Man of the Stone Age

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 19, 2007 | Go to article overview

Man of the Stone Age


We need to take a step back in time and learn some lessons from the past, says Andrew Price ONE of the most fascinating aspects of my work as a bushcraft instructor is practising the everyday living skills that would have been used by our ancient ancestors. This can be anything from lighting a fire using friction, making cord from nettles, or picking wild plants as food. Practising these techniques can be immensely rewarding. Not only do they provide us with a personal challenge, but they also enable us to reconnect with our past, and to realise how far we humans have come in terms of technology, for good as well as bad. At a time when the news is full of dark visions of an uncertain future due to global warming, or other problems caused by our over-reliance on technology, looking backwards through time may be the best way to see where we went wrong, and to learn how we can change the way we use our resources in the future.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs is a theory that illustrates the human obsession with continual technological advancement, and the reliance on materialism in order to feel good about ourselves.

One thing that becomes abundantly clear once you have spent time living a primitive lifestyle is how few things we actually require to meet our basic needs, and how true happiness is not in any way related to the size of your car.

Growing up close to the Gower Peninsula gave me plenty of opportunity to experience first-hand several sites of human habitation dating back tens of thousands of years. The caves that I played in as a 10-year-old were once used for shelter by people who would have lived hand-in-hand with nature, and visiting these magical places is something I still love to do whenever I go for a walk around Gower.

Personally, I have always been intrigued by the chapter of human history that we call the Stone Age. In fact the Stone Age can be categorised into three phases, all of which can be defined by the specific techniques and tools used at the time.

These phases are known as Paleolithic (Old Stone Age), Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), and Neolithic (New Stone Age). The Paleolithic and Mesolithic phases represent a time when people lived primarily as hunter gatherers. Travelling from place to place following the migratory patterns of the animals they hunted is a lifestyle that required an intimate knowledge of the natural world, and the skills to utilise its resources. By the Neolithic, people had established permanent communities, and developed an early form of agriculture. Hunting; while still widely practised was to play a less significant role in their lives.

During the Paleolithic and Mesolithic the sea levels were considerably lower than they are today. What is now the Bristol Channel was once an immense area of grassland and forest that connected Gower with mainland Europe. This area was populated by woolly mammoth, sabre-tooth tiger, hyena, deer, bear and other animals that are now either extinct, or are only found in other parts of the world. Bones from all these creatures have been found in many of the caves on Gower, often in conjunction with evidence of the Stone Age hunters that brought them there.

It is not surprising that the Gower peninsular was such a significant place during the Stone Age. As well as offering shelter in the form of caves, its steep cliffs would have provided a perfect vantage point to observe the hunting grounds below.

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