I'm writing a short story where a group of explorers found a mysterious cave in a remote jungle , Inside the cave they find strange paintings of spirals resembling portals , after exiting the mysterious cave the group noticed that the trail markings they made outside the cave had disappeared and that their GPS could not pick up any signals leaving them completely lost , they eventually came to the realization that the mystical cave was in fact a portal that took them back one million years in the past.

while in the jungle they got captured by a tribe of Homo-erectus ape people who forced them to become part their tribe. After blending with the tribe the group of explorers had successfully learned their language and taught the tribe the basics of agriculture and stone masonry. After passing down this knowledge the explorers were idolized as gods by the ape people. One of the explorers named "kevin" was also forced to become the new tribe leader , a role which he accepted. After some time one of the female explorers had re-discovered the mysterious cave , filled with excitement she quickly rushed back to tell the others. After she told everyone about the cave, Kevin who was now the leader of the tribe ordered the ape people to kill the explorers. In a dramatic scene the female explorer managed to escape and eventually ran back into the cave.

As she finally passes through the portal again and traveled back to the present her reality suddenly shatters infront of her eyes as modern civilization was now dominated by ape people , giant temples and statues of Kevin has been built across the planet. The world she once knew was gone forever ,the end.

Realistically would homo erectus manage to create a civilization like us if they recieved a little "help" or would they still be stuck in the stone age?

And also what is the brain capacity or body to brain ratio needed to build a civilization?


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    $\begingroup$ What sort of background do these people have? Neither agriculture nor stone masonry are as obvious as they may seem, especially when you are starting with no tools and no domesticated plants. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    May 22, 2020 at 1:31
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    $\begingroup$ The final twist appears in Pierre Boulle's Planète des singes (Planet of the Apes) (1963). (Yes, the original source of the film franchise.) (And the chances for the cult of a divinity, any divinity, to endure for a million years are zero.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 22, 2020 at 1:41
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    $\begingroup$ Can't do masonry without even rudimentary metallurgy. Dry stone (no mortar) with the stones as they are may be good enough for a fence, but those that use dry stone for anything durable used at least bronze or copper tools (ancient egyptians, greeks, inca). Even agriculture is hard without metals. $\endgroup$ May 22, 2020 at 1:47
  • $\begingroup$ Ape men would go through the same million years of evolution that our ancestors went through, regardless of advancements or not. The end result could be different, but I'd suggest the tools drove some of the evolution, not that evolution is completely responsible for the tools. You'd have people, not ape men. Ape men will only be ape men if selective pressure keeps their environment ape-friendly (low tech), not man-friendly (civilized). Otherwise just write the story and don't stress about the science. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    May 22, 2020 at 3:49
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    $\begingroup$ "You know, Thog, if we kill Kevin and the other gods as they sleep tonight, and eat them tomorrow for lunch, I bet we'll get their magical powers!" $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    May 22, 2020 at 3:50

1 Answer 1


Realistically, the answer is going to fall to Narrative Necessity: your story needs certain things to happen, otherwise there is no story worth telling. What this means is that for your story about a group of explorers integrating with, teaching, shagging and modifying an early Homo species to happen, the story must can happen. It's plausible because you as story teller make it plausible.

We do know that Homo habilis made a number of kinds of stone tools, and possibly also made tools from wood, bone, antler and soft materials. So they weren't exactly stupid. They were pretty widespread, so there are a number of environments where your story could take place. That's the easy part.

Civilisation needs things like language, community structure, advanced food sourcing, and advanced tools. Your job is to provide the tools & advanced culture that, with help, can jump-start them on the way to civilisation.

We don't know when language (itself) first arose within the Homo genus. We know we have it; we're pretty sure H. neanderthalensis had it. For your story to work, you're just going to have to assume, either based on sparse evidence or solid handwavium that H. habilis had it too. It'll be helpful if your explorers can get busy with the locals and make some hybrid children. (Maybe some more handwavium here, too!) Even if the natives can't quite do language, hopefully their hybrid children can. But for the sake of your story, we're just going to assume that they can speak and interbreed. You'll be able to teach them a lot through song, myth, and story telling. You can also teach them to read & write. Write on leather, write on bone, write on sticks, write on leaves.

With these natural and very reasonable assumptions (your readers can easily suspend disbelief) really all you need to do is introduce some basics of agriculture -- gardening, perhaps (because there won't be anything like our modern or ancestral grains yet); maybe try some kind of pastoralism (bird keeping for eggs, maybe) -- and find some easy deposits of copper. Once they have copper, they could introduce tin to make bronze. With copper tools, stone work and wood work become easier. So does gardening.

No guarantees, but I think your basic scenario is plausible with those assumptions and plans going forward!

The only thing that really doesn't compute is the whole "cult of Kevin" thing lasting a million years. A modern world -- probably even far in advance of what Kevin knew to be "modern" -- is believable, though, with an evolved H erectus.

Personally, I think the female explorers would do better to teach the young H erectus & hybrid children about equality & make sure they've got a good moral foundation. Clearly Kevin has a screwy moral compass!


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