Skulls Tell Story of Social Growth, Scientists Say

But the underlying theory that the development of social structures required humans to learn to get along is widely accepted. It is the most common explanation for a human characteristic that troubled Charles Darwin: altruism.

If we are driven exclusively by a selfish drive to survive and pass our genes on to future generations, why would we help anyone else? Perhaps, because we need them.

No matter how we got here, the evidence is clear that art and music and tools go a long ways back in human history. They probably began around 50,000 years ago, according to anthropologists. Recent discoveries indicate they really exploded at least 30,000 years ago.

One spectacular example is the incredibly beautiful paintings found in a cave in southern France in 1994.

Some of the paintings, numbered in the hundreds, are up to 32,000 years old, and they are exquisite. Even then, the need to communicate and preserve what was deemed valuable must have been intense.

"If prehistoric people began living closer together and passing down new technologies, they'd have to be tolerant of each other," Cieri said in releasing the study. "The key to our success is the ability to cooperate and get along and learn from one another."

The cave paintings in France indicate we learned that very early. But the situation in the world today doesn't argue that we left the savage in us behind.

Last century was the bloodiest in human history. With two world wars and uncountable battles and skirmishes, more people died from violence during that era than in any other.

But at least we have tools and jewelry. And music. And those wonderful old paintings in France.

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