Prehistoric Pseudo-Facts

We’re in the research phase right now, which means we’re reading things about cavemen and then spouting half-remembered versions at cocktail parties.  Cavemen make pretty good cocktail party conversation, since everybody seems to know some strange thing about cavemen that we didn’t know, and that adds to our growing collection of Prehistoric Pseudo-Facts.

Prehistoric Pseudo-Facts are beautiful.  For one, they seem very profound: they tell us something about who we are, truly, behind the mask of civilization; and yet they are also passed amongst us like folk-tales and the words to old country songs — who knows if they’re true, but we think they are, and that’s because we’d like them to be true.  What’s strange is that they change over time, and from person to person, from culture to culture, explaining the same phenomena in different ways, explaining our inability to explain ourselves in different ways.

Let’s take, for instance, the often-sought reason for our evolutionary success.  After the idea of evolution took hold, and we no longer believed in divine providence, we struck upon the notion that we had proliferated across the planet because we were ingenious and fierce — that we invented weapons to slay gigantic creatures in teams of interdependent warriors.  The women stayed at home, constantly pregnant, and cleaned the cave.  This notion suited a nineteenth-century version of  gender roles and proper human activities.

More recently, evidently (remember that I heard this at a cocktail party), evidence is mounting that we have been successful due to a completely different set of characteristics.   We are not Man the Hunter.  We sat around the fire at night on the savannah and listened for the sound of some fierce predator making a kill.  In the morning, we could stand on our hind legs to see where on the horizon there were vultures gathering.  Then we could walk to the mostly-eaten corpse, arriving after the tiger and the vultures and the wolves and the flies, and our special adaptation was that we could break open bones to eat the marrow.  In other words: Man the Scavenger. Which means: when you’re lying on the couch waiting for the microwave to beep, you’re doing exactly what you’re designed to do.  No more feeling guilty!  You’re not meant to be battling mastodons.  You’re meant to be waiting for your food to appear on its own, just like I’m doing right now.

2 Things

Heinrich Q Wikepedistein delineates two separate Cavemen theatre set cultures, the Freiwandern and the Hohleblieb. Hohleblieb was based on the cave as a sacred location. The show was developed to fit the specific constraints of the cave. Fire and lamplight were used used from a variety of different angles, and the shapeshifting of shadows cast by stalactites was a major attraction at many caves … If you went to a play at Lé Creux ès Fées, you knew you were going to see a dude turn into a tiger at some point in the show.

In a museum setting, these performers would find a way to reflect or deflect light from any source. The projector would be the very best light, and only the Alpha Caveman got to reflect or deflect the projector light (according to Wikepedistein, the Alpha Caveman was usually a woman). If they found cleaning products containing fluorescent dyes, those would definitely be used for set painting.

Freiwandern was the roadshow. As the theatre of the caveless it is replete with underdog trickster themes. Setpieces were lightweight and collapsible for a nomadic lifestyle, a lot of stick and sinew tensegrity structures and umbrella-like handhelds. For a complex show a performer may carry a quiver of umbrellas. Use of local materials served as a crowd-pleasing shout-out to the audience: in this case the performer has used the museum’s supply of powdered wigs to rig some extravagant pants…

 

 

 

http://www.theoldtrouts.org/ignorance/?attachment_id=757


Petrified fire

So reading your blog I had this idea.

What if, before neanderthals discovered fire, they had fire made of rocks? So I set about making that image.

Once it was made I wondered if, instead of fire made of rocks, was it petrified fire in a museum setting in a display of neanderthal life? It could be either…


Neanderthals different species than Humans

There is evidence to support the theory that humans and neanderthals are distinctly separate species.  That we are not evolved from these cave people.  This was a peaceful species that were loving and cared for each other.  Not that different from humans,  they bred and intermingled with humans.  Modern descendants of this mating are those with the almost extinct red haired gene.  There are recent studies that show that people with this gene have a higher pain threshold.

The Birdmen of Saint Kilda

Evidently there’s an island off the coast of Scotland called Saint Kilda, where once lived a people called the Birdmen of Saint Kilda, who only recently ceased to exist.  They were so called because they lived off seabirds, being the only edible creatures available, since their island is very remote.  They were visited occasionally by priests over the centuries, which they didn’t like much, because the priests gave them colds and also wanted them to feel guilty about things they enjoyed.  They were otherwise by-and-large undisturbed until the Second World War, when the British came to put a radar installation, and they knew nothing about war until a German submarine came to shell the installation.  That wasn’t the end of the Birdmen of Saint Kilda, though; when they heard from the British soldiers what luxuries they had in the big cities of the United Kingdom, they finally deserted the island they had called home for as long as anyone could remember.  Their stone houses are still there, but what’s marvellous is that if you asked them then where they came from, they could point to the caves where they lived before they built their houses.

Manuports

It is thought that this is earliest example of a art object, that we know of….its 3 million years old, and was found in a cave along with basic tools of  some  Australopithecus afarensis

it was not like any of the rocks where it was found, but mineral evidence suggests that it was found in a river bed  30 km away and carried by one of our ancestors, who recognized the face in it, liked it and decided to carry it home….this is evidence of our having abstract thoughts and imagination at this early time….

Obviously this was not the first time we recognized ourselves in the world, but the first time we are vaguely aware that we were capable of this, in our pre homo sapian world…

what about before this  evidence even, surely we looked at our early faces in a stream and wondered who we were, at least, or spotted a mole on our mates hairy ass, that looked exactly like a bird,  until we were chased away by some more immediate need or danger that is…

archaeologists have been going mad looking for the missing link on our journey from ape to man, but it is all missing links…perhaps our earlier ancestors picked up some semi-fossilized piece of the puzzle, sat and wondered about, before tossing it into the bush, never to be found…with no idea that we would spend lifetimes scratching at the dirt in search of these clues millions of years later…

what will the highly evolved light being version of ourselves think of our crude search?



13 Responses to Prehistoric Pseudo-Facts

  1. jen says:

    Those prehistoric pseudo-facts represent the life and the way of living of our ancestors. Just like the cave art, the image shows that primitive men go for hunting, stone building and fire making. All the artifacts found by the experts are one of the greatest representations of how people in older times survived without any technology but by means of productivity, creativity, hard work and skills.

    -Mobilewebdesignonline.com

  2. ginglymus says:

    I thought I would add in a few facts about Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens by explaining a theory of the extinction of Neanderthals. Yes, humans could have survived all this year because we are brave, strong, and intellectuals… but I think this is a very optimistic/delusional view. In fact we named ourselves wise man, which is the English meaning of Homo Sapien (from Latin). Homo Sapiens are not only scavengers, but we also have an innate ability to be either a coward or a hero. We have a region in our brain called the inferior and superior colliculi, which allows us to react innately to danger (as indicated by a sudden sound or noise) either by running away or jumping into a fight (the fight or flight response). I’m assuming when any beast came our way we ran, and thus saving our hinies from extinction. On the other hand, there is evidence that when we came into contact with comparable, or maybe more docile species such as Neanderthals (they appear to have a reputation for being as friendly as Mr. Rogers), then our fighting tendencies kicked in (as we have seen throughout the history of man, we tend to rape and pillage when we feel or want to feel superior). One of the theories (and I’d say one of the more interesting ones) is that Homo Sapiens actually performed mass genocide and eliminated our competition before spreading out beyond Africa. In fact a recent article suggests that Homo Sapiens may have actually killed Neanderthals like they slaughter any animal, ate the their tongues (and probably the majority of their tasty meats), then made decorative jewellery out of their teeth.
    There is a nice overview of all the theories of this puzzling relationship in the times:
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1913769,00.html

    PS: I saw Famous Puppet Death Scenes in the Regina Globe Theatre in 2004, and I was finally able to track down your production. I must say, as cliche as it sounds, you rocked my world.

  3. ginglymus says:

    I thought I would add in a few facts about Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens by explaining a theory of the extinction of Neanderthals. Yes, humans could have survived all this year because we are brave, strong, and intellectuals… but I think this is a very optimistic/delusional view. In fact we named ourselves wise man, which is the English meaning of Homo Sapien (from Latin). Homo Sapiens are not only scavengers, but we also have an innate ability to be either a coward or a hero. We have a region in our brain called the inferior and superior colliculi, which allows us to react innately to danger (as indicated by a sudden sound or noise) either by running away or jumping into a fight (the fight or flight response). I’m assuming when any beast came our way we ran, and thus saving our hinies from extinction. On the other hand, there is evidence that when we came into contact with comparable, or maybe more docile species such as Neanderthals (they appear to have a reputation for being as friendly as Mr. Rogers), then our fighting tendencies kicked in (as we have seen throughout the history of man, we tend to rape and pillage when we feel or want to feel superior). One of the theories (and I’d say one of the more interesting ones) is that Homo Sapiens actually performed mass genocide and eliminated our competition before spreading out beyond Africa. In fact a recent article suggests that Homo Sapiens may have actually killed Neanderthals like they slaughter any animal, ate the their tongues (and probably the majority of their tasty meats), then made decorative jewellery out of their teeth.
    There is a nice overview of all the theories of this puzzling relationship in the times:
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1913769,00.html

  4. cimmeron says:

    Check out this alternate theory on how we evolved.. not from apes at all but fish! Is it possible that everything we think we know about our evolution is all miss information?
    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/elaine_morgan_says_we_evolved_from_aquatic_apes.html

  5. jackson says:

    I am still kind of chuckling that our “hind legs” gave us that unique view over the savannah…
    ps…what is the savannah?

    • Judd Trout says:

      “A savanna, or savannah, is a grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently small or widely spaced so that the canopy does not close…. Savanna covers 20% of the Earth’s land area. The largest area of savanna is in Africa.”

      I.e., it’s where we first evolved. Now, here’s an odd thing I read once about it: wolves and humans are competitive predators in this kind of ecosystem, and they say that humans mimicked wolf social structure as they evolved. Pack-hunting, hunting techniques. And then they started to hunt together. We did this happily for thousands of years until we developed agriculture, which made wolves into our enemies. In some strange way this explains why they have such a peculiar place in our mythical world — over-demonized, because they’re a kind of ghost of our old ways. In the nineteenth century Europeans in America almost exterminated them, as they almost exterminated human nomadic hunters. I remember going to the Albany Fandangle, in Albany, Texas, which is a strange kind of play put on by one half of the town for the other half (they switch roles the next year), including cowboy songs, comedy skits, and historical re-enactments; the basic thrust of the story they told about the history of that part of Texas was the war between cowboys (vestiges of nomadic modes of living, who followed herds of horned beasts without regard for borders) and the farmers and ranchers, who wanted fences. The principal method of fighting in this war was fire — destroying grazing lands or fences of the other side. Much of Texas was burned in the struggle between these two forces. In other words, the relationship between hunter-gatherer and farmer is not peaceful, and the transition from one stage to the next was probably very bloody. And although the agricultural/land-based/blood & soil mode of living is pretty dominant now, the struggle is actually still going on, if not in the real world, at very least in our dreams, where wolves and wolf-men are still threatening and alluring.

  6. jackson says:

    Hello all,
    1- Felt a particular urge to comment on “clan of the cave bear” as I have always made fun of my lady for being obsessed with these books. She was happy to read the reference. I’m currently
    tanning my winter jacket with my urin and sunshine
    2- I think the structure for this process is brilliant as it sort of imposes a level of anonymity that the Old Trout Puppet Workshop has always encouraged.
    3- Recently I’ve been looking int0 neuroplasticity as a definible part of our existence/development. which is so obvious when we compare ourselves to cavepeople but suddenly becomes unquestionable in the past five hundred years…
    4-For the Narrator… I really like the idea of the stuffy imperialist who has devoted their life to some kind of pseudoscientific discovery that gets linked to all kinds of erronius (however you spell that) conclusions that ultimately are rooted in race and culture and manner but become completely unravelled by the thourough and unbiassed scientific discoveries that point to humanism rather than a socially adopted sence of race or class.
    ie:we all come from africa?! etc…

  7. spider says:

    I think you would be doing yourselves and your potential audience a great disservice if you didn’t read and draw from the “Earth’s Children” series of novels by Jean M. Auel, especially “Clan of the Cave Bear”. It’s like the author totally had a time machine and used it to study the very subject of your new show!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Clan_of_the_Cave_Bear
    Check it out! Hi Judd!

    • Judd Trout says:

      One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen:
      my dearest buddy Dave, in Grade Five, enacting a prehistoric ritual for his book report on Clan of the Cave Bear. As I remember it, he dressed in some strange fur coat from his parent’s closet, tied around his waist, and grunted and chanted and danced around the class-room, flinging oregano (magical herb) into the air and into a tupperware container (ritual stone bowl). Stunning.
      What makes it more amazing is that I know for a fact that he didn’t read the book. He and I spent many hours flipping through it for the bits when Broud and Ayla would do strange and wonderful things together. So the prehistoric ritual, having nothing to do with the book, was just something deep inside Dave that had to come out.

  8. Judd Trout says:

    And another thing: our digestive systems, too, might well be built for mastodon meat and berries, and very ill-suited for most of the things we eat nowadays, which are products of this new-fangled agriculture thing. I’ve heard there’s a movement amongst nutritionally-minded people to eliminate agricultural products entirely from our diet. Not sure if they’re fringe crazies or geniuses.

  9. Judd Trout says:

    I’ve always meant to read that book. I even think we have it in the Trout library. Thank you.
    The transition between hunter-gatherer and agricultural modes fascinates the hell out of me, too. Two pseudo-facts on that subject that I like:
    One: you would expect that when humans started farming their lives got to be much easier, because all they needed to do was wait for crops to grow, which is supposed to created the surplus of time and energy that created civilization (reading, writing, art, philosophy, and so on). But archaeological evidence (evidently) actually shows that the average farming human lived a shorter life with more danger of disease than the average hunter-gatherer — except for a small ruling class who lived fat and easy. In other words, the invention of agriculture was also the invention of inequality, since hunter-gatherers couldn’t manage to survive unless they were all pulling together. Farmers can be exploited more easily than fellow hunters.

    Two: evidently (and this contradicts the previous pseudo-fact about humans-as-scavengers not humans-as-hunters) you can see from the fossil record that humans slowly developed more and more sophisticated and beautiful hunting weapons meant for killing huge beasts. And then there’s a stage where the spear-heads get smaller and smaller, pointing to the fact that we’d hunted all the big game out of existence, and all we could find to kill was rabbits and mice. In the meantime, the women back at the cave had noticed that seeds could be planted and plants could be cultivated, so as the male hunting gangs brought back less and less, the women were inventing farming. So what you get, in the end: depressed and useless men sitting around the fire talking about their glory days, resenting the new invention of farming, while women create the possibility of Plato and Michelangelo and Lady Gaga.
    One of the things that’s most interesting about our prehistoric origins, to me, is this: the possibility that we are not genetically constructed to function in modern society. There hasn’t been enough time for us to evolve to deal with farming let alone the internet. So we’re essentially still exactly the same creatures, physiologically and neurologically, that evolved to battle mastodons and live in caves in small tribal groups, except that now we’re supposed to spend our lives quite differently. There are outlets, like football, video games, and bar-fights, but essentially we’re cro-magnons living lives of quiet desperation.

  10. CBedford says:

    I just came across your project and the timing is really weird for me…I’m a theatre artist in Ottawa, and a lot of the ideas you are using as your starting point are things that have been buzzing through my brain for a while now.
    Since you are in the research phase, I have some recommended reading for you
    The book is “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn
    It has nothing at all to do with prehistoric man. Instead it looks at the divide between modern man and his hunter-gatherer ancestors and how we got to where we are today. A key idea in the book is that modern man cannot be happy because he is living out of balance/in conflict with nature and that things like self medication are a result of that conflict.
    It’s a great piece of philosophy and has some powerful ideas at its heart…I hope that it inspires your
    creative process.
    I’m very interested in what you are doing with this project and especially how you intend to create the show.
    I’ll check in again soon.
    Cheers,
    Chris

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