later than their male counterparts.(14) Such might have been the case with the cave bears: females woke from hibernation some time later than males. Hence, it can be reasoned that the difference in the wakening time of male and female bears was useful for the hominids, in a time of climatic changes, to predict their mating seasons accurately.
In contrast to the brown bears which had expanded their habitats into Europe and beyond Asia, the cave bears lived only in a limited area of Europe until they became extinct.(15) The reason for this is that they were manipulated continuously by hominids to become too sensitive, thus too vulnerable, to changes in climate. Indeed, they were wax in the hands of hominids. As a result, they lost their ability as wild animals to adapt to changing climates and expand their ranges into other areas. They were hardly wild animals. They were dependent on the continuous attention and warm care of hominids for survival. Consequently, they went extinct not long after they were abandoned by humans when sexual customs and practices underwent major changes in human society, nullifying their usefulness as a means of measuring time.
Man had erected huge structures like pyramids and the Great Wall for his own needs. He had also built shrines, towers, temples, churches and the like for his own ends. The same holds true for the enormous amount of remains of bears accumulated in many European caves. Even if the appearances of the evidence left behind are different, they are all cultural heritages bequeathed by our ancestors. For this reason, the evolutionary history of human culture is inseparable from those of dogs, bears and many other kinds of time-measuring devices invented by our progenitors.
The special relationship between man and bear created long ago still reverberates across the world. Traces of the influence bears had exerted on humans still abound among the many legends, myths and folktales humans had handed down orally generation after generation throughout the world. Among some peoples, customs of bear veneration and its ceremonialism can still be found.(16) In addition, they have also had a lasting influence on human languages.
Our distant male ancestors were obsessed with the bear as one of the major time-measuring devices. The bear practically controlled their modes of thinking and behavior for some time in the past, leaving behind its traces in languages.
For instance, the French word ours 'bear', the German Uhr 'hour, watch', the English hour and the Korean ung 'bear' have originally come from the same source. Even the English personal pronoun our and the noun/verb flower are closely related with them. The concepts of these words have evolved from the fact that the bear had been used as a time-measuring device in the past. Consequently, their pronunciations are intricately related in one way or another.
The same is true for ung , the ending of German words such as Achtung 'attention', Bewegung 'movement', Zeitung 'newspaper', and Meinung 'opinion'. It suggests that our male ancestors had paid such close attention to the bears that their movements made the headlines and formed the basis of their opinions.
English words such as rare, ware, where, care and vary have been derived from the word bear. This means that bears were not commonplace, thus rare; and since something rare is often precious, thence the word ware. In addition, our male ancestors had paid constant attention to the whereabouts of bears with the result that the word where had originated from that of the bear. They took such good care of their precious bears that they became pampered and capricious, from which the words care and vary arose. It is noteworthy to mention here that rhymes have much more significance beyond the apparent similarities of sounds between words.
Moreover, because children were born in the past with the help of bears, the English word bear came to acquire another meaning of giving birth to. The English word forebear implies that the Anglo-Saxons of today are literally bears. This hints that the bear was once so special in the past that the ancestors of the English identified themselves with the bear.
On the other hand, the ancestors of German people identified themselves with the dog, another "dream animal". The German word Germane 'Germanic people' is consisted of two parts, Ger and mane. The first half of the word, Ger, is closely related to the Korean word ge 'dog', not to mention another German word Bär 'bear' and its English counterpart bear . It is the same for the French word guerre 'war'. This implies the mating among dogs usually led to fights among male hominids who annually competed for access to females during their mating season.
The English word doctor is made up of two components, doc and tor, the first one of which is germane to another English word dog. This means that a doctor was originally a dog-tor who had a good knowledge of the "dream animal" which cured the sexual problems or lovesickness of the hominids. In fact, the dog was a healer. This explains why the ancient Greek healers were usually accompanied by dogs, a symbol of cure.(17)
In truth, the English word cure itself is closely related with the French word urs, the German Uhr, the English hour and the Korean ung. The dog and bear helped the hominids solve the most troublesome problem, i.e. lovesickness which led to a variety of other sicknesses. For that reason, there are still some people who believe that bears are the best medical doctors.(18) It also explains why some peoples like Koreans and Chinese value the dog and bear, especially the bear's gall bladder, as medicines with an invigorating effect.
Besides, even the English word get is closely related with the Korean word ge or dog. Thus, there is no doubt that the English word beget had been derived from the concept of dog.
The human mating season repeated itself every year for millions of years. As a result, our remote ancestors perceived time as something which cycles around and around without end. This led to the basis of the historical view that history repeats itself.
As explained above, in order to illustrate the history of the development of languages and thus, human intelligence, the invention and development of time-reckoning devices should be fully understood first. These devices will be named as Jungmaeche , utilizing the two Korean words jungmae 'match-making' and che 'entity'. No syllable is accentuated and no plural form is necessary.
Domestic dogs were Jungmaeche. The same was true for the cave bears. Stonehenge was also Jungmaeche, devised by the ancient people of Britain. Many of the animals, plants and symbols depicted on the rocks and cave walls across the world can be explained in terms of Jungmaeche. They were remembered and commemorated by those who portrayed them and embodied their thoughts, wishes, desires and dreams.
We are now on the verge of narrowing down most of the gaps on our knowledge about the evolutionary history of human culture. The first step has already been taken here. Before long, we will know much better than before how we came to be what we are.
1. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1975), 12:197; Morton G. Harmatz and Melinda A. Novak, Human Sexuality (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), 76.
2. George A. Bartholomew, Jr. and Joseph Birdsell, "Ecology and Protohominids," American Anthropologist 55 (1953): 486.
3. William Etkin, "Social Behavior and the Evolution of Man's Mental Faculties," American Naturalist 88 (1954): 136.
4. C. Owen Lovejoy, "The Origin of Man," Science 211 (1981): 347-48.
5. Carles Vilà et al., "Multiple and Ancient Origins of the Domestic Dog," Science 276 (1997): 1688.
6. Björn Kurtén, The Cave Bear Story: Life and Death of a Vanished Animal (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), 41.
7. Ibid., 110.
8. Kurtén, 110; W. Soergel, Die Massenvorkommen des Höhlenbären (Jena, 1940).
9. Aris N. Poulianos, "Once More on the Age and Stratigraphy of the Petralonian Man," Journal of Human Evolution 13 (1984): 466.
10. Kurtén, 40-41.
11. Poulianos, 465; Michael H. Day, Guide to Fossil Man, 4th ed. (London: Cassell, 1986), 92-94.
12. K. Ehrenberg, "Der Höhlenbär," Aus der Heimat 44, no. 3 (1931): 76; Kurtén, 112.
13. Kurtén, 65-72.
14. William H. Wright, "Characteristics and Habitats of a Grizzly," in The Grizzly Bear: Portraits from Life, ed. Bessie Doak Haynes and Edgar Haynes (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966), 163-64.
15 Kurtén, 60-61.
16. A. Irving Hallowell, "Bear Ceremonialism in the Northern Hemisphere," American Anthropology, n.s., 28 (1928): 131.
17. Howard W. Haggard, The Doctor in History, (New York: Dorset Press, 1989), 54- 55.
18. Hallowell, 78.
This page created on November 27, 2001