There was quite a long pause after I asked him and then he began in that portentous way he has. Since we are entering the last days, he said, I shall go back to the beginning. The beginning of what? The beginning. He went to the computer, he has thousands of images stored there. This was found in a cave in Africa. It is called the Makapansgat jasperite cobble and is estimated to be three million years old. Some australopithecine or early unknown hominid picked it up and carried it away. No, it is not altered by any hand, it is naturally that way. Nevertheless, it is the first mirror and the first self portrait:
A rock with a face in it. Manuports, they're called. Things of significance that people carried around with them. And this, he said. Look at this:
From Israel. Berekhat-Ram. Two, three hundred thousand years old. We didn't make this, Homo Erectus did. Adding unnecessarily: It's a woman. Do you know that the Acheulian hand axe industry lasted for more than a million years? All over the old world, the same technology, each item unique, every one the same? Look at this one, see, it has a fossil shell in it:
And the caves, he went on, the painted caves. They were used for twenty, twenty-five thousand years. No stylistic change. Just the painting and the re-painting, whatever it was for. If there are human images, and there are, they are either in the deepest darkness at the back or else near the entrance. That must mean something. But check this:
It almost makes me weep it is so pent up with reverential emotion. It's prayerful, it's the birth of the sacred. From a cave in Germany. Same age as the paintings. It might have been a staff that a clever man or woman held, they might have been wands. Here's another, it's from Germany too. Put together from a thousand bits:
Finally ... I don't even know how to talk about this one. I've looked at hundreds of photographs of it, looked at it a thousand ways: each time it wears a different expression and yet they're all the same girl. French. Found at Brassempouy in 1892. Old, like the lion-people. She can look a bit feline herself:
Who was she? She was someone, she wasn't just anyone. I've seen girls that look like that, in France and in other places. I think there's someone walking the earth now that looks just like this girl does. I want to find her.
He was definitely out of control now. Near to tears. It was pretty awkward. After a while I said: What about the dog? What dog? There isn't any dog. You were going to tell me about the Aurignacian dog. Remember?
I thought he might be going to hit me. Are you really that stupid, he said. Or do you have to work at it? There were no dogs in the Aurignacian, the dogs were all still wolves then. There's no such thing as an Aurignacian dog.