Closely related to modern humans genetically, evidence suggests Paleolithic man was profoundly idiotic and violent. Through radiocarbon dating and core sampling the existence of early man has been proven to cross several era, dating from the Triassic periods and into the Pleistocene before an abrupt end, bringing us 10,000 years before the present. Specimens have been unearthed across Eurasia, from Western Europe to Central and Northern Asia, often amongst the bones of dinosaurs and mammoths. From this era of swamps and volcanoes, examples in remarkable condition are occasionally unearthed in caves, tar pits and bogs. There is little evidence of a burial culture or in fact of any form of culture, refinement or notion of progress which makes the work of archaeologists particularly difficult. However, as a result of well preserved remains we can gather an aesthetic impression of our forebears as almost universally bearded (both male, female and their young), covered in bodily hair, and with cragged facial features that would today be considered grotesque. At such sites there is also evidence of rudimentary tools: Wooden clubs, for hitting adversaries and potential mates; clothing, typically animal hides fashioned into crude shaggy toga vestments; accessories, bone used as a decorative item to adorn the hair of the female or worn through the nose. Although widely presumed that early man could only communicate through severe clubbings, there is a school of thought to suggest a rudimentary language of sorts. This proto-language, although highly controversial amongst etymologists, would consist of a small number of words: ‘Ug’ (Ug), ‘Duh’(dǝ), ‘Muh’ (mɜːɹ), ‘Bam Bam’ (bæm bæm), as well as various grunts to display sexual satisfaction, pleasure at receiving food or at causing pain. The abrupt end of Paleolithic finds in Eurasia coincides with the emergence of our technologically superior ancestors in Western Europe, who progressed further in a few years than early man had in hundreds of thousands. Through our harnessing of technology we continue on this trajectory of improvement. It can only be hoped that one day future generations will look back at us with such contempt as we do our troglodyte former selves.
This text was written for the exhibition Arbeidsvitaminen at Vilma Gold, March 2015.