Prehistory means literally "before history", from the Latin word for "before," præ, and historia. Human prehistory is the span of time since behaviorally and anatomically modern humans first appear, and until the appearance of recorded history following the invention of writing systems
- The destruction of the natural world is not the result of global capitalism, industrialisation, 'Western civilisation' or any flaw in human institutions. It is a consequence of the evolutionary success of an exceptionally rapacious primate. Throughout all of history and prehistory, human advance has coincided with ecological devastation.
- John Gray (philosopher) Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (2002) The Human: Disseminated Primatemaia (p. 7)
- But the most remarkable thing about prehistoric naturalism is not that it is older than the geometric style, which makes so much more of a primitive impression, but that it already reveals all the typical phases of development through which art has passed in modern times and is not in any sense the merely instinctive, static, a-historical phenomenon which scholars obsessed with geometric and rigorously formal art declare it to be. This is an art which advances from a linear faithfulness to nature, in which individual forms are still shaped somewhat rigidly and laboriously, to a more nimble and sparkling, almost impressionistic technique.
- Arnold Hauser. The Social History of Art, Volume I. From Prehistoric Times to the Middle Ages, 1999
- Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody — not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms — had the smallest idea of what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge. Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion.
- Christopher Hitchens (2007) [:w:God Is Not Great|God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything]], p. 64
- Because of their very nature, science and logical thinking can never decide what is possible or impossible. Their only function is to explain what has been ascertained by experience and observation.
- Rudolf Steiner. Cosmic Memory, Prehistory of Earth and Man.
- I would be thrilled if palaeontologists discovered compelling evidence that tyrannosaurs were social hunters. A trackway preserving the footsteps of several individuals moving in the same direction at the same time would be excellent. But until then, tableaus of tyrannosaur families dining together must remain tantalisingly speculative parts of prehistory.
- Brian Switek, "A bunch of bones doesn't make a gang of bloodthirsty tyrannosaurs", The Guardian, (25 July, 2011)
- Olga Soffer's research with her colleagues James Adovasio and David Hyland has been instrumental in providing a more holistic understanding of the past by, as we say in archaeology, making the invisible visible. Their work has shed light on the existence of a complex textile technology thousands of years before we thought possible. By extension, their research on textiles, in conjunction with research on ceramic technology (also Olga's work!), and on the production of beads, flutes, sculptures and cave paintings all of which date back 25,000 to 35,0000 or even 40,000 years ago illuminate the lives of all Ice Age peoples.
I always tell my students that life in Ice Age Europe would have been demanding and you couldn't have afforded to have 50% of the population not contributing to the economic, political and social well-being of their communities. This isn't a politically correct revisionist view of prehistory but rather an attempt to be more scientific.
- It is important because when highly respected journals such as Nature use terms such as "Prehistoric Pin-up" and "35,000 year old sex object" and archaeologists from prestigious universities describe the figurine as "sexually exaggerated to the point of being pornographic" their voices carry weight and authority. This allows journalists and other researchers — particularly evolutionary psychologists — to use this interpretation of archaeological evidence to legitimize and naturalize contemporary western values and behaviors by tracing them back into the "mists of prehistory."
In other words, we look at the way gender and gender relations are constructed today in our own (Western) society and we believe that good, bad or otherwise this is the way they have always been and will always be — that this particular way of organizing ourselves makes "evolutionary sense" and here is the scientific evidence to prove that — instead of allowing ourselves to imagine and to investigate whether there have been other ways of organizing ourselves as people and to recognize that the present is very much the result of particular historical and social circumstances.
- April Nowell, "Looking Beyond Notions Of Erotica In Prehistoric Art", by Barbara J. King, NPR, (09/18/2014).