After watching the documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” about the Chauvet Cave in France, I was curious about the mention of the flute found within one of the caves mentioned in the movie. The flute discovered seems to be one of the earliest indicators of music culture present in our species. It is astounding to think that even approximately 30,000 to 40,000 years ago humans were able to make instruments capable of playing various notes. While their instruments were nowhere near as sophisticated as modern day instruments, the fact that their instruments made of bone were able to work so well while being so simple is remarkable.
Most people tend to see the earlier humans as primitive and barbaric, yet the fact that they had the instruments leads me to wonder if our (and by “our” I mean the general public’s) interpretations of early humans are wrong. Just looking at popular culture, movies such as Encino Man and Iceman portray early humans as barbaric, savage, and unintelligent. While they did not know as much as we do now, they are far from the image modern society has. While they lived long before us, they too had a culture that would surprise many today. When people think of early humans they think of them in loin cloths with clubs, grunting and attacking everything. These people however were skilled in making clothes from animal hides, fashioning gear that helped to fend off the rigid cold that they faced. They also had more sophisticated tools and weapons than is commonly thought. They fashioned impressive spears with feathers attached to help them fly straighter and even made spear heads and harpoon tips that were along the lines of a barbed item so that they would stay in the animal after contact. They also made tools for scraping the guts and fat off of hides so that they could make better clothing from them. Apart from just what they could make, these “savages” as people see them also had art and music. The early man partook in symbolic cave painting of animals and nature, and even of other humans. They sculpted animals and figurines such as those of the Venus of Willendorf and the Lion Man. They even seemed to have ritualistic and religious practices, using caves as places for what seem to be alters and areas of spiritual significance. The early man even practiced burying the dead with care, a sign of deeper thought and thinking along the lines of a higher power at hand.
With a culture like this it is curious to wonder why we see the early humans as being so savage. Perhaps it is because in our current time they seem so primitive to us that we downplay their intelligence to make our own seem more impressive. Or could it be that our society is just not as educated in this area as we probably should be? It seems surprising that so many seem to insult the memory of our ancestors, whom without we would be nowhere. These “savages” were definitely not as civilized as we are today, but with the evidence present they were far from the barbaric monsters they are so often portrayed to be.