Everyone has heard the metaphors that relate the time the earth has existed to some sort of easy visual totem. If all of history were a twenty foot rope the time humans have spent on Earth would be one frayed fiber at the end of it… yada yada yada, blah blah blah. They’re interesting images, don’t get me wrong. But they don’t really make the time any more comprehensible. I mean how can anyone imagine billions of years. I can’t even imagine a billion dollars. Recently I listened to a podcast that had an archaeologist on it. He was fascinating. He proposed a theory in a book of his; advanced human civilizations existed before the ice age. One of the examples he gave in support was a bracelet found recently, created by a proto-human species called Denisovans. The bracelet itself was unremarkable, a typical band. But what was interesting was that a hole in the bracelet (presumably to hang a charm on) was made by a high speed, fixed drill. At first I thought this meant a power drill and I kind of lost my shit. That would be insane. The truth is less exciting than that but it’s still fascinating.
This bracelet was dated before the ice age. It would be literally hundreds of thousands of years before human species would start building advanced tools. Of course they had hand axes and fire and things of that nature, but they weren’t complex tools. A stable drill that can move quickly. That’s advanced. But if it were pre-ice age that would totally reframe everything that we think about early human development. It would destroy the kind of linear understanding most people have about human history. Humans progress and then regress, technologically, socially, biologically. But most people don’t think about that.
For hundreds of thousands of years, small bands of humans would explore the world around them. For hundreds of thousands of years! Now we’ve gone from horse and buggies and kites to sports cars and jumbo jets in only a hundred years. How will human history progress? Will we continue to grow exponentially in both population and technology. It seems impossible. Steven Hawking said that the next hundred years would determine the fate of the human race. How can that compare to hundreds of thousands of years?
I guess I really didn’t have much of a point I was trying to get across with this. It was more of a meditation on the incomprehensibility of time and history. I’ll try and update the post with the podcast when I find it. Although I am a bit embarrassed to admit it was a Joe Rogan podcast. If you’re more interested in the Denisovans, a simple google search brings up some really interesting results.