Monday, August 29, 2011

When There Were Three

I try to keep up on my hominids. I like to imagine that somewhere deep in the human mind lurks a lingering memory of a time when we were not alone. Other races would dwell around us, and we had to be aware and wary and thoughtful concerning these other peoples. So I'm really kind of surprised that I had not heard of the (poorly documented but still discovered) Denisovans, who were perhaps a species overlapping with Sapiens and Neanderthals at about 40,000 years ago. The Denisovans appear to have lived in Asia in the main, but next to nothing is known about them. There's a few bones from probably one specimen, and that's it.

Yet it seems likely that, a long time ago and yet really the blink of an eye, we weren't just not alone, we were perhaps even crowded. We had to think of what it meant to be Human, and what it meant to be Other. Maybe that's why we were still thinking about it into the colonial period, and casting anything that looked different into the Other box. Our brains are wired for it, perhaps. It's a poor excuse, but we are made up of all the things we have been, and most of them aren't much use in the modern world. So we categorize wrongly here and there, and we make bad judgments; but once upon a time those would have been useful. Evolution has left us wonderful, and has left us crippled.

What a time, though, that would have been. Brief and brutish and horrid, but to have looked into the eyes of another kind of Human, how wondrous that would have been.

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