What is known as "Prehistory" is one of those fields of investigation most susceptible to revision, for the recentness of its introduction and for the difficulties it presents.
Up to the 19th century it was the normal approach to take literally the Biblical story of the creation of man. Charles Darwin was one of the first in setting down his theories of evolution, and thenceforth, with that nasty but salutary shock, we started research on our most remote ancestors, to get an acquaintance with them.
A finding, after the second half of the 19th century, of Paleolithic remains, opens doors to our knowledge of a phase until then unknown in the development of Humanity. But at the same time this places new and irresolvable unknowns in our path for discovery.
We yet do not know from what branch of the primates the first hominids were lopped off, nor why they elected walking upright in contrast to their forebears. Nor do we know where this change of status happened, although some indications point to Africa.
Also, the chronology is not certain. Perhaps the process began some twenty millions of years ago, or perhaps it was before that. It is not possible to be sure that it happened in only one branch, because various others could have tried but only one succeeded in walking on two feet.
Human evolution, as it is conceived today, is a motor freeway with side branches that come to dead ends without our finding precise links between them. Homo Sapiens is not an evolutionary consequence of Neanderthal man, nor is the latter necessarily a grandparent of Homo Erectus. The problem is to know from whence we came, but the question has no answer up to this moment.
Geographic distribution is another unknown. The majority of findings of hominid remains have been made in Africa and the Far East. The creatures to which these belong, the Australopithicines, lived from approximately seven millions of years ago until about one million years ago, and in two evolutionary phases, differentiated but characterized by being bipedal and related through other Austrolopithecines of an antiquity of from three to one million years ago.
However, the next link, called Homo Habilis for being the first creature to fabricate tools, although found in nearby regions and being a contemporary, shows extension to the Iberian Peninsula, changing the supposed routing of these beings, which until now were believed, if they emigrated, to have made their journey toward the Orient.
Homo Habilis can upset many theories. That emigration was attributed always to Homo Erectus, who existed from a million and a half years ago to 100,000 years ago, and to whom the conquest of temperate zones of the planet was attributed. Now, the supposition of the occupation of Spain from Gibraltar by his ancestor, who goes on toward the North, opens up unknown perspectives.
With these remarks we want the reality of these studies in Prehistory to be understood; for in them there are no theories more consistent than others in matter of proofs. A finding demonstrates only the existence of that finding and one cannot generalize observations taken from that one. For that reason, when we refer to concrete aspects, we do it and open the door to all possible revisions.
Nomenclature is another point to keep in mind. The naming of a link almost always is taken from the first site where it was found. The same thing happens with cultures. From the making of tools and when these are very similar in various geographic points, the name of the one most investigated is accepted in order to put a date on origins of those found in other places.
Since the French were originally the most dedicated to Prehistory, almost all cultures that worked in stone carry nomenclature assigned to them by that country. This does not mean that the Spanish Abbevillense, to cite a period, is copied from that of our neighbors. Simply, the stone was worked in a form similar to that made in the locale of Abbeville, and in the same time period.
Such systematizing brings in other problems. Not all human groups belonging to a culture used the same materials. Each area has its peculiarities and the fact that a clan substituted stone for bone, and that this has not been preserved, does not mean that the clan was more backward than another whose tools have not been found. In these cases one must have recourse to the ability of investigating teams to place each one of their discoveries within its coordinates.
For due balance one must point out the high trustworthiness of the methods in use today and their sensitivity to a stage of development of Humanity which, fortunately for everyone, is beginning to be unveiled after centuries of ignorance.
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