Our distant ancestors were hunter gatherers who relied heavily on their wild instinct in search for food, they also had a basic concept of social status with the alpha male leading the clan.

To perform magic certain regions in the brain such the occipital, frontoparietal, posterior parietal, precuneus, and dorsolateral prefrontal regions of the brain would be more active. These portion of the brain governs our imagination, I'm not doubting our ancestors ability to think abstractly... I know these hunters are very cunning hence exhibits creativity but they simply predict the movement of their prey. Borrowing experiences from earlier kills and applying the same kind of logic that lead the prey to die from exhaustion and cumulative blood loss.

Okay I admit these people probably don't think in abstract so how do they manipulate magic? or is there any kind of magic that doesn't require imagination? I'm probably writing a novel or game regarding magic in the prehistoric world and the magic shares similar traits with DnD.

Comment below should you have doubt, don't hesitate to remedy my English!

  • $\begingroup$ There was a lot of steps in human evolution. When you say "our distant ancestors", are you talking about Homo Sapiens? Homo Habilis? Australopithecus? $\endgroup$ – Babika Babaka Sep 3 '15 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ @SpaceLizard I meant the one that is less furry and hold a stick instead of banana ;) $\endgroup$ – user6760 Sep 3 '15 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ So one that use tools? To be more specific, in this list : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution#Genus_Homo, which stage of human evolution do you want to use in your story? $\endgroup$ – Babika Babaka Sep 3 '15 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ @SpaceLizard my story set during the late stone age does it help I currently carbon dating/DNA analyzing two remains belonging to a corspe and a carcass of wolly mammoth preserved in ice to better identify who deserve the leading role :) $\endgroup$ – user6760 Sep 3 '15 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ The stone age lasted almost 3.5 million years. Humans as we know them today lived during this time, as well as neanderthals. They both used tools, not simple sticks. There is no major difference between us and them. They had the same brain as us, but very low technology. If you want to use "shaved monkeys with sticks" in your story, you should choose some of our more distant ancestors. $\endgroup$ – Babika Babaka Sep 3 '15 at 9:49

First, it is believed that many of our ancestors really didn't have much less potential than we have. We have better education and nutrition.

Second, hunter gatherers likely created many legends, such as stories about the spirits, gods, and magic. Many of the Hunter gatherer tribes that still exist perform magic to this day. So I think you are giving them less credit than they are due. If your people are Homo Sapiens then the of the potential brain power and imagination to utilize the magic.

  • $\begingroup$ you mean 80,000 or 70,000 years later since the first hunter gatherer took up culinary course we are basically doing the same thing now! we're still cooking up some scary folklore to drive away our fear. In short are you suggesting magic is similar to tool, given times they evolve and gain more features and functionalities! am i mistaken? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Sep 3 '15 at 6:23

Our ancestors did indeed think abstractly. Look into any of the caves of southern europe 35,000 years ago. They are filled with the paintings of animals and sometimes strange animal-headed men. Early man may have painted these animals before going on a hunt, visualizing the animals they wanted to catch. This could have been a magical ritual for them. Or, it could have just been art.

They also spread ochre over an interred body before burying it. Why? It has some ritual significance. Abstract thinking is magical thinking, the belief that doing one thing may affect something else related in indirect ways. We've been doing that for 100,000 years or more.

I would recommend Mircea Eliade's "Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy". This is all about the rituals and spiritual belief systems of primitive central asian cultures. It is not hard to apply these to a prehistoric people, living much the same way.


The fun thing about magic is that you can do anything you want, but in this case I think we can even defend the answer.

One step removed from "true magic" is what many magicians choose to call "illusion." It's the ability to do something that appears so unbelievably unlikely that one is willing to suspend disbelief and think "maybe this could be real magic." A prehistoric person would certainly be able to do illusions. They may not fool us, but they would be sufficient to fool their fellow people.

If they can pull off illusion sufficiently to get their brethren to suspend disbelief, then I would argue there is no gap between us which would prevent them from doing real magic. They can clearly get as close to true magic as we can, so if one believes we are capable of true magic, it is not unreasonable to believe that they could as well.

I would expect any magic to be more wild than we tend to think of. Several millennia of education will teach you the discipline to control magic more precisely. However, whether your shaman summons a perfectly controlled Jaguar spirit, pets it, then commands it to take your throat out, or if the shaman summons an erratic wild Jaguar spirit, bordering on dispersion, which on its own volition takes your throat as an offering, I think we find it to be magic either way.

Perhaps they could even be better than us at it. After all, children all do magic until they are taught that they cannot as part of their education. Who knows what a primitive person could do without such an education to apply limitations.

  • $\begingroup$ on top of being the cunningest creature that ever walks the earth the master of deception just got better they start off as an illusionist... no wonder the rest of the animal kingdom couldn't stand a chance... at all! $\endgroup$ – user6760 Sep 3 '15 at 6:30

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