My name is David Hayes and I am the author of a new book entitled “From Africa to Stonehenge”. What made me – a retired nuclear physicist – write a book on human prehistory? The short answer is that I do not really know, but here is some information that may well be relevant.
I was brought up in the Christian faith – a Roman Catholic – and persisted as an active member of that church until well after my marriage and the birth of our four children. During that period the alternative narratives of the origin and meaning of life – the scientific and the religious – were living quite comfortably side-by-side in my subconscious, although the science narrative was in many ways the more convincing. So the question I faced was – what is the purpose of religious belief? It clearly filled some of my important needs, both personal and social. Perhaps the more important of these was its social benefits. From a theoretical viewpoint sociologists have pointed out that a group of people with common beliefs can accomplish tasks beyond the capability of a blood-related tribe with its maximum membership of around fifty persons.
When did the evolution of the group, a remarkable step forward in human evolution, occur? Certainly not before we had language, which is thought to have arrived around 70,000 years ago. We are almost all descended from a certain African lady who had been born with an unusually large brain – large enough for full language capability. This period was one of rapid advancement in the human story and the expansion out of Africa which led, eventually, to the peopling of the planet.
The outlines of the story of our peopling of the planet are well known, but there has been little if any discussion of why we expanded in the way we did, first eastwards on a coastal route that took us eventually all the way to South America, and then westwards from Bangladesh to Europe – via Azerbaijan! We didn’t quite reach Portugal but we got as far as Carnac in France where we built the remarkable megaliths. From there we headed northwards to the British Isles where our forefathers built more than 500 stone circles of which the most famous is, of course, Stonehenge.
By David Hayes
‘From Africa to Stonehenge’ can be purchased here.