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Chapter 2 : Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary

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Abstract:

In Stanley Kubrick’s classic film , Richard Strauss’s music (“Thus Spake Zarathustra”) provides a haunting and frightening background to the sequence of scenes that represent the dawn of humanity. The sun rises on a barren African savannah. A band of squat, hairy ape-men appear; they eat grass. Though herds of tapirs graze close by, the ape-men ignore them, since the means and the tools necessary to attack or kill the tapirs have not yet been developed. These ape-men are vegetarians who forage for roots and edible plants. On the dawn of the second day, the ape-men are seen huddled around a water hole; the landscape is littered with bones. One, the leader of the group, picks up a bone, smashes the skeleton of an antelope, and then the bone is used to kill a tapir (Fig. 2.1). Shortly thereafter, the raw pieces of tapir flesh are eaten and shared by other hairy apelike creatures, members of the clan. At the dawn of the third day, the meat-eating, tool-using man-apes drive off a neighboring band of apelike creatures. Bone tools used for killing animal prey are now used to threaten and drive off rival tribes. In slow motion, accompanied by the slowly building tones of Strauss’s music, the leader of the man-apes flings his weapon, a fragmented piece of bone, into the air. It spins upward, twisting and turning, end over end. There is a jump cut of 4 million years into the future, and the bone dissolves into a white, orbiting space satellite. Kubrick’s science fiction film has been described as a countdown to tomorrow, a visual masterpiece and a compelling drama of human evolution. Absent from the film is an examination of how the enlightened roving bands of early apelike humans settled down and become increasingly disease-ridden. Here is that part of the story.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 21-42. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch2
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Figures

Image of Figure 2.1
Figure 2.1

Hollywood’s view of A as seen in the movie . Turner Entertainment Co. Licensed by Warner Bros Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved, Alamy Stock Photo

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 21-42. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.2
Figure 2.2

reconstruction of Mr. and Mrs. Lucy. Courtesy of Ken Mowbry, American Museum of Natural History

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 21-42. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.3a
Figure 2.3a

Oldowan tools used by Courtesy Didier Descouens, CC-BY-SA 4.0

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 21-42. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.3b
Figure 2.3b

Diorama in the Nairobi National Museum of , CC-BY 2.0, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ninara/17147417090/ CC-BY 2.0 license

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 21-42. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.3c
Figure 2.3c

Courtesy Didier Descouens

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 21-42. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.3d
Figure 2.3d

Diorama of the “African equivalent” to fossils of

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 21-42. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.4a
Figure 2.4a

Neanderthal man in profile; Neanderthal woman cleaning a reindeer skin, (both) Wellcome Library, London (CC-BY 4.0)

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 21-42. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.4b
Figure 2.4b

A 1953 B- grade movie poster representing a monster-like Neanderthal man. Courtesy of Popcorn Posters.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 21-42. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.4c
Figure 2.4c

Neanderthal Family, Reconstruction. Ian Tattersall, American Museum of Natural History

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 21-42. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.5
Figure 2.5

A. Growth of the human population for the last 500,000 years. If the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) were in scale it would reach 18 feet to the left. B. Log-log plot of the human population over the last million years.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 21-42. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch2
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