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Guns, Germs, and Steel Chapter 1 - Jool Summary and Study Guide

Stand up straight 🚶‍♂️

Blink and you’ll miss them 👀

Imagine the history of the Earth is 24 hours from its beginning as space dust swirled around 🌌 and finally bonded together to form a planet with gravity in its core. From 0.00 to 3am, the Earth was under constant bombardment from meteorites crashing into the surface 🌠. At 4am, life began….well. come on...not exactly reindeer gliding over plains of grass 🦠. Bacteria and single-cell organisms squelched about at a microscopic size. Not very exciting at all! If you visited as an alien, you’d just fall asleep from the sheer boredom of it 😴. Oh, asleep in a boat - I forgot to mention that all of this life was mainly under the ocean 🌊. It gets absolutely thrilling at 8.30pm (that’s right - PM - a lot of bacterial slime from 4am until 8.30pm) because we begin to get seaweed!!! Hurray 🎉! Jellyfish gurgle into the picture at 8.48pm and then...HANG ON ...WHERE ARE THE EXCITING ANIMALS? Dinosaurs arrive at 10.56pm - YAY 🦖!!! - and disappear not long after - BOO 😢! Mammals pop in at 11.39pm and FINALLY, with further ado, humans arrive at 11.58.43 PM. 1 minute and 17 seconds in 24 hours is all we get and within that epoch, we didn’t do a great deal of anything except evolving until about 13,000 years ago.

Dude, I don’t know what to do... 🤷‍♂️ Well, all of that evolving happened over millions of years down in Africa (that’s right - we all descended from the same place - brother from another mother and sister from another mister - we’re family!!! 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦). Each new evolved human has a different Latin name, but let’s focus on some more modern versions. Homo habilis and then Homo erectus (erectus because we started to stand up straight/erect!!!) were roughly the same size as us, but so, so much more dim-witted and unintelligent 🧠. Their brains were half the size of ours and thus 50% dumber. They were probably stronger than us, but that all means very little if you can’t invent decent tools. These early humans weren’t exactly the brightest of sparks and you definitely wouldn’t invite them to your birthday party - they’d be incredibly embarrassing guests! Homo sapiens/Neanderthals 🧔‍♂️ At a certain point, early humans (probably in search of food), decided to migrate north toward Europe and off east toward Asia. Distinct differences emerged as this happened. Bone shapes and brain sizes were slightly different, but what connected all groups, including Neanderthals, was that they were all totally pitiful at catching anything 🎣. Studying bones and sites left behind by these groups can show us a lot about their lives. Early humans were ineffective at hunting. Few large animal bones or even fish bones were found near their camps. This means that early humans were simply too dim-witted to build fishing rods, bows, or traps to catch anything except very slow rabbits who wanted to be stroked 🐇. This lack of hunting proficiency is important because it suggests that early humans loved their veggies because that’s almost all they had to eat 🌿. They hadn’t domesticated animals or plants yet, so that means a lot of nuts, sour apples (because apples were not really sweet naturally), and (hopefully) some non-poisonous and toxic mushrooms (“This is delic….choke.” Oh dear) 🍄. Also, we can study the tools left behind by our early human dim-wits. Let me tell you, they weren’t very impressive. Imagine something a 3-year-old could make! So, let’s celebrate early humans - a huge, roaming band of fools. Hurray 🎈!!!

The Great Leap Forward - “Daddy, I made something revolutionary!” 🔥 Now, we know that our ancient Homosapien ancestors weren’t really very talented at anything except eating, sleeping, and emptying their windy butts, but that all changed...we just don’t know when. About 50,000 years ago, Homo sapiens in East Africa made a Great Leap Forward and it was so revolutionary that scientists decided to call it a Great Leap Forward. Picture this, a small boy is playing around with an old animal bone when suddenly the thought occurs to him, I could catch some MASSIVE FISH if I dangle this in the water with a bit of meat on it. So, he did and caught a fish! The elders in the village probably couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing. This boy must be the chosen one! Another girl paints a picture! What!!!? She’s also the chosen one. Another kid makes some rope! Oh gargantuan gargoyle….the village is full of geniuses. It just doesn’t stop. This gang of genius kids invents a bow and arrow - a real game-changer! These artefacts were found in their garbage when archaeologists dug it up.

“Get them!” they exclaimed with their shiny new voice boxes 🗣️ Another possible reason for this amazing leap in development was that these kids started to have voice boxes. You know, that thing that vibrates when you make sounds. These kids were able to use it to create complex sounds and start to develop languages. That meant they could communicate complicated ideas and plans, like, “Let’s go and kill that tribe over there and steal their resources by using our fancy new bows and arrows!” So, they did. The other, less developed Homo sapiens just didn’t know what was happening. These dudes and dudettes could make rocks fly! Despite throwing many stones and swinging many, many pieces of wood, they couldn’t overcome this new competitive advantage.

While we’re waiting for our next fight, let’s paint, and hunt! 🎨🏹 After dashing and bashing those dimwitted proto-Homosapiens, they decided to paint and draw their exploits on walls and caves because...well...why not? What else are they going to do with their shiny new brain cells and voice boxes? They painted, fought, won, and spread out across the world, replacing the older, less advanced versions of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. They did this a lot more swiftly, too, because now they had fancy technology like fishing rods and bows, they could hunt as they moved and cover greater distances. They migrated everywhere like Forrest Gump - never stopping. Back then, the sea levels were so low because it was in the middle of an Ice Age that you could walk from Russia to Alaska over the Bering Land Bridge. So, they did, migrating from the very north to the very south of the Americas in a thousand years simply by walking. That all stopped by 14,000 BCE when the sea levels rose, but it was too late! Humans were in the game and looking for GAME!

Toast, anyone? How about something a bit meatier? 🏹 So, with their amazing new abilities to speak and build technology, what did they decide to do with it? Well, predictably, they decided to go on a massive hunting party. In the American West (close to California), there were herds of lions and elephants. WERE...WERE! Us lovely humans hunted them into extinction rather quickly in a few thousand years. Eurasian mammals were a bit more successful at running away from us because they had evolved with us. These large mammals in the Americas and Australia hadn’t, so they were toast!!! Elephant on toast, anyone!!!? 🐘🍞 Next time, Chapter 2!

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