Homo Erectus got moving, and never really stopped, developing a nomadic hunter-gatherer life-style, and pissing off creatures all over Africa, Asia, and Europe. At some point in the process, it got pretty freaking cold, as a fresh Ice-Age descended on the planet. This didn’t wipe out Erectus – who turned out to be as difficult to eradicate as modern cock-roaches – but it did force the evolution of Erectus’ successors: the Neanderthals.
The Neanderthals were specifically engineered to handle cold. They were short and very stocky, because that turns out to be a really good way to conserve body heat. No one is certain, but it seems likely that they were very hairy – also a nice way of keeping warm. The pinnacle of their evolution was, though, their noses …
Go someplace really cold, and step outside: chances are fair your boogers will freeze pretty quickly. This did not happen to Neanderthals.
Their noses were freaking huge! The design, though, was not to prevent the whole frozen-booger thing, which, while uncomfortable, is not life-threatening. The design was to prevent arctic cold from getting to the lungs … cavernously huge hooters and sinuses meant the air had someplace to get nearly to body temperature, before making it’s way to the lungs, which, then, as now, are rather delicate organs. This adaptation enabled Neanderthal to roam far and wide over the icy terrain – but it didn’t prevent them from settling down wherever they could find a nice deep cave. (See above regarding the indolence of humanity, which Erectus almost certainly passed on to the Neanderthal.) The problem of the food source getting used up had not been solved – but the Neanderthal had chanced across a valuable loop-hole: some fairly tasty animals were migratory … Basically, all they had to do is find a nice cave overlooking a migration-route, and dinner would deliver itself as fast as Jimmy-Johns!
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. This includes Ice Ages. The last period of glaciation ended about 10,000 years ago. Neanderthal had long since gone extinct, and Early Modern Humans were running the show. As the glaciers retreated, some pretty nice real-estate became available, animal populations exploded, and lots and lots of green things popped up that could be eaten. Plenty of Humans were still into the whole hunter-gatherer scene, but a lot of others decided it might be better to have someplace more settled.
This led to settlements.
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