Humans haven’t changed too much since they’ve been around. We’re a little taller than we were a thousand years ago, but we’re a little shorter than we were ten-thousand years ago (1). We might be a little scrawnier than our ancestors, but we’re a little better at running marathons (2). And one might argue that we’re not as good at kneading a loaf of bread as the first farmers – that’s if you exclude the old lady down the street and your Italian friend’s grandpa.
Without much change from ten millennia ago till now, it’s safe to say that the cave paintings we find in the Australian outback and Northern France were probably motivated by the same urges that prompt folks to erect mausoleums and arches, and even to write their names on toilet walls. We don’t want to be forgotten, even by people that never knew us to begin with.
An ancient paved platform overlooks the Mediterranean sea. It was laid by someone; but by whom? As long as he was human, he had the same motivations as the million people that came before him and the billions that came after. He wanted money to buy food and to keep a roof over his head, and when the job was done he wanted to be remembered.
The curly haired paving-stone-layer was about to lay the final paving stone. He turned to a colleague and asked him to bear witness. The two had a rapport that would be enshrined in what the curly-haired man was about to do next. He carved a cavity in the ground into which he placed a token. It was something that might be unearthed next year, or next millennium, to surprise its discoverer and rekindle the memory of the man who had placed it. The stone was laid, and the token forgotten for six hundred years.
The time came to restore the stone platform. Globalisation and cheap airline tickets had turned this place into a tourist hot-spot, and the advent of professional indemnity insurance had brought up the necessity of “trip-hazard mitigation measures.” A team of archaeologists set to work up-heaving the stones and documenting what they found.
And what did they find? A token left by a stone-layer six hundred years before. The archaeologists were stunned. They didn’t expect to find anything at all. The tourism board wouldn’t be happy as this would surely delay the opening of the updated tourist facilities.
Beneath a relatively large stone, in a cavity carved into the ground, was entombed a small, hand-made clay article. The detail was stunning. The piece had survived remarkably well. It served as proof that in the last ten thousand years, our sense of humour hasn’t changed much. The token was a carefully etched and lovingly textured phallus. The curly-haired man was probably giggling in his grave.
References for the curious: