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History

Prehistoric civilisation

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Source analysis

Consider the following sources of prehistoric evidence, and the usual interpretations. This table shows how certain items of evidence suggest certain possible theories, but that what we can be certain of is very much less.

Prehistoric evidence and interpretations

EvidencePossible interpretationCertainty
A prehistoric skeleton with a club footPrehistoric people suffered from clubfoot.At least one prehistoric man had a clubfoot, unless this find is a hoax.
Impressions of hands with fingers missingPrehistoric people suffered from leprosy. The fingers may have been lost to leprosy, but also may have been cut off as a punishment, or in war, or lost in accidents. Note that although we can prove that prehistoric people lost their fingers, it is impossible to prove from the archaeological record how much it hurt when this happened.
Cave painting (of antler-being)Prehistoric people believed in spirits.The cave painting may show a spirit-being, but also it may show a shaman dressed in an animal-skin, or it may show the animal itself. The painting doesn't give any proof of the thinking behind the drawing.
Cancerous femurPrehistoric people suffered from cancer of the bone.At least one prehistoric man had cancer of the femur, unless this find is a hoax.
Clay model of a sheep's liverPrehistoric people used auguries (such as the condition of a sheep's liver) to try to predict health and disease.The find is clearly the shape of a liver, with holes for marker pegs, but it does not provide any proof of how it was used.
StonehengePrehistoric people formed well-organised, disciplined societies. Stonehenge proves that prehistoric people were able to organise themselves over long periods of time and place. But it does not tell us what kind of government these people had, or how well they were organised, or whether this was a permanent or temporary feature of their society.

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