February 2013

Throughout the first four weeks of this class, I have learned a lot about what it would take to survive back in the caveman times. My favorite day so far was the day that we made, or attempted to make, fire. Prior to that day, I had always thought that making fire only required rubbing any old two sticks together. But it turns out that there’s a lot more to it, and it takes a heck of a lot more work and energy. I came to realize that I would’ve had to have been the “moocher” to survive, otherwise I would’ve frozen to death for sure. I also thoroughly enjoyed the day we were weaving. That day really opened my eyes to how really all life was back in the day was just working to survive. There were few luxuries; most of the activities were making essential items to keep everyone alive. Weaving also made me realize how much patience was needed. Putting my ADHD aside, I still would’ve gone crazy after weaving the same pattern for > 30 minutes. At this point, I’m going to have to say that I would’ve really struggled living back then. Life would’ve been so hard! I am really bummed that I have had to miss a few classes so far, because I really have enjoyed this class so far. I look forward to what is in store for the rest of the semester!

Zack Wentz

Throughout the first 4 weeks of this class, I have learned how much harder it was for people, who lived thousands of years ago, to do the simplest things in life.  With the inventions of better technology and tools, we have easily been able to do things like light a fire or provide clothes for our families and ourselves.  The first class was an introduction to the course, and we played games that primitive people might have played when they didn’t have all the activities like we do in this day in age.  In the second class meeting, we were required to do one of the things that most people take for granted today: making fire.  Instead of simply pulling out a lighter and having fire, we used sticks and other simple materials.  In our next class, we were taught how to spin wool.  Using a spindle and wool, we were able to see for ourselves how people needed to first spin and prepare the wool before anything.  After spinning the wool, we were taught how people colored their wool.  Using all natural materials to make the dyes, we dyed our wool and were also given a chance to weave wool on the loom.  In the most recent class, we made pots, sculptures, and oil lamps out of clay.  After learning about all of the techniques for these processes of the past, it gives me a real appreciation for the technology and ease of living in this era.  While all of the techniques were very interesting and fun to learn, they would just be too inefficient and time-consuming in today’s day in age. 

The last few classes of the Human Survival FSEM has been incredibly eventful.  My favorite part of it so far was the second class (first hands-on one) where we split into groups of 4 and made fire.  My group was able to make it and truly understood how difficult it really is to make a spark.  After that, we learned to appreciate simple things like clothing when it came time to make thread out of wool.  This relaxing task turned out to be more mesmerizing than expected and had me spinning thread without even realizing it.  The week after we went over to the dying section and learned about all the different ingredients.  Although some of it did smell, it was interesting to learn about how to make the different colours and what was really put into them.  I really appreciated our last class period where we made clay pots, figurines, and other various things.  Pottery is something that almost every ancient society has shared and it was incredibly interesting to be a part of that.


Patrick Brown

The first three weeks of freshman seminar have been a great experience. This class is such a unique course. I am glad that I have the opportunity to take it! Learning to do simple tasks in the “primitive” way has made me appreciate modern technology as well as appreciate historical societies. Fire-making really jumpstarted the whole process of appreciating historical communities. It was definitely much harder than expected! I thought that we would have our fire started within 5 minutes, however it proved to take much longer. In fact, we have yet to make a fire! The second activity in freshman seminar was wool spinning. This was also very interesting and my underestimation of the difficulty of the task paralleled that of fire-making. The string kept breaking and the coordination of spinning while pulling proved to be very difficult. I really enjoyed today’s activity working with clay. I haven’t molded anything with clay since middle school, so it was a lot of fun! It is also exciting to build the utensils that we will be using to toast grain and brew beer. I am excited to create a product completely from scratch!

In these first weeks of Human Survival, I have learned many things about how life must have been like thousands of years ago.  Thinking about the grueling process of spinning thread to make any sort of clothing or cloth for everyday use seems like it would have taken eternity.  The dying process probably took many hundreds of years to perfect and find the right mixture of natural dyes in the resources early humans had available to them.  We take so many of these objects for granted.  In modern day, no one has even a moment to consider where their clothes come from or how any of their food was prepared.  We have machines to do most of our work for us and electricity waiting to be used at the touch of a button or flip of a switch.

It is hard to even comprehend how early humans were able to survive on the raw resources they had available to them.  Every fire needed to keep warm or cook food required so much effort.  Although many of the tasks we try to simulate seem so easy and mindless, it must have taken a lot  of innovation and creativity to think one day, “Oh, I am going to gather this hard mud in the river and mold it into a bowl! Then I’ll burn it to set it and it will become ceramic!” It is simply incredible what people thousands of years ago were able to survive off of. 


Elizabeth Lee

I’ve enjoyed the first weeks of this course, mostly surprised either by the difficulty or the time-consuming factor of the activity. Where in today’s world it would have taken me about ten minutes to get a couple of items of clothing, it would have taken me about ten times as much only to produce the thread necessary to make an item or two of clothing. The problem is that this would have taken all day; or rather it was an all day job. Though it wouldn’t have been difficult, it was too simple to not become boring. Then there’s the fire making, which I did not think would be that difficult at first. But when we actually attempted to make fire, we could barely manage to whip up some smoke, not to mention the embers that were supposed to go into the nest. The hand drill seemed like the easiest method… turned out to be the hardest one. Pottery was not any kinder to me. Slowly but surely I was able to make the required items but others fared better and were able to make projects of their own. Though humanity may have managed to find ways to increase production value and decrease time as well as energy use, it would not do so well without technology. Suffice to say, I wouldn’t do so well myself. But people have groups, so maybe I could contribute by gathering berries if I were to fail at hunting.

Jerardo Perez

So far, this class has been a lot of fun and a great learning experience. Learning to make a fire with only friction was something that I had wanted to do for the better half of my life. After many trials and fantastic effort from each member of my group, we were finally able to start a fire. It was definitely the most fulfilling experience I’ve had in this class so far. The following week, we learned to spin yarn with a drop spindle and the week after we learned to dye fabrics. Having a mother who absolutely loves knitting, I was particularly interested in learning what it takes to create the yarn that my mother uses every day. For our most recent session, we worked with clay, and I had a blast making an oil lamp, tray, and what sort of resembles a character from a cartoon I like to watch. I can definitely say that I have acquired a few skills over these past few weeks and look forward to learning so much more.

On top of learning all these new skills, I have found that the various discussions we’ve had in the class have given me a few new perspectives. I’ve grown to appreciate the intricacies of spinning and weaving, and more so the various peoples that have weaved to make a living. Even today we discussed the significance of pottery in archaeology, and it’s presence being an indication of potentially finding much more, even if it’s broken or if there are only small fragments around. It’s fascinating to really get a grasp of how people survived in the past, and it gives us an interesting perspective on how we can live our lives today.


-Justin Jiang

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