The Ascent of Man

The summer isn’t the best time to write – at least not while coming out of a pandemic. Or maybe that’s just me – the joy of seeing friends, of going to restaurants, shopping, travelling (at least within this country – I’m not sure I’m ready for abroad yet because I find the rules far too confusing.) However, I am now trying to pull myself together and write something as I feel more and more admiration for journalists who have to write a weekly column.

I’m an intrinsically lazy person so perhaps in my next life I could be a research scientist. Before I get any hate mail, I know that this is far from the truth. On the other hand it often seems to me that most of the ground-breaking research they come up with is stuff we already know. It must be quite nice to sit with your feet up reading books and making a few notes and then after a few years announcing to the world that your research has shown that eating a lot makes you fat or that elephants live longer than mice. But, one bit of research I saw recently did interest me – apparently the ascent of man is not as we have always believed – it is far more complicated than that. Take Homo Neanderthalensis (or Neanderthal man) for example. It appears that he is not our distant cousin but our direct ancestor and that people today have one or two percent Neanderthal in their make-up. Frankly I have known men who have been at least twenty-five percent Neanderthal. You must have met them too as they walk amongst us – or more often drive cars – ready for a punch up at all times. Our other ancestor, Homo Longi (or Dragon Man) seems to have rather disappointingly, been distinguished only by a very large head. It would be nice to think that Dragon man had invented fire. Three others are now extinct – Homo Erectus who died out 100,000 years ago – may not quite Erectus enough! However, Homo Habilis (or Handy Man) who used stone tools and is supposed to have become extinct two million years ago is surely still with us in the form of DIY man, recently resurrected during the pandemic and to be found in B & Q any Sunday. And then there is Homo Floresiensis (or Hobbit Man) who was five foot tall with very large feet and became extinct 50,000 years ago. I’m not sure that I believe that as I’m pretty sure that in my youth, when I was already 5’9” at thirteen it was their descendants who always asked me to dance at the agonisingly formal children’s parties we went to in those dark and distant days and my toes frequently had the bruises to prove it. In any case in the interest of science I have done some research of my own and I believe there are several other homininds. Of course, I use the word Homo to represent mankind meaning humans as a whole and not man per se. The following definitions are a mixture of Google translate and cod Latin.
I give you:
Homo Kardashian – a branch of humans who were addicted to self-improvement, body modification and decoration. Skeletal remains can be found clutching a rudimentary comb made from the teeth of a sabre toothed tiger, a polished stone which scientists believe was used as a mirror and several hollowed out stones containing remnants of woad and other vegetable dyes.
Homo Obesis – the chubster – these ancestors spent their time in their caves waiting for their partner (see Homo Venandi below) to bring home the goods. This was before the written language but I think we can safely assume that they were capable of expressing the sentiment ‘What do you mean, you only brought back one mammoth? What are you going to eat then?’ even if it was only in grunts.
Homo Herbivore – these very pale skeletons have been found next to the remains of some roots with bits of grass between the teeth and an unnervingly smug expression and can be confused with Homo Perfectus whose remains have been found in spotless caves with a pile of bones neatly stacked outside the back door together with a twig broom doubtless made by Homo Habilis (see above).
Homo Venandi – these skeletons found beside primitive spears mostly show bones that have suffered breaks in the past presumably from encounters with Woolly Mammoths and Sabre Toothed Tigers and piles of bones from a large variety of species many of whom are now extinct – possibly as the result of Homo Obsesis munching their way through plenty of substantial meals.
Homo Martyris – Skeleton often slightly singed from the metaphorically burning flesh, inside a cave that appears to have been dug out by hand with traces of broken fingernails and prehistoric blood embedded in the walls.
Homo Maleficis – The bad boy who was the one all the cave women loved (or sometimes the bad girl that all the boys loved) judging by the number of notches carved into the stone bed.

Homo Testimonium and Homo Nostis Omnia – The bore and the know it all distinguished by the fact that all the caves nearby have been deserted indicating that their neighbours gradually moved further and further away.

I’m sure there are many more and when I get time I’m going to research it more thoroughly and who knows I might publish a paper and end up getting a Nobel prize for original research or am I just descended from Homo Fantasist!

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  1. I LOVE your categories! I’d add Homo Egotisticus: the chap you sit next to at a dinner, who bores on and on and on about his glorious self, never asks you a single question, and if you manage to get a word in edgewise, listens only to cap your remark with another rambling anecdote about himself! Your analysis is brilliant, Stella, thank you for making me laugh (heartily, as well as sometimes ruefully).


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