Classic EssaysWilliam Pierce

Who We Are #4 — Our Upper Paleolithic Origins

Skulls of our race’s evolutionary forbears Neanderthal Man (left) and Cro-Magnon Man (right) on display at “Discover the Ice Age.” Photo by Scott Ball.

By Dr. William L. Pierce

Ice-Age White Hunters Created First Art, Music
Upper Paleolithic Began With Racial Revolution

THIRTY THOUSAND YEARS ago Europe was entering the last part of a million-year-long succession of Ice Ages. Actually, for a few thousand years around that time the climate was relatively mild, with an average temperature approaching today’s. This mild period was a break between the earlier and later portions of the Wuerm Ice Age.

Harsh Environment

By the time the glaciation associated with the Wuerm Ice Age had advanced to its final maximum, around 25,000 years ago, a great ice sheet thousands of feet thick covered Scotland, most of Ireland, all of Scandinavia except the east coast of Denmark, northern Germany, the Baltic countries, northern Poland, and northwestern Russia. In addition separate Alpine glaciers covered large parts of the mountainous regions of Europe.

Substantial areas of Europe which remained unglaciated were so cold that they consisted only of treeless, scrub-covered tundra. Only in a few parts of Europe was there heavy forestation during the last Wuerm maximum.

For more than 10,000 years the climate of Europe approximated that of northern Alaska today, until, about 12,000 years ago, the ice once again began receding and the forests sprang up in its wake.

It was in such an environment, usually harsh and demanding, though with milder periods interrupting the frigid normality, that our ancestors underwent their last period of development.

Stimulus of the North

It has been mentioned before in this series, but it is worth repeating: the various populations of men and submen living in different parts of the world were subject to quite different environments during their evolution. The glacial conditions that existed in Europe and northern Asia off and on during the last million or so years never reached the tropical regions of the earth. Only in the earth’s north temperate zone were man and his predecessors subjected to the repeated climatic changes associated with the advance and retreat of the great ice sheets, and, more importantly, to the perennial demands of the winter season.

The relatively constant and moderate living conditions in the tropics did not subject the inhabitants there to the rigorous selective pressures which were exerted in the north. The poor planner, the inefficient worker, the irresponsible ne’er-do-well who could get by in the seasonless tropics perished in the north during the first winter for which he failed to make the necessary preparations.

Lagging Tropics

Thus, evolution proceeded at a much faster rate in Europe and in northern Asia than in Africa and other tropical areas. Submen crossed the human threshold in Europe three-quarters of a million years before they did so in Africa. The cultural achievements of our Ice Age ancestors, living sometimes in the cool northern forest and sometimes on the frigid, treeless tundra, reached a level never matched by Negroes, even today. What passes for Negro sculpture and architecture and is proudly held up as evidence of the Negro ability to construct buildings of stone and make art objects of bronze and iron as early as two millennia ago did not develop indigenously. The necessary technology came from the north, first from the Phoenicians and the Egyptians, and later from the Arabs.

And, as we shall see, these Mediterranean bearers of culture to Africa had earlier been the beneficiaries of inventive genius which flowered still further north. But that takes us ahead of our story.

Upper Paleolithic Man

For roughly 20,000 years during the closing chapter of the Ice Ages — the period known to archaeologists as the Upper Paleolithic, or “late old stone age” — our ancestors lived as big-game hunters in Europe, ranging from the Mediterranean coast to the edge of the ice in the north. Their physical remains and those of their artifacts are relatively plentiful, giving us a great deal of information about them and their lifestyle.

One of the most striking things about the Upper Paleolithic inhabitants of Europe was their physical homogeneity. Measurements made on their skeletal remains indicate a population more racially homogeneous than that of any European country today — and this population was spread over an enormous area throughout a span of time very long compared to that of all recorded human history.

As one would expect, the evidence of their art indicates a corresponding degree of psychic homogeneity. A remarkable similarity exists, for example, in cave paintings found at locations ranging from the Iberian peninsula all the way to the Urals, a distance of more than 3,000 miles.

Sexual Dimorphism

They were a tall, long-limbed, sturdily built race. They had narrow hips, broad shoulders, deep chests, and large hands and feet. The average height of the males was nearly 69 inches, taller than the average for any European country today except Iceland.

These Upper Paleolithic White men and women exhibited a large degree of sexual dimorphism, or physical difference between the sexes. The average height of the women was nearly seven inches less than that of the men, and their skulls were not only smaller but showed other secondary sexual differences, resulting in a less “masculine” and more “feminine” facial appearance. Whereas the men had distinctly craggy, faces, those of the women had softer contours.

Racial Variation

Sexual dimorphism varies greatly among the present-day races. Mongoloids, for example, have relatively slightly developed secondary sexual characteristics, while Europeans, on the average, show much greater secondary differences between the sexes. And among the subraces of the White race sexual dimorphism increases from south to north, with Mediterraneans exhibiting the least dimorphism and Nordics the most.

In general, a large degree of sexual dimorphism in a race is an indication of evolutionary adaptation to markedly different male and female social roles. When men and women have similar lifestyles, there is relatively little need for them to differ physically, except in their reproductive organs. But in the big-game hunting society of Upper Paleolithic Europe, the men went out into the forests or the tundra to do the hunting and killing, and the women stayed at home to bear and raise the children — for a thousand generations.

Rugged, Brainy

Upper Paleolithic Whites had broad, rugged faces with large, wide jaws, prominent chins, and — judging from the nasal openings in their skulls — prominent noses of narrow-to- medium width. And they had large brains: nearly 100 cubic centimeters larger than the White average today.

They were predominantly dolichocephalic (long-headed, like modern Nordics and Mediterraneans), although this was one physical trait in which the Upper Paleolithic population showed substantial diversity, with a larger minority of mesocephalic and brachycephalic (round-headed, like modern Alpines) skulls in the west than in the east.

Throughout the Upper Paleolithic this White proto-race lived not only in Europe but also in a band stretching across northern Asia to the Pacific. In Siberia and other eastern regions they were eventually displaced or absorbed by Mongoloid peoples, although isolated pockets of them have survived even until the present (the Ainu people of Japan seem to be an example, but even they show Mongoloid admixture).

Glacial Retreat

In Europe, when the Ice Ages came to an end, some of the White big-game hunters changed their way of life, and some did not, but instead followed the retreating glaciers northward as they shrank back toward their nucleus in the mountains of the Scandinavian peninsula.

Neither the Nordics nor the Alpines of today are physically identical to the Upper Paleolithic Whites, although both are ultimately related to them. In both the Nordic and the Alpine areas of Europe, however, one finds local populations which are essentially Upper Paleolithic in type. By selecting from these populations individuals whose skeletal measurements fit those of Upper Paleolithic fossils, we can gain a good idea of what the Ice Age hunters of 25,000 years ago looked like.

And from their artifacts we can gain a good idea of how they lived. Most of these artifacts are tools or weapons made of bone or stone, but there are also carved art-objects, paintings, hearths, and remnants of dwellings.

Craftsmen and Artists

They made a great variety of stone implements, prominent among which were long, thin blades struck from carefully prepared stone cores with a single, precise blow. Such stone blades were not entirely unknown during the preceding, Neanderthal stage of human development, but now they became much more common, and the tool-making technology associated with them took several strides forward.

Another distinguishing feature of Upper Paleolithic European culture was the extensive use of bone. It was carved into sewing needles, clothing fastenings and ornaments, statuettes, harpoon and spear heads, musical instruments, and many other items, using stone tools manufactured especially for the purpose.

The Upper Paleolithic economy was based on herd animals: horses, woolly mammoths, bison, and, especially, reindeer. These animals flourished on the tundra, and the people of Europe depended almost totally on them. From their flesh came food, from their hides clothing and coverings for shelters, and from their bones tools and implements.

Permanent Villages

Some groups of hunters apparently followed the herds on their seasonal migrations, but others established year-around settlements. Typically these settlements were occupied by from five to 20 families (from 20 to 100 individuals), and the habitations varied from single- family huts, probably covered with animal skins, to long, multi-family houses with gable roofs. One such Ice Age long house in southern Russia was nearly 450 feet long.

Despite the harsh environment, the tundra supported large herds, and the hunters apparently had plenty to eat. They obviously had the leisure time — and the inclination — to devote themselves to non-essential pastimes, such as art and music.

Birth of Ceramics

These Ice Age Europeans were inventive people. In a few thousand years they introduced more cultural innovations than in all of mankind’s previous existence.

They learned, for example, to use coal as a fuel. And they learned that by firing statuettes and other objects molded of clay, they obtained a much more durable, water-resistant product. Fired-clay objects recently found at Dolni Vestonice, in Moravia, and dated at 28,000 years ago represent man’s first use of the ceramic techniques which played such an important role in his later cultural development. Until quite recently, archaeologists had assumed that ceramic technology was first developed by farming peoples in the Middle East almost 20,000 years later.

There is also evidence that the Ice Age hunters carried on trade over distances of hundreds of miles, at least.

Ice-Age Archers

Two enormously significant inventions which date from the closing phase of the Wuerm Ice Age are the spear-thrower and the bow. Approximately 15,000 years ago Upper Paleolithic Whites learned to throw a hunting spear with much greater force by using the leverage provided by a piece of carved reindeer antler hooked over the butt. This invention gradually spread over the world, and the racially backward Australian aborigines still use spear-throwers for hunting today.

Some 11,000 years ago our European ancestors invented the world’s second propulsive weapon, the bow. Although the earliest bow which has been found (at Holmgard, Denmark) is only about 8,000 years old, collections of arrows 3,000 years older, with clearly identifiable notches for a bowstring, have been unearthed at Stellmoor, near Hamburg. The bow gave man an incalculable advantage in hunting, as he no longer had to creep up on his prey to within spear range.

Two gaps in Upper Paleolithic man’s cultural achievements are primarily responsible for the limitations in our knowledge of him and his ways: he did not write, and he seldom portrayed human beings in his prolific art.

First Writing

Actually, the world’s first writing may have appeared in Western Europe shortly after the close of the last Ice Age, during the Mesolithic period (Middle Stone Age). We will look at the evidence for that in the next installment in this series. But from the Ice Ages only a few geometric symbols and patterns of dots and scratches have come down to us. It is believed that some of these were used as a means of keeping track of time and, thus, constitute the earliest approaches to a calendar, but they convey virtually no information to us.

We are puzzled as to why our Ice Age ancestors, who possessed marvelous artistic ability, lavished it almost exclusively on the animals they hunted and so seldom produced drawings or carvings of men and their activities. In the few cases where human beings are portrayed in cave paintings, they are usually stick figures, with little or no detail shown.

And most of the human carvings from this period are only caricatures of people, the most common item being the so-called “venuses,” which were obviously female sex-objects (perhaps with fertility-cult significance) rather than attempts at realistic portrayals. It is possible, of course, that other art showing people was produced, but on perishable material, such as wood, which has not survived.

Conservative Neanderthals

One of the most interesting questions we have about the Upper Paleolithic period is why the people who lived then were so much more progressive culturally than those who preceded them. During the more than 600,000 years of the Middle Pleistocene — spanning approximately the time from the first crossing of the sapiens threshold in Europe to the time of the Neanderthals — cultural progress was extremely slow, hardly any changes taking place over thousands of generations (although European culture still remained well ahead of culture elsewhere in the world).

And Neanderthal Man himself was an extraordinarily conservative creature. During the 100,000 or so years of his existence he made no major innovations, but merely continued a slow elaboration and development of the flake-tool industry inherited from his predecessors.

Spurt of Progress

It is true that during the Riss-Wuerm interglacial period some 150,000 years ago (before the appearance of Neanderthal Man and just after man’s expansion into the northern Eurasian plain) there was a relatively sudden spurt of technological progress. Tools and weapons found at Ehringsdorf, Germany, on the edge of the northern plain, dating from that time are far ahead of anything known previously — or anything from more southerly sites of the same age. Among the Ebringsdorf implements are the world’s first true projectile points, the heads of hand-thrown spears.

But it was not until the appearance of Cro-Magnon Man more than 100,000 years later, at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, that the sort of progress seen at Ehringsdorf once more took hold.

A New Race

Actually, there was no sudden technological revolution to usher in the Upper Paleolithic. The first Upper Paleolithic tools were not dissimilar from those of the Neanderthal period. The Upper Paleolithic revolution was racial rather than cultural.

The break with the past was in the appearance of a new race of men, and the men of this new race, within a few thousand years, created a technological revolution which brought forth ceramics and archery, among other things. Even from the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, however, it was evident that the new race was of a higher evolutionary grade than anything which had come before; this evidence was in the capacity for music and art which manifested itself then.


One modern explanation of the racial transformation from Neanderthal Man to Cro-Magnon Man involves the zoological phenomenon called neoteny. Animals displaying this phenomenon are those which fail to develop fully to the adult stage and retain certain larval or infantile characteristics throughout their life spans. Young neotenous animals differ from non-neotenous animals of the same species only in their glandular functions; a gland controlling maturation fails to produce the normal level of hormones.

Since young Neanderthals much more closely resembled young Cro-Magnons than the adults of the two races resembled each other, it has been suggested that a mutation occurred at some time around 40,000 years ago involving a change in Neanderthal Man’s pituitary gland. The “childlike” (relative to Neanderthal Man) Cro-Magnon race was the result, and Cro-Magnon Man’s neotenous condition manifested itself psychically in his musical and artistic inclinations and in the absence of the extreme conservatism which characterized his predecessors.

Our First Kinsmen

Whether neoteny provides the correct explanation for the developments of the Upper Paleolithic period or not, it is clear that the race which hunted reindeer on the tundra of northern Europe from the second Wuerm glacial advance until about 10,000 years ago was essentially modern, not only physically but also psychically, and was, therefore, the first race to appear on this earth with whom we can feel the bond of full kinship.

In the next installment we will follow the Upper Paleolithic people of Europe into the Mesolithic period, and we will examine the cultural and subracial developments which took place then, including the first appearance of the Indo-Europeans, or Aryans.

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Source: National Alliance

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