Love your inner Neaderthal…

neanderthal_skull_big

 

Science keeps telling us little bits more about the origin of the beautiful creature…

A news story the other day took me back to Genesis chapter 4;

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”[d] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The story in question concerned the latest research about our genome;

Most people living outside Africa can trace up to 4% of their DNA to a Neanderthal origin, a consequence of interbreeding between the two groups after the great migration from the contintent.

 

Anthropologists have long speculated that early humans may have mated with Neanderthals, but the latest study provides the strongest evidence so far, suggesting that such encounters took place around 60,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent region of the Middle East.

 

Small, pioneering groups of modern humans began to leave Africa 80,000 years ago and reached land occupied by the Neanderthals as they spread into Eurasia. The two may have lived alongside each other in small groups until the Neanderthals died out 30,000 years ago.

 

Scientists led by Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig took four years to sequence the whole Neanderthal genome from powdered bone fragments taken from three females who lived in Europe 40,000 years ago.

How are the two related?

My suggestion is that both are part of our continued attempt to make sense of what we are and where we have come from.

The passages in Genesis hinted at how our process of becoming was not just a process of rational logical progress, but that our history is shadowed by darkness, conquest, fratricide. It suggests that way back at the start of the humanity project we were capable of terrible things on a petty whim.

The science tells us that people contain within us the history of our becoming in genetic code. Including the overwhelming of our Neanderthal brothers and sisters, by violence of by sexual submission. Cain kills Abel.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not seeking to make the Bible some kind of code for history, more suggesting that the meaning of one informs our understanding of the other.

(Really) ancient music…


I am not talking cheesy middle of the road, or even a bit of pretentious played-on-cat-gut-strings-baroque.

Apparently some blokes were poking round a cave in Germany recently, and discovered these;

Here is the story from the BBC;

The flutes, made from bird bone and mammoth ivory, come from a cave in southern Germany which contains early evidence for the occupation of Europe by modern humans –Homo sapiens.

Scientists used carbon dating to show that the flutes were between 42,000 and 43,000 years old.

The findings are described in the Journal of Human Evolution.

A team led by Prof Tom Higham at Oxford University dated animal bones in the same ground layers as the flutes at Geissenkloesterle Cave in Germany’s Swabian Jura…

…musical instruments may have been used in recreation or for religious ritual, experts say.

And some researchers have argued that music may have been one of a suite of behaviours displayed by our species which helped give them an edge over the Neanderthals – who went extinct in most parts of Europe 30,000 years ago.

Music could have played a role in the maintenance of larger social networks, which may have helped our species expand their territory at the expense of the more conservative Neanderthals.

To put this in perspective- these flutes are old.

They were ancient long before any kind of Empire- the British, the Spanish, the Moorish, the Monghol, the Roman, the Egyptian, the Babylonian, The Hittite.

The last ice age was still carving our valleys in which we still live.

And people were sitting around fires and laughing at the day. The air was alive with the conversation as people burped out their shared meal. Smoke swirled and children slept in the shadows. Then someone brought out the instruments.

What did they play? Where there other instruments too?

Did they sing? And if so, what did they sing about?

We know that in the area around these caves complex carving and paintings were being produced. Check out the Venus Figurine for example. People were abstracting their experience with art. They were seeking after collective meaning.

All of which is a rather amazing window into where we came from, and perhaps who we still are now, and will be in the future.