Several dozen millennia ago humans started to bury their dead and offer ceremonial rites to them,
thereby distinguishing themselves from animals.
They decorated caves at Lascaux and at many other locations with amazing frescoes.
Then they invented agriculture.
Menhirs and dolmens were erected, the ones at Karnak being the most famous.
All this happened before the birth of towns, prior to any pyramids, before the invention of writing.
In other words, prior to History.
In the same period, humans also invented the first forms of social life.
How can we make these first societies intelligible? How did these first societies evolve?
This vast subject, at the border of social anthropology and prehistoric archeology evokes extremely divergent theories.
The renowned anthropologist Alain Testart, known primarily for his work on hunter gatherers,
chose to examine and confront existing interpretations and to return to the subject of social evolution.
The result is impressive: incisive, critiques of the history of social anthropology,
his philosophic reflections on the very notion of evolution in the social sciences
as well as his clarification on questions of method and interpretation in archeology.
What emerges most significantly is a series of new hypotheses
concerning the various periods of both the Paleolithic and Neolithic,
hypotheses utilizing not only data from the perspective of Europe and the Middle East,
but also from the wider world from where much significant data is coming to light.