The development of human Consciousness

Aayushi Tiwari
10 min readJul 18, 2020

It made me excited to think that how the development of human consciousness has shaped our present and how it has made us very different from other apes. Yes, there are very few differences in DNA but they had changed our whole outlook of the world.

Human evolution, at first seems extraordinary. How could the process that gave rise to slugs and oak trees and fish produce a creature that can fly to the moon and invent the internet and cross the ocean in boats?

Steven Pinker

Hola friends. Welcome to another post of this series where we will discuss the development of human consciousness. Inventions along the way that has developed us with passing centuries including language, societies, culture, kingdoms, warfare, and philosophy. Refer to my previous blog to know about the development of Homo sapiens. Around 300,000 years ago humans developed in east Africa. Some think they evolved from a single ancient species but few thoughts favor our origin out of interbreeding between many hominin species. Our species evolved with lighter bones, long limbs, and very large brains which are 5 times larger in comparison to body size. The jaws were smaller with short canine and brow ridges became smaller.

Around 150,000 years ago Homo sapiens first set on a journey outside of Africa only to return back. Back then the first wave of migration didn’t succeed in survival out of Africa. Perhaps adverse weather or conflict with other hominins had forced our ancestors to return. Although, the second wave of migration took place around 70 to 50k years ago, and then Homo sapiens spread out of Africa successfully. 45 k years ago homo sapiens reached Oceania and 40 k years ago they spread across Europe.

What does it mean to be human? by Smithsonian will give you more information on homo sapiens.

The continental dispersal

When homo sapiens migrated out of Africa they first set foot inside Asia. Around 70 k years ago our ancestors had settled down in the middle east. Many fossils of anatomically modern humans have been found in the middle east Omo remains c195 k years ago, from 160 k years ago homo sapiens idaltu and Qafzeh remains from 90 k years ago. Around 60 k years ago human settlers have reached Asia. Why they settled in East Asia instead of Europe is still unclear but few think that a similar type of climate was the reason. The climate of East and South Asia resembles that of Africa with many vegetation and animals. Maybe it was the prime reason for Voyage towards Asia. Around 45 k year ago sapiens have crossed the Indian ocean separating Indonesia and Australia and have reached there.

If you pause for a minute to think about this accomplishment you will be amazed. 45 k years go those human species have crossed the oceans with their primitive boats and populated Australia. They must have brilliant navigation skills and be clear pals it was not a run-for-your-life-because-enemies-are-after-us endeavor instead it was a solid plan to explore new land for better living. They knew what they were doing and were clearly good at this. We don’t have any archeological evidence of these voyages like boats, utensils, or any artifacts. They are lost after intermittent ice-ages because of changes in sea levels. Around the same time, modern humans reached Europe. Now the questions arise that why they chose to visit Europe so late which is comparatively nearer? The answer to this question also lies in the climate factor.

What was so good in Asia?

The last ice age ended 11, 700 years ago, and back then Europe had extremely cold temperatures. Home sapiens ventures towards warmer climates and that is why they chose Asia and east Asian landmasses before going to Australia. I don’t think so that around 45k years ago when they reached into Europe it was due to looked around the new territories. I think they were driven by other sapiens bands. That time ice age was still raging on and no human bands want to live in a harsh habitat with scarce food supplies. So I think they were driven by rival homo groups. They had a tough life in cold Europe.

There is one important thing we need to remember that when sapiens bands steeped onto Asia and Europe they encountered Erectus and neanderthals respectively. These other species slowly disappeared from the face of the earth. Some researchers think they were wiped out by homo sapiens and some think other species couldn’t keep up with the climate variation. Both can be true in some manner or maybe they disappeared because of the joint effect of both of them. Around 10 k years ago we remain as the only hominin and homo species on the earth.

Foragers to agricultural societies

The development of human consciousness lies in the journey that how we evolved our culture with changing ideas. It’s a common agreement among archaeologists that primitive homo sapiens were foragers. Pretty much like how hominins before us used to live. Sometime around the 10k years ago, we adopted agriculture as our main food source. This has changed our future dramatically. Before agriculture, there were human bands that have to roam around for food and had temporary shelters. Remember that they had areas just like a lion’s pride.

Human bands claimed their areas and protected them from rivals. It was the same as for many carnivorous and apes. Band members can only hunt and roam in their territories and breaching someone’s else area resulted in conflict. That is how we lived for millions of years. Those humans had a thorough knowledge of their surroundings like growth cycles of plants, crop seasons, medicine, edible species, and what are the dangers lurking there. Life would have been good in its own sense but there was no security. It was a constant struggle to find food every day and change shelters now and then. This has probably paved the way for agriculture.

Collaboration a key..

Forager societies used to live in small bands and these primitive humans had more collaboration than any other hominins before them. In the animal kingdom, there are very few cases of friendship among two rival groups. This has only seen in the ape family where two rival gangs team up in case of a predator’s attack. The collaboration between human bands was unlike anything seen before. Our collaboration happened for hunting and protection. If you see the size and power comparison between the animals we hunted and us, you realize that we were weak.

We had to hunt in groups and everyone should know their part of the plane. So imagine if a herd of an ancient species of deer is grazing on 1 hectare of land and your band only has 10 humans. For 10 humans it will be difficult to cover this big land and not to mention deadly injuries. They can go for fawn or hare but it won’t be enough for them and they want to upgrade the food. If this human band collaborates with another one they both can get the meat in a few attempts.

The apple of knowledge..

The situation I described above paragraph would have happened in the past. These types of collaborations have not recorded in other animals except us. Consequently, they became more than a few hunting parties. Within a few thousands of years, we had annual meetings among tribes and bands. These meetings provided chances for trade and communication. In those meetings, different individuals used to share their knowledge of the world around them. Although it is not clear where and when we had acquired the art of curiosity. Probably it has evolved like the rest of the hominin traits. Although other apes also posses it but not like us. However, one thing is for sure that because of curiosity we had been constantly thinking about our reality. Curiosity is the casual agent behind every invention and solution.

When we transferred our knowledge among each other we came to know that what are major trees in the north region, What fishes are found in coastal areas, what are the valuable elements. So, we had developed an extremely sophisticated network of trade and communication which turned into the foundation for kingdoms and empires.

When there were history and stories…..

The transaction from farming societies was a huge step up on the historical ladder. For instance, imagine as some primitive bands of homo sapiens who were busy hunting and gathering started growing crops. They changed their whole living style to suit farming. Subsequently, foragers became farmers and started living in permanent settlement. They have to be near the crops to protect and tend it. First Humans regularly visited the fields and then they realized that living near the fields is a better idea. Few houses increased to many houses and as a result, we had agriculture villages.

The dawn of civilizations..

After that people in these few settlements grew and so does the need for an administration. Somebody has to lead and define what rules to follow and how to live. Although it is a little difficult to understand how some individuals rose to power. I think it all started as choosing a wise person to lead the way and give meaning full advice. But after a few thousands of years, we lived in a society where Few elites ruled. The plan was to build settlements where food and security will be available for everyone.

But fast forward few thousands of years after only elites were enjoying food, security and every enjoyment you can think of. They were living in big castles with only a handful of people that can harbor the whole city. On the other hand workers, farmers, traders and actual pillars of these very civilizations were living in worse conditions than before. Empires were an upgrade for only a few people, for rest the same hard work and exploitation was life. These empires became the foundation for nations. Moreover, when with the changing eras, kingdoms changed their rules and principles also changed. The ancient Greeks believed in very different gods and they followed different rules. On the other hand, ottoman kings ruled in an entirely different fashion. The previous generation lived in totally different fashions and as time goes by they are replaced and modified into totally different principles.

The development of wisdom..

The science during Aristotle’s time was very different in comparison to Einstein’s time. The outlook of the universe had changed drastically from the 20th century to the 21st century. This process has been going on since the dawn of civilization. Few bloody brawls between villages developed into systematic and organizes battles where for winning generals had used the best of their abilities. These wars happened to win over states and people, women, and palaces. History is choke-full of these battles and they have reshaped empires and lifestyle. If a certain king won over the rival state, people are forced to change their beliefs and lifestyle. In this manner, whole cultures of cities have changed and lived on to future generations. Hagia Sofia was an orthodox church which due to ottoman invasion turned to a mosque. Now, this Byzantine marvel in Istanbul Turkey is a museum.

When villages united into kingdoms from there on the flow of history remain the same to this date. To clarify, just kings changed, culture changed and modifies but it goes in the same way. We understood that working in groups and collaboration can take us higher. Our curiosity and thirst for knowledge had made inversions possible. Our perception of our surroundings changed with every passing century. We are in 2020 now.

The present around us…

I have read it somewhere that in present a high schooler knows more about the universe than a 17th-century physicist. It is a true notion. Right now when you are reading this post, countless experiments and research are happening around the world. In LHC(Large hydron collider) scientists must have smashing electrons. A CEO must have thinking about new business products or models. A philosopher, judge, doctor, cop, a farmer must have thinking about their certain fields. And whenever there will be a discovery it will reach you with lightning speed within a few hours.

Everyone and everything is connected now. Something like this has never happened before. This global trade and communication will only increase as the new technologies will come. Now whenever you sit free after every day’s rush, do think how far we have come. When you look at the sky try to remember that during Aristotle’s time it was thought that earth is the center of the universe. Try to wonder that it took thousands of years for culture, languages, and beliefs to develop. The things which are history now were once alive with living breathing humans who lived in that time. Although I don’t believe in luck, but we all are in quite a good time where we can feel past and future together.

Where we are going as a species is a big question. Human evolution certainly hasn’t stopped. Every time individuals produce a new Zygote, there’s a reshuffling and recombination of genes. And we don’t know where all of that is going to take us.

Donald Johanson.

This post is inspired by bestseller non-fiction Sapiens- A brief history of humankind.



Aayushi Tiwari

Hey everyone. I am a bibliophile and love writing. I am trying to sharpen my hobby of writing regularly. I am always up for new things to learn.