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PREHISTORY OR PALEOHISTORY?

Licia Filingeri

The Prehistory begins with the fabrication of the tools, approximately 5,000,000 years ago, as conventionally the threshold of Homo is placed at the moment of the fabrication of the extrabody tool. The Prehistory is subdivided in Paleolithic, Neolithic and Mesolithico.
The Protohistory, that follows the Prehistory, conventionally embraces the age of the metals, until the invention of the writing, (according to the zones), between the 3000 and 1500 B.C, i.e. until the historical times, that is of the " written history ".
It is characterized, in Europe, from the presence of complex social systems, but still substantially prehisthorical, in parallel with the first Mediterranean civilizations.
In Italy, the study of this phase is called Palethnology. In particular, the Palethnology studies the interactions between biological and " cultural " characters of the human communities during the time.
I think that the Prehistory word (from the Latin prefix prae, meaning anteriority), meant like temporal subdivision of the History (than conventionally begins with the writing), is to consider obsolete, in how much it means, according to some old classifications, " antecedent to the history ".
The reconstruction of the prehistorical events, not existing written documentation, happens on the basis of a series of deductions coming from the study of the findings until today found (fossil, tools, remains of homes and places of cult, art, etc.).
I think therefore more appropriated the Paleohistory word, till now used with reference to the history of the man beginning from the age of the metals, however subdivision also artificial , like the greater part of the subdivisions, even if useful in order to reach a more quickly guideline in the time.
Already Poincaré had advanced the hypothesis that, in scientific field, often the choice between the various points of view comes only made at the basis of the usefullness, and this determines the value of science.
However, in nearly all sciences, what is determining is just the use value.
We have not, therefore, to defend a criterion of absolute truth: also the scientific truth goes thought in terms of probability: also the science moves in a phenomenologic field, not is therefore an absolute truth .
All that concerns the man (therefore, the culture broadly speaking, differencing itself from the nature) constitutes object of the history.And none today will want more to doubt that, since his origins, the man has been creator of culture.
The misunderstanding in my opinion is born from the fact that the meaning of the word history is ambiguous, coming to connote both the totality of the facts and their acquaintance, and therefore their narration.
So, also the Paleolithic is part of the History, If we want to characterize more better which period of history it drafts, we will say that it connotes the Paleohistory of the Man.
The Prehistory word has been introduced with decision in the use in the second half of the 800s, when borned the discipline that exactly studies the first vicissitudes of the humanity, but previously, already Leonardo da Vinci had interrogated himself on the organic origin of fossils, until the questions in such sense had become more frequent.
After the audacious observations held in a series of conferences from 1575 to 1584, from who has been nicknamed the french Leonardo da Vinci, Bernard Palissy(1580 Discours admirables des eaux et des fontaines), wherefore the heresy accusation, already at the end of the 600s, from more parts was spoken about the age of the deluge, trying some to put of agreement storys of the Genesis with first, incontrovertible scientific discoveries in the field of natural sciences, and more exactly of the geology (Thomas Burnet,1681, Telluris Sacred Theoria), while others moove himself in the scientific field with greater inner freedom : Robert Hooke in England; and the Danish Niels Steensen , the father of modern paleonthology (with his De solido intra solidum naturalitercontento dissertationis prodromus, 1669). In the 700s studies continued, through James Hutton, considered the father of geology (1795, Theory of the Earth with Proofs and Illustrations), then of William Smith , then of Cuvier , at the beginning of the 800s, with extraordinary Recherches sur les ossements fossiles des quadrupèdes, that lead to the use of the Diluvium word in order to designate superficial lands of tertiary Era.
In this atmosphere of great research and great debates (like these that saw on opposite fields Cuvier and Lamarck and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire), becomes part the voice of the man that will universally be recognized like the father of the prehistory: the French Jacques Boucher de Perthes , than struck itself to the Academy of Paris for acceptation of the idea of an antediluvian man (1839, De la Création), about which already people spoke, also making the most improbable hypotheses, as that one ofJ.-J.Scheuchzer, as that in 1725 , that spoked about the Homo diluvii testis; but, it was the skeleton of a giant salamander, but it will discovered only in 1848s, at Forbes Quarry (Gibraltar).
The discovery of the silex cut by the antediluvian man, signalized from more parts, but whose affirmation must to the passionate work of Boucher de Perthes, that culminated with the publication, beginning from 1847, of the three important volumes of Antiquités celtiques et antédiluviennes (Fig.1) Fig.1 Instrumens en pierre.Haches celtiques Primitive Industries draw by Boucher de Perthes. Antiquités celtiques et antédiluviennes(Fig.1)

Fig.1 Instrumens en pierre.Haches celtiques
Primal industry draw by Boucher de Perthes
Antiquités celtiques et antédiluviennes


While that one of history to me seems indubitably a concept , in how much " concrete concept ", would say Benedetto Croce, same essence of the truth, that one of prehistory seems to me a pseudoconcept, of which we use eminently to the aim of comfort, in order to indicate with a conventionally accepted word an ensemble of universal contents extremely rich and complex that, in last analysis, are, they also, part of the History.

The history is the science of the man, the study of a temporal truth, a continuous even if scanned flow from past, present and future, of which we are the product, even if such truth is by now farthest temporarily. But our conscience, the conscience of to be human, since the beginning, in some way gives us a mastery on this history, on the history.When the direct testimonies get scarce, or are not clearly intelligible (remains of the past, or also "dead" languages of which still the key has not been discovered), is necessary a process of identification in that far away lived for being able to infer and to understand events that, being human, cannot be to us neither stranger or incomprehensible.
It is necessary also a fantasy effort in order to understand the unintelligible, that is to have the freedom to formulate hypothesis also of affective type, behind the single specializations, than today do not circumscribe more not even " exact sciences ": in order to understand.
However, the historian has also a great responsability : to organize knowledges and events, that it implies a choice, and to choose mean also to discard, or to pretend not to see, for many reasons: in such a way, it is possible that the historian, in his reconstruction, is not objective, specially when he has already in mind " which wants to narrate, the conclusions which he wants to arrive". Then, no more matter of search and knowledge, but to validate of the already fixed data .
When it is spoken about origins of the man, my impression is that it is in part therefore. It is no comfortable to replace in discussion so many things, by now considered as acquired and untouchable . The same history of the Science, which hardly it has been made allusion, shows it to us abundantly.
The historian, to my opinion, would have to limitarsi to observe and to collect indications, without, would say Bion , " memory and desire ", at first picking some causal nexuses in the succession of the events, who sure are not ollowed linearly , but are given by the crossing of various plans, technic, but also artistic, spiritual (science and technique allow to satisfy the needs, but they are also work of the spirit), and, only after to have collected other tests and to have inferred with his humanity,only then he could formulate reconstructive hypotheses of the past.
Therefore it is not indispensable to have written documents, in order to reconstruct the history.
The history is however reconstruction of the rests of the past in the belongings frame, in which all it assumes meaning and natural, appropriated placing.
In flowing of the humanity, from always the progress has been had based on new technical inventions, work of the human spirit, to it directed, and that become patrimony for the successive generations, unavoidable basis for a continuous, uninterrupted progress. Reconstructing the history of the technical inventions, applied to the kingdom of the science like to that of the art, we discover, also without need of written documents, some very exact purposes of behavior, therefore some persons capable of autonomy, in one word, the humanity.
From ever.
Therefore the history begins with the first man, the brilliant maker of tools and art, in the Paleolithic.
.It is already History, completely, who could deny it?
The man, than presumably does not have writing (at least, we have not still detected it neither deciphered, even if we begun to discover that, as an example, they existed in the caves, next to great paintings of hunting, some complex lunar maps), every conserve all in his memory: it cannot be differently , as the memory is born with the same man, with reflection on himself and on himself becoming, beyond that on the accadimento external events. A test? The first calendars of the Paleolithic, discovered from Marschack. And we know that the conscience of the time presupposes the memory. The temporality, like temporalization of the dasein, is the sine qua non of the same notion of history .History is a construction according to a plan. Therefore, from always the history exists.
Undoubtedly, the reconstruction of the history, like narration of becoming past, not archaeological search of objects, must make lever on critical objective criteria about the " documents " examinated, employing the traditional helping sciences (between which, in our case, the archaeology, beyond several criteria of dating and analysis of grounds etc.), comparative sciences, like the ethnography, but also of exquisitely human criteria, over all about the sense of how much it discovers.
Also the psycology can therefore give its contribution for a fuller understanding of becoming of the man, from his beginnings.
In any case it is opportune to support the understanding with clear, distinguished and objective evidences, as Platone said, that is universally valid, more than on adamantine certainties: the certainties often blocks every ulterior progress of the thought, and therefore of the knowledge, while the evidences allow to continue on the way of the knowledge, formulating new hypotheses.
We know that the error itself is to the base of every knowledge, of course, if it becomes factor of experience : as Bion admonishes , it is necessary to learn from the experience. Index

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