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For the months of November and December 2012 the magazine " I'm interested in History »Offers us a dossier on our origins. How prehistoric men lived in France on a daily basis 35,000 years ago through education, religion, art, food, learning, fashion, climate and landscape.
In this issue's summary, in addition to the 10-page dossier devoted to the daily life of our ancestors, we can discover the stories of ghost towns, the moment when Morocco becomes French, the history of the railway in France, Charcot and his hypnosis sessions, the word given to a Jew released from a concentration camp, the story of pregnancy but also a page devoted to Henri IV.
The file on our ancestors is a good idea. Topics such as landscapes, climate, wildlife, art, language and stages of human evolution, among others, are well chosen. The general public is interested in these questions and in its distant origins.
To begin with, the subject of the dossier is introduced with an excerpt from a Silex and the City television series which exposes the contemporary problems of a prehistoric family. In addition, we bring these men closer to us and for that the choice of terms is important in this article. “Bling-bling”, “il cuisine light”, among others, are terms that relate to our western culture of the 21st century.
The way of presenting each element is interesting. Each topic is short, numbered and almost every time includes a passage entitled "How do we know?" Which in itself is a good idea. Except that we are presented with a "truth", not current assumptions.
To give a few examples, let's start with that of the Cro-Magnon man who is not a "shaggy bearded" man but a man with "soft cheeks". The proof given for this case is that in the cave of Marche (Vienne) one would have found plaques engraved with human profiles without beards or mustaches. The conclusion is that this "shows that shaving was the norm." And not that it could be sketches of unfinished human representations, children's drawings that probably do not reproduce reality, representations of young hairless individuals ... And if it is indeed about shaved men there is no indication that the practice was predominant.
Likewise, we are told that a school has been discovered. On the Etiolles site (Essonne), clusters of well-cut stones are found as well as less well-cut ones. So this is proof that a "parent is teaching a group of young apprentices to prun". Why this hypothesis which is not indicated as such?
What emerges clearly from this article is that we are making a projection of present-day society on the life of prehistoric man. And from there we only take the elements that support this point of view and are presented to us as evidence. In fact, we should give each time the different current hypotheses of the researchers and say that we are more favorable to one of them in particular, that would be more honest.
This well-illustrated article is a basis for reflection on Prehistory for the general public and gives the broad outlines and examples that should be explored in other scientific works. Nevertheless, we have a big methodological gap. The file starts from our current society and tries to model it on the life of prehistoric men. Scientifically, we start with archaeological discoveries to arrive at hypotheses that can be compared to our way of life, but above all to that of so-called "primitive" societies.
I'm interested History: Prehistory, living in France 35,000 years ago. November 2012, on newsstands and by subscription.