World History 9A, Assignment One, Our Earliest Records


Assignment One
Our Earliest Records & Migration Theories

Deadline, As announced, 80 points

Click here to go back to the
web site for History 9A.

Images of horses run through earlier images of giant aurochs at Lascaux.

Recently discovered ancient cave art in Indonesia.

Recently discovered ancient cave art in Indonesia.









How did humans come to populate the planet?

What does the earliest artwork currently known tell us about the people who created it?

What do we know or surmise about ancient technologies?

Lascaux Art

Lascaux Artwork



There is an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. The earliest records we currently have from ancient people are in the form of artwork. The most famous symbols and pictures of animals likely found at the time of these artists cover the walls at the caves in Lascaux, France, Altamira, Spain, the Chauvet Cave in France. The pictures show an earlier time, before the climate of Europe cooled. They show amazing attention to detail and artistic elements that would remain much less used for thousands of years. After touring Lascaux, the artist Pablo Picasso is famously quoted as saying, "We have invented nothing." In other words, he was saying that art had not improved in the 15,000 years since the artwork at Lascaux was created.

And yet, early art is being discovered around the world.

At this point it's probably a good idea to tell you I have studied history a lot - for a long time. I have come to a super important conclusion, and this is it - our knowledge of ancient history is continually changing. Views that are rock-solid and widely accepted as absolute fact right now can change. In part, this is because new discoveries are frequently being made all around the world. Another strong factor in our changing views of world history centers around our increasingly strong use of technology in finding new information and details from ancient artifacts and skeletal remains. 

If you doubt what I say about this ever-developing view of ancient man, I offer you just a few examples of finds and theories from and about ancient people that are now widely accepted and studied, but have developed since I was first in college. (That was about the time we invented fire.)

Consider the following:

  • The Ice Man
  • Doggerland
  • Denisovan Man
  • DNA Trees
  • The Dover Boat
  • Ancient Migration to Chile
  • Seahenge(s)
  • Ancient Footprints in Crete
  • The Terracotta Army
  • A series of major discoveries along the deep beaches of the Black Sea
  • Ancient Beer Making
  • Ancient Pasta in China

So, what does any of this mean? Simply this - I think it's a very good idea to remember that the timelines, graphs, and illustrations of how ancient people lived and moved are going to change. In many cases, the views we historians hold take decades to change, even when new discoveries come to light. It also continually amazes me that discoveries almost always show ancient people to be far more migratory and far more technologically advanced than previously thought. 

For now, please remember that things change and that studying pre history is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with many of the pieces absent or on which the patterns are oftern changing.



During this lesson, students will evaluate criteria used in the more popular theories about human migration.

During this lesson, students will compare current and past theories about early artwork, what it may have meant at the time and what we can infer about the people who left it.

Essential questions

What characterizes modern man?

How did people come to populate the planet?

Why did people develop symbolic representational systems?

How does that influence us today?

How have our views of ancient technology changed the ways in which we study prehistory?

Special instructions

You will select one of the questions listed below. Then you will apply that question to one of the topics listed in the links under online files at the right side of this page.

Please note that not all questions fit all topics, and some will have more detailed answers in one are than another. That's OK.

Your job is to identify what early research led scientists to hypothesize about your chosen topics and identify how those hypotheses may, or may not, have changed over the years.

If you choose to complete this assignment individually you need to complete an essay of a four or five paragraphs that addresses the question, or an equivalent presentation - you chose.

If you choose to work with a group you will need to complete an essay of seven or eight paragraphs, or an equivalent presentation. Like the individual assignment, you will need to address the question you chose. Groups may never exceeed three members.

You will need to share your work with your classmates. This could be discussing your essay, a slide show - a poster, you name it.

You need to send me to what you share with the class. If it is not digital, take a picture and send the file to me.


Questions >>
Choose any of the following questions. If you choose to develop a question of your own, talk to Mr. Robbins first.

  1. How have the ideas about the genetic development modern man developed?
  2. Who were the Neanderthals? How has the idea of Neanderthals developed? How is it changing?
  3. What are the current theories about the original purposes of ancient art? What can we infer about the people who created it?
  4. What are current theories about ancient symbolic speech? How have recent discoveries of cave art in Indonesia affected them?
  5. What theories exist about why ancient people created cave art? What supports them? What weakens them?
  6. How did people come to populate the entire planet? What supports Afro-genesis? What disputes it?
  7. How is DNA research affecting studies of ancient mankind?
  8. What are the current theories about the migration of ancient man? How have they recently changed?
  9. How does the presence of ancient artifacts in cold climates challenge traditional historic views of human development?
  10. Why is the study of ancient human history so difficult to conduct? How do our assumptions affect out judgment and conclusions?
  11. What evidences of ancient technology have been discovered in the last half century? How have these finds changed our views of prehistoric people?
  12. What are some of the challenges and benefits of basing our knowledge of ancient people on artifacts?

Group names, topics, and selected questions.

First Hour

  • Colton, Mason, Grant - #6
  • Nathan - #2
  • Logan - #8
  • Taylor - #5
  • Jacob, Jacob  - #7
  • Caroline - #12
  • Kayzin - #1
  • Gracie - #2
  • James - #3
  • Rubi - #3
  • Jayce - #10

Fifth Hour

  • Olivia - #7
  • Marcel - #12
  • Britton - #11
  • Douglas, Brandon - #2
  • Marcy - #10
  • Natalie - #1
  • Morgan - #9
  • Max, Camden - #6
  • Thomas - #12
  • Marissa - #2
  • Brock, Sean, Hyrum - #2





Printed files

There is no printed document for this assignment. Refer to the instructions.

Media files

To view the PowerPoint about problems in history, click here.

To view the PDF file about archeological periods, click here.

Online files

Smithsonian Link One

Bering Land Bridge One

Bering Land Bridge Two

Migration Theory One

Migration Theory Two

Migration Theory Three

Migration Theory Four

How did people come to America?

Ancient teeth in China challenge earlier theories.

Similarities and differences between Neanderthals and modern humans

Ancient cave art - overview

Ancient cave art in Indonesia

More information about ancient cave art in Indonesia

Neanderthal Mom, Homo Sapien Dad?

What are we learning about the Denisovans?

What happened to the Neanderthals? Here is one approach.

When did humans leave Africa? New evidence in Arabia may challenge old theories.

Prehistoric cave art suggests highly complex use of astronomy.

Massive prehistoric malachite (copper) mines in Britain

Simple descriptions of cave art

Sound files

Not applicable