Bonus Blog: Upper Paleolithic Culture

Out of all of the sites and cultures we have learned about this year, I would have to say that by far the most interesting was the Upper Paleolithic culture. Looking back, it is hard to imagine human beings in prehistoric times being so comparable to modern day humans. While people today believe their ancestors to have been savage animals, they were actually quite cultured and skilled at all that they did.

The caves that have been found such as Chauvet Cave were not actually places of living, but rather for ritual purposes. This is intriguing to me as usually it is thought that the caves our ancestors lived in were used just for living in. However, they actually were able to construct homes from mammoth bones, homes known as mezhirich. While they lived inside the mezhirich, they would use caves for spiritual purposes. In some of the caves, stone or mud alters can be seen in the front with animal bones placed on them in a seemingly symbolic way. There are even paintings on the wall of animals, some just by themselves, others being hunted by people. There is some belief and evidence that these drawings may be the result of consumption of hallucinogens where the people merely drew what they were hallucinating. Others believe however that these drawings were ritualistic in nature themselves, with the prehistoric peoples believing it was a sort of magic that drawing something would help it become reality. While this may seem odd today, it still goes to show that the people of the past did actually have their own beliefs and rituals as a way of interacting with a higher power than themselves which is truly fascinating. In many ways this resembles other cultures around the world today, showing that even now these beliefs are still alive, thousands of years after their beginnings.

At the same time, these peoples were also advancing culture in the form of music. Found within the cave sites and around the areas are flutes made from bone and wood. While they were very simple in nature, reconstructed models have been used and work well enough to play modern known songs. It is very interesting that even tens of thousands of years ago humans were producing music.

Additionally, it is even evident that the prehistoric people of the upper Paleolithic buried their dead. While today it is common place to bury the dead, it was never considered that people of the past would do so, especially the cave people. Surprisingly however, there is evidence of humans buried with artifacts and with the remnants of plants that suggest care was taken with the dead. It is amazing that even thousands of years ago people took care of the dead, as it suggests a respect for fellow human beings and the possibility of a belief in the afterlife as well.

Overall, the prehistoric people were amazing similar to modern people. It is fascinating to think that the only thing seemingly separating us from them is how advanced our technology is. They still partake in all of the same major cultural aspects that modern humans do, and while they did not necessarily do it in the same way, they did it as well as they could with the tools they had at the time. While many go everyday unfazed by this, it is still of great interest to me, as I myself would never have guessed our ancestors were capable of such culture.