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.
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…
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…
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.
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.
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…