Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Brings History to Life!

The premise of this movie is that these two kids, Bill and Ted, who are teenage rebels, need to pass their history class in order for Ted not to be sent to military school. Both are not studious and would rather rock n’ roll than study! To pass their history class, they need to present an oral report on how historical figures would think of their town, San Dimas, California. They ask, unsuccessfully, random people in the convenience store historical questions. The days is saved, however, when their future friend Rufus comes with the time machine. Their first stop in time is in 1805 where they meet and kidnap Napoleon Bonaparte himself! Amusingly, the film keeps the language barriers intact :) Related imageThey also go to the old west and meet Billy The Kid, but not before a shootout! Along their way, they also visit Socrates (who speaks Ancient Greek) teaching a class, dodge the inquisition and meet Joan of Arc, and for extra credit, also take Sigmund Freud, Beethoven, Genghis Khan, and Abraham Lincoln! They tried to take two daughters of king Henry VI, but were unsuccessful and nearly get beheaded! Once back in the modern world, Bill introduces them as “friends” to his mother and she has all of them do household chores before they go out to the mall to experience San Dimas for their assignment.

The historical figures’ cultural clashes come to fruition when in the mall, and create absolute havoc! Among their antics, Genghis Khan goes into a sports store and smashes everything, Beethoven plays on an electric keyboard, Joan of Arc usurps an aerobicsImage result for bill and ted's excellent adventure class, and the others create their own mischief ending in a wild chase by mall security! Napoleon goes out bowling with modern friends, but is ditched and has to be found. Quote humorously he is found at a water park named “Waterloo”. Meanwhile, the police arrested the other historical figures, so Bill and Ted hatch a plan to get them free in time for the presentation. Once freed, they do an excellent presentation and pass! They return the historical figures back, but in a plot twist, they kept two of King Henry VI’s daughters, who initially was thought to have been left behind, who joined their rock band!

Overall, I thought the premise of the movie was very clever and would help get kids into history more! I liked that the movie was lighthearted with some funny action. There weren’t many deep messages or dark themes, but it was still good as it was a comedy movie. Mot importantly, I like how they handled the culture clash between each Related imagehistorical figure’s time period and culture and their peculiarities were unique to them as individuals from different cultures and time periods. I especially loved that they kept the language barriers of the historical figures like Napoleon and Socrates as it made it that much more authentic. It is often overlooked for convenience to the modern viewer, but it takes away a lot of the realism of portraying an out of place historical person! I commend the research and training to portray each of the correct languages! I also like the costumes as they were historical clothing as well as the scenes in the past which were also rendered quite  authentically. My only criticism was how oblivious the rest of the world was to how much those historical people stuck out! I mean really, especially with Napoleon bowling and at the restaurant, no one seemed to notice his odd clothing or the fact he speaks only French! Also, the scene introducing them to Bill’s mom, it’s like she’s never heard of any of them and was completely oblivious that they all stuck out like a sore thumb with their clothes and bogus names (which weren’t too far off from their real ones) and at the police station booking them! All I could think of was “Hello! These are REAL historical figures right in front of you! Really? You didn’t notice?” The premise was hilarious and one of my very favorite things to imagine when I think of my own historical fiction; the culture clash between past and present. I love that more movies are taking on the subject and this one did it splendidly!

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Full Movie!

Posted in Ancient History, Early Modern History, Helping Make History More Interesting, Humor, Middle Ages, Military, Modern History, Renaissance, Reviews | Leave a comment

The Sad Story of Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman

In the early 1800’s the Dutch occupied South Africa. As future history showed, the Dutch have not treated the indigenous population kindly then and up into the late 20th century. In general, the attitude at that time was very imperialist, and Europeans in general took a condescending and dim view of anyone who wasn’t westernized. This led to some pretty stark ethical breeches by today’s standards and one particular case stands out among the rest:

Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman was a native African person in Dutch South Africa belonging to the Khoikhoi people, also known as the “Hottentots”, a name given to them by the Dutch for what they thought their language sounded like. She was exhibited in freak shows as a “savage” for her incredibly large butt! (“Saartjie” is the Dutch diminutive of Sarah, a pet name for her). She was nicknamed the “Hottentot Venus” and exhibited in England and France as well as in South Africa. In South Africa, she lived in Cape Town and worked for a man called Hendrik Cesars. She was a wet nurse for his family and then exhibited by him. In England, controversy ensued as even in the early 1800’s, many were shocked at the dehumanizing spectacle she was put through.

Cesars would keep her in a cage and attach a leash to a collar she wore. He would parade her around like a wild animal with a whip and she was instructed to act like an aggressive animal too. She wore tight fitting translucent clothing to reveal her large butt and “savage” features. At the end of the show, he’d even let the audience touch her butt for extra pay! Many thought the show quite dehumanizing! England abolished slavery not long before she was shown in 1810 (slavery was abolished in 1807), so many did feel it bordered on being slavery. The African Association who were abolitionists took the most offense to the shows she was in and brought it to the English courts! However, the courts decided to drop the case when she testified to participating in the shows of her own free will, which was most likely coerced out of her by Cesars.  In France though, she had an even rougher time, and was essentially a slave there even more than in England. In France scientists studied her to look for evidence of European superiority by judging her large butt and elongated labia as evidence of inferiority to Europeans!

Sarah Baartman died at the young age of 26 in 1815 possibly due to a disease such as syphilis or pneumonia. Some theorize alcoholism as well, but no one did an autopsy to confirm anything despite doing a dissection. Her sexual organs, skeleton and brain were put on exhibit in France until the 1970’s, but her remains were eventually repatriated to South Africa in 2002 after they pressured France. Her legacy today represents the exploitation that when on by Europeans of native peoples who they thought were inferior. There was an interesting movie made about her story in 2010 called ” Vénus Noire” on YouTube that I found quite fascinating!

The film really captures the dehumanizing treatment she endured and the exploitation. She was clearly unhappy and did not like to be paraded around and poked and prodded.  Hendrik Cesars clearly manipulated her by guilt tripping her into performing. I am all for taking things in historical context and not letting our modern values cloud how we see history, but it was hard to watch how he treated her in the performances. I thought he was quite rough with her, and it would have been better if he was more gentle during the shows. He was also very abusive toward her off stage as well. If she were a wild animal, I wouldn’t blame her one bit for being agitated and want to lash out! Cesars shouldn’t even handle a real wild animal, in my opinion! I was surprised though how progressive England was on the matter though, in real life and in the movie. It was nice to see some people try to speak up for her, even though it was to no avail. As for the racially biased scientists in France, we now know they were wrong, but at the time one should keep in mind that was the general view of the day, that physical features could be indicators in intellect and civilized behavior. It was true they helped exploit her, and dehumanize her, but I consider them more a product of their time period than deliberately abusive like Cesars. Overall, her life was tragic and cut too short. She was unhappy and abused by Cesars, and that’s why I’m so saddened by her story, more than the attitudes of the time period.

No one, including me, wants to ever see that side of history repeated in the Western world again, but in some ways, we swung too far the other way. Many anthropologists now have to walk on eggshells to study indigenous peoples due to the gross injustices that were once carried out back then. True, we never want to repeat those injustices again, but now we cannot seem to study indigenous peoples more frankly in fear of being “politically incorrect” and coming to conclusions deemed “insensitive”. I do not find that it was wrong for scientists to want to study her, or her people, but nowadays, we should do it with humility off any pedestal of superiority. The most progressive thing in my opinion for anthropologists to do is to study the culture and behaviors of the people without the judgement and bias of the past scholars. I understand though, too, that the scientists back in Sarah’s time followed the beliefs and conventions of their day, as we do ours. I give them the scholarly courtesy of not adding our own cultural bias in judging their actions, even though they wouldn’t have! Who knows what we are getting wrong? I think Sarah Baartman serves as an example of how NOT to study another people!

More detailed information: Sarah Baartman

Posted in Archaeology and Anthropology, Early Modern History, Opinion Piece, Reviews | 1 Comment

Signs That You Aren’t Actually “Studying” History

This is the first time I have made a post in this exact format, but I hope you enjoy it and become more aware of how to spot unscholarly bias and agendas in sources and your own research into history. I got the idea to create a list from this science blog “Respectful Insolence” which debunks pseudoscience in medicine! Some of the points listed in the original post are quite humorously worded! (Respectful Insolence Original Blog Post ) I hope I do almost as well. I tried my best to mix the silly and the serious :)

You Aren’t Studying History If…

  1. You use a historical event in the distant past that is in no way related to a contemporary situation to push your own political/nationalistic agenda
  2. You in addition to the above, use your own cherry picked conclusions to oppress and persecute people, or conversely, idolize and glorify a group of people
  3. You comb through history and cherry pick events to suit your own propaganda purposes
  4. This would include spinning a romanticized narrative about a country, group of people, religion, political party, etc…
  5. You claim some ancient peoples are your descendants with no historical evidence of any genetic or especially cultural connection to you in order to claim rights to certain places
  6. This also includes whole civilizations!
  7. You spin a historical event and romanticize it to further your social justice campaign without actually researching if the event in question is even relevant to today’s problems
  8. You use past events of discrimination as an excuse to further your special interest group’s agendas that have no relation to the problems faced by your group in the present day
  9. You blatantly lie and create a hoax!
  10. You create fake artifacts to fool museums for profit, which is also an example of #9
  11. You would downplay the prominence of a historical figure who is quote “privileged” in race, gender, sexuality, religion etc… yet play up the contributions of one who is in a minority group who in historical reality, did not have as big a contribution as the more “privileged” one. This includes substituting a woman for a man even if the man did play a bigger role in history as one example, or a person of a minority race, sexuality, religion etc… who did not genuinely match the contributions of a more “privileged” person in history.
  12. You cherry pick which historical tragedies such as wars, genocides, acts of violence, etc… are more important and overlook others because they do not affect your own special interest group applying a double standard without historical basis for one event being more far reaching than the other.
  13. You cherry pick said events because they do or don’t involve your politics
  14. You overlook the bad in historical people to glorify them and your cause or conversely, overlook the good in them to vilify them for your cause
  15. You censor history that you find undesirable and inconvenient to your agenda
  16. You only teach one side of the story but not let others know how the other side felt and why to influence the next generation of scholars to go with your agenda
  17. You “discover” (i.e. plant)  artifacts to use as “evidence” of your fabricated version of history
  18. You discard actual scholarly research in favor of some sensational pop culture explanation ignoring the true significance and complexity of your discovery
  19. You research genuine history, but ascribe value judgments based on your own contemporary cultural values  instead of looking at it through their circumstances and cultural matrix. (We can always make some personal conclusions in our personal opinions based on facts, but it is our personal opinions, not our historical analysis.)
  20. This also includes criticizing how they handled their problems based on the outcome we now know happened through studying history, but they could have not known until after the fact! (After all, even we can’t see our own future, we can only guess in the end and do our best to create the outcome we want…)
  21. You create simplistic stereotypes, good or bad, of historical groups of people to create a romantic image or vilify them because it makes you feel good about yourself or them. (This is similar to # 14 and 15, but applies to more than one individual person).
  22. You think “Ancient Aliens” created every great historical structure :)
  23. You believe every fringe conspiracy theory hook line and sinker! (Including #22 :)
  24. You disregard the great accomplishments of a historical figure due to views you find offensive and outdated to you personally but had no influence on what they achieved for the good of humanity
  25. You use events in the distant past as an excuse for a war and/or an eternal grudge!
  26. You claim “victim hood” because of a historical event that happened generations before you were even born!
  27. In addition, you demand reparations for wrongdoings decades, or even centuries in the past after the conflict has been long concluded and resolved, kind of an “ex post facto”…
  28. Lastly, you do any of the above and claim to study history in a scholarly manner while fully knowing you’re not ;)

Here’s one final challenge: I did my best to keep it general and not allude too much to any specific example, but make general rules. The challenge is, can YOU find one or more real-world examples of each??? Also on one last note, everyone has some bias, even me :) No one will ever be the “perfect scholar” as no one is perfect! The best we can do as historians is to humbly admit when we do have bias, and seek to be more self aware of it. Which brings me to the extra credit part of the challenge: Which rules have you broke yourself?…

Related image

Posted in Archaeology and Anthropology, Helping Make History More Interesting, Humor, Opinion Piece, Satire | Leave a comment

Behavioral Modernity in “The Croods”!

The way cavemen have been portrayed in film and the media is often full of stereotypes and was not made for intellectual enrichment, unfortunately. The Croods is a movie made in 2013 about a family of cavemen in a sort of whimsical fantasy prehistoric world. The premise is that their home is destroyed, so they must find a new place to live and settle down. The whole family is mostly unintelligent and like stereotypical cavemen, but the main character, their teenage daughter Eep, shows more intelligence and curiosity which often made her clash with her “old-fashioned” father. During their journey, they meet a more anatomically (and cognitively!) modern human. He shows them his new “inventions”, which are humorously anachronistic played for comedy, and becomes attracted to the teenage daughter Eep which also perturbs the father, Grug. The film overall was average, nothing stood out of too much note plotwise, but one aspect many that have reviewed it including scholars seem to have overlooked is the theme of behavioral modernity and cognitive evolution portrayed in the film. In my opinion, it was quite sophisticated, even if it wasn’t fully intentional!

“Although often debated, most scholars agree that modern human behavior can be characterized by abstract thinking, planning depth, symbolic behavior (e.g. art, ornamentation, music), exploitation of large game, and blade technology, among others” (Wikipedia)

“A more terse definition of the evidence is the behavioral B’s: blades, beads, burials, bone toolmaking, and beauty.” (Wikipedia)

The character Guy, the modern human, shows many of the traits of behavioral modernity and more advanced cognitive skills than the other cave people. Anatomically, too, he is set apart from them as they all have more robust and stocky bodies. I actually do wonder if the creators of the film actually did consult with some paleoarchaeologists! I can only hope! I also find it amusing that they named him “Guy”, as in just a person. It’s similar to “Adam” being called “Adam” as the word merely means “man” in Hebrew, or “Everyman” in The Pilgrim’s Progress. It sends the message that yes, even though he’s primitive, he’s just another guy like you or me! Perhaps he represents modern humans as a whole just as Everyman in Pilgrim’s Progress represents all Christians. Moving on to the main point though, I made a list of specific examples of how Guy demonstrates behavioral modernity in his cognition:

  1. The Ability to Use and Control Fire

In the first scene with him, Eep discovers Guy when she sees a torch of fire that he made. Guy is capable of making and controlling the fires he makes and shows the others Related imagehow to do it. In one humorous scene, the family is amazed by his control of fire and accidentally sets their environment on fire when Eep’s brother tired to play with it! He also uses fire in another scene near the end to deter animals from swarming around him and Eep. Cooking food is also another human universal, made possible by fire! Guy does that too, to the Crood’s delight.


2. Domestication of Animals

Image result for the croods GuyGuy has a pet monkey-like creature that he takes care of. Modern humans domesticated the dog around 14,700 years ago. This was an important leap for humanity as it led to other higher-thinking behaviors in controlling aspects of nature down the road for the neolithic revolution. Many believe that the domestication of the dog arose out of a symbiotic relationship with wild dogs, humans would feed them and they gave humans protection.


3. Use of Blade Technology

Guy uses blade tools in the film. This is thought to be one of the marks of the “Great LeapImage result for behavioral modernity blades Forward” in human cognition around 50,000 years ago. Earlier hominids used tools too, but not to the level of sophistication that modern humans have made. However, 50,000 years ago tool designs really took off though! Tools went from more thick blunt pieces of flint, to thin pieces five times sharper than a modern-day scalpel!


4. Self Ornamentation

One can see that Guy wears jewelry to adorn himself as well as pigment. This was evidence of a great cognitive leap; a sense of self and the abstract concept of what is Image result for the croods Guyaesthetically pleasing. One has to have a certain level of self-awareness in order to care about how one looks and is perceived by others. There is more evidence of modern humans adorning their bodies, but some evidence is coming to light that Neanderthals did it too, but to a lesser extent. I noticed the other family members of the Croods did not adorn themselves the way Guy did, so I wonder if they did that on purpose. I assume it was to show his superior cognition visually too.

5. Abstract Thought

This one by far is the most important in my mind, and overarches to connect with all the other traits of behavioral modernity. Without our increased ability for abstract thought, we wouldn’t have any of the other traits. Guy demonstrates is increased capacity for it in his numerous inventions that the Croods were mostly incapable of thinking and imagining something new and unheard of. Guy’s ability to invent shows advanced problem solving skills and an imagination, which is in the abstract! He also shows it in his self-awareness in decorating himself and how he used fire to fend off animals. The most prominent scene that comes to mind though is when he disguised himself to be an animal for protection. This shows his ability to imagine being something he is not, which we may take for granted as simple, but is a massive cognitive achievement compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. The ability to imagine creating something and having a mental image of the finished product in your head is also a mark of behavioral modernity. While earlier humans had limited versions of those abilities, they really took off in the Great Leap forward 50,000 years ago!

Image result for the croods Guy disguised

This music video shows some of the scenes he displays his behavioral modernity! Can you spot some examples too?



Posted in Helping Make History More Interesting, Opinion Piece, Paleolithic and Neolithic, Reviews | 1 Comment

Latin and Spanish: More Cool Cognates :)

(I want to start this post off with a personal note: This post is specially dedicated to my awesome Spanish teacher I had in High School. Everyone knows an enthusiastic, dedicated teacher makes all the difference and helps inspire one’s passions in life. Thank you for being an above and beyond teacher and letting your passion shine through everyday for what you do. You enthusiasm for languages was contagious and I think I caught it! Muchos gracias. ¡Esto es para ti!)

The Romance Languages were all derived from Latin. This included Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and Catalan. The Roman Empire stretched as far as the Iberian Peninsula where Spain and Portugal are, as well as the rest of Europe into the Middle East. The Romans owned the Mediterranean Sea at the height of their expansion! Naturally, the conquered peoples started to Romanize and started to speak Latin. However, a funny thing happened, their “Latin” started to drift a bit from the Latin spoken by the Romans. Since they were isolated from each other, they developed their own dialects of “Latin”, but believed they were speaking what the Romans spoke! It was only until Rome was long Christianized and was losing power after the Vandals raided in 476 and sacked the capital in the west. I wouldn’t call it the “Fall of Rome”, since the empire still considered themselves to be Roman, just that Rome had a big setback. Modern day historians make that distinction for their own conveniene, but the people at the time considered themselves Roman up into the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages! It was the Irish monks who knew and preserved the original Latin language that burst their bubble so to speak and broke the news that they were speaking something quite different! However, languages like Spanish and French and Italian share many cognates with Latin, a fact I found out when trying to learn a bit of Latin! Without Spanish, I would not have understood nearly as much Latin!

Spanish grammar is much more simple than German grammar, much less Latin! However, there are many cognates in verbs, adjectives and nouns that sound and sometimes even spelled similar! Here’s a chart of some parallels I’ve come across:

English Latin Spanish
I love you Te amo Te amo
Tree árbol árbol
Anger ira ira
Garden horto huerto
Sun sol sol
Alone sōlus solo
To live vivire vivir
We are sumus somos
To run curerre correr
To go Īre ir
You tu tu
You plural vōs vosotros
We nōs nosotros
When quando cuando

Obviously, there are many more, but these came to mind :) One can see the striking similarities in many nouns and verbs. This was in mind when I studied Latin. It’s funny to think that those people thought they were speaking Latin that whole time, but in many ways, the romance languages are mostly dialects of Latin. The boundaries between distinct languages are more blurred than many people realize, it is more a matter of political boundaries than linguistic differences.

Posted in Ancient History, Helping Make History More Interesting, Linguistics and History | 2 Comments

Old English and German: Almost One and the Same

Old English is not Shakespeare’s English, which is Early modern English! Old English sounds unintelligible for the most part with Modern English and has much more complex grammar that we have cast off. However, for the Germans out there, Old English sounds vaguely like German grammatically and has many cognates! In a huge sense, I think it sounds like a dialect of German, like Low German. In light of the fact that the Anglo-Saxons spoke Old English it’s less surprising as the Saxons were a Germanic people and Saxony is in Germany. The Anglo-Saxons called it “Ænglisc” and we get the word “England” from them. I have studied German for about 2 years now, and I can personally attest to much of the grammar and vocab being amazingly similar! I think that’s cool considering how much I love the German Language!

For starters, there’s the similarity in the vocab. Guten Morgen is how you say “good morning” in German. In Old English: Gōdne Morgen! (The ō sounds like oo.) Grammar has some striking similarities too in regards to word order, with the second verb going last in a sentence, and verb conjugation. The present perfect both use the prefix ge– as well. In Old English, “Do you speak English” is Spricst þū Englisce? ( sprikhst thoo ENG-li-sheh?In German it is Sprichst du Englisch? (sprickst doo English?) In addition, Old English has many cases like the Nominative, Accusative, Dative, and the Genitive and nouns decline accordingly. Noun-adjective agreement is also important, unlike in Modern English but like in German. Modern English only has remnants of the case system prominent in things such as personal pronouns (I, me, mine, etc…). Another thing that Old English and German share are grammatical genders. In German, male is “der”, female is “die” and neuter is “das”. Old English has different ones though: “se” is male “sēo” is female, and “þæt” is neuter. (þ is pronounced like a th, æ is pronounced like the a in “cat”).  To make things easier to see, I made some charts:

Modern English Old English Modern German
Hello Ƿes hāl (singular). (WESS haal) Hallo
My name is… Ic hātte ______ . (itch HAHT-teh) Mein Name ist (Ich heiße…)
Do you speak English? Spricst þū / Sprecaþ gē Englisce? (sprikhst thoo / sprekath yay ENG-li-sheh?) Sprichst du/Sprechen Sie Englisch?
Good Morning Gōdne morgen. (GOAD-neh MOR-khen) Guten Morgen
Good Afternoon Gōde ofernōn. (GOA-DE O-VER-Na-O-n) Guten Nachmittag
Good Evening Gōdne ǣfen. (GOAD-neh AY-ven)Good night. Ēadigne ǣfen ġiet. (AY-diy-neh AY-ven yet) Guten Abend
I don’t understand. Iċ þæt ne undergiete. (itch thaat neh OONDER-YEH-teh) Ich verstehe nicht.

Note how a lot of the verbs are quite similar, although some vocab is a bit more reminiscent of English, especially the times of the day. This is just a theory, but I find hātte and heiße to be vaguely similar. Hātte, probably coincidentally, sounds like hatte, German for I or he/she/it “had”.

Old English Pronouns Witan To Know (Information) German Pronouns Wissen To Know (Information)
Iċ (I) wāt Ich (I) weiß
Þū (informal you) wāst Du (informal you) weißt
hē/hit/hēo (he/she/it) wāt er/sie/es (he/she/it) weiß
Wē (we) witon Wir (we) wissen
Ġē (you all) witon Ihr (You all) wisst
Hīe (they) witon Sie/sie (formal you/they) wissen
Old English Pronouns Cunnon  To Know (a person/place) German Pronouns Kennen To Know (a person/place)
Iċ (I) cann Ich (I) kenne
Þū (informal you) cannst Du (informal you) kennst
hē/hit/hēo (he/she/it) cann er/sie/es (he/she/it) kennt
Wē (we) cunnon Wir (we) kennen
Ġē (you all) cunnon Ihr (You all) kennt
Hīe (they) cunnon Sie/sie (formal you/they) kennen

One can see how similar they are in sound and conjugation as well. I chose these verbs because one, they’re not too irregular, kennen is regular and wissen has one stem change, and two, Modern English doesn’t distinguish between the two types of “to know”, but German and Old English do! (So does Spanish, but that’s a different story…). You can also see how Iċ and Ich sound similar, also þū and du :)

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, there are many examples too numerous to dive into in one post! You could write a whole book on the subject! But overall, you get the point: English had much in common with German, and still does and is a Germanic language! Lastly, here are some resources to hear and learn more old English! I personally find the development of languages quite fascinating, as the Germans say, “Ausgezeichnet!”

Old English Phrases

Old English Omniglot

Posted in Helping Make History More Interesting, Linguistics and History, Middle Ages | Leave a comment

Neanderthal Nature Show!

I discovered this documentary a few years back, but never wrote about it. I like to watch it from time to time because I love the style they made it in. Unlike many documentaries, it is far from the dry stereotypical narrator droning on putting people to sleep. This one is set up more like a nature show, as if cameras were following a band of neanderthals in their “natural habitat”, so to speak.  It details how they survive, and even a face to face encounter with a cro magnon! The neanderthals even are shown to possess their own language, as scientists now believe they spoke a simple language similar to our own. Unlike the common image of a more brutish neanderthal, they are shown to have a complex society, almost on par with the primitive humans. However, they lack more traits of behavioral modernity, such as body adornment and abstract thought and symbolism. New evidence suggests neanderthals may have possessed those traits too, but there is no hard evidence confirming it.

Related image

The story is mostly straightforward, the neanderthals try to survive the oncoming winter, but are forced to migrate to find better hunting grounds. However, one female stays behind and (amusingly to me) has a “one night stand” with a cro magnon! This isn’t too implausible, as hybrid human-neanderthal children’s remains have been found. I also like the part when they caught a female from another tribe and the dominant female looks her over to assert her dominance in the clan. I guess women have always had a catty side :) I can almost imagine it like a reality TV show about territorial catty cave women! The documentary gets gloomy at the end though, as it is unlikely the rest of the band would survive the harsh winter and the cro magnons in their old territory. Indeed, by the very end, the cro magnons resettled their abandoned campsite. Overall, the documentary is probably a bit slow paced for some people who want more of a story type narrative, but I personally enjoyed the nature show type format it was presented in.

One last thought of mine is a bit unique: If one could actually film real neanderthals, how unobtrusive could one be ethically? What I mean is, when a neanderthal gets hurt or ill, or is a victim of violence, is it ethical to just standby and film it. In most nature documentaries, it is deemed ethical since it is the way of nature with non human animals. If a lion kills a zebra, no one feels the ethical need to “save” the zebra as it is the way of nature that the lion must eat. However, the neanderthals are basically human, and probably have sapience similar to ours. Is it ethical to stand by and document a Neanderthal Cultureneanderthal’s suffering when we would have the technology to alleviate it such as an injury or illness? To capture their natural behavior, one must stay undetected, but is it unethical to document their suffering the same way it would be to document a violent crime for a documentary but not come to the victim’s aid or call the police? If one chooses to “save” the neanderthal, it ruins the whole study of them and alters their behavior, but if one lets it suffer, are they morally responsible? I don’t quite know the definitively right answer myself. Would they be under nature’s jurisdiction thus it being acceptable to leave it at the mercy of the natural world as we do other animals, or would a neanderthal, or caveman in general, require the intervention of the human world? One could argue the degree of personhood another species of extinct human has if they have different cognitive capabilities, but that would take up another post!

Posted in Archaeology and Anthropology, Helping Make History More Interesting, Opinion Piece, Paleolithic and Neolithic, Reviews | 3 Comments