The Shanidar cave in northern Iraq sheltered Neandertals for tens of thousands of years. During their occupancy, with a brain slightly larger than ours, they evidenced a flickering of mind: the group provided support for its disabled members. Paleo-stratigraphic analysis, layer by layer, gives absolutely no further evidence of change. Nada!
Neandertals, like all life for the last 3.8 billion years, ran on Darwinian Time, where a thousand years is but a moment. Best example: oxygen producing micro-organisms plugged away 1.4 billion years, before significantly changing the composition of our atmosphere. Talk about taking your time!
Spelunking at Chauvet left me reeling. Time is out of joint. No one had taken notice! In the cold and the dark, without warning, bursting through impenetrable rock, raced the Four Horses of Chauvet. From where to whence? Slowly, a great truth crept in, truth hard as any stone: all paleozoic art, whether in indonesia or Spain or France or Romania, wherever, hidden in oracular darkness, yet as visible as the Four Horses bursting into view at Chauvet, sends the same terrifying message: mind, racing, racing, now thunders across the earth, smashing forever Darwinian Time.
All clocks henceforth run on a speed unimaginable!
Consider our atmosphere again. Under Darwinian Time it took micro-organisms 1.4 billion years to create the 12 mile gas envelope necessary for oxygen-breathing life to survive and evolve. In less than 200 years, by burning oil beginning in 1860, we poisoned that life-sustaining atmospheric envelope at stupifying speed.
Throughout the two million years of the pleistocene, hominids worked as tool makers, hammering stone into blades, choppers, scrapers hand axes, utensils, bringing out new models maybe every one thousand centuries. for his daily bread, hunters hunted, gatherers gathered; Nature worked the land and provided the animals.
And then, from out of impenatrable darkness, most strict in its command, came the order:
“Pick a card!”
And Homo sapiens neandertalensis went extinct and our line evolved into Homo sapiens sapiens, switching from hammering stone into tools to hammering marble into a Parthenon. Only 8,000 years after the two great discontinuities, came the Age of Pericles. During the vasty pleistocene, no individual had peeped through that geologic epoch, and now, in a smattering of years, names tumble out like anagram pieces.
It is estimated hominids numbered 10 million ten thousand years ago, 100 million at the time of Christ. Increasing population played a major role in introducing that new sub-species of hominid to the planet -country folk, farmers and herders; before too long, introducing city folk, what with settlements becoming villages becoming towns becoming cities becoming empires. warp speed.
Homo sapiens sapiens changed the clocks of the world. How long did it take mind to transform a cave into a Paleolithic Sistine Chapel? or the hunting-gathering world into local, national, and global politics?
(to be continued)