Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Long Shadow of the San

Today’s news highlights the findings of 44,000 year old tools and beads that, essentially, are identical to those used by the modern San people of the Kalahari Desert. It pushes back the known use of these tools—which include poison, beeswax, and red paint—by 20,000 years. The researchers commented on the relatively quick emergence of these tools 44,000 years ago at about the time modern people were pushing into Europe.

Well, I’m always excited by anything that pushes ages back. What I’m a little curious about is the proposition of a rapid emergence of this culture. The age for beads, certainly, is young, as beads up to 130,000 old have been discovered. They had to make those beads somehow; and that doesn’t seem too snappy a growth, in my mind. If beads are 130,000 years old, who’s to say poison and paint aren’t, too? It seems they’re describing a fairly complex culture; so I’m wondering if the appearance of rapid emergence is not a perception acquired from not having found earlier artifacts? There had to have been a long gestation period for so many different technologies to have been developed and merged.
Judging from the long-term flow of discoveries in archaeology, it’s looking like the creative explosion came with the emergence of modern humans some 150-200,000 years ago. The one biblical declaration that has made sense to me is: “In the beginning was the Word.” It wasn’t the ability to talk that made the difference—Neanderthals probably had that, as well—it was the realization that we had the ability to talk. It was the “Ah ha!” moment that was all the difference between us and our cousins; we had it, they didn’t.

No comments:

Post a Comment