Why study the stone age?
The stone Age can seem an impossibly distant period of time, so distant perhaps that you might think that learning about it isn’t really relevant to modern life. Well.. I disagree. When we start our school visits with a look at the timeline, it always shocks people just how short a time we Homo Sapiens have been on earth. We are newcomers. Our entire existence can be traced back a mere 200,00 years or so. Most of that was stone age.
If you compressed the last 2.5 million years ( since the first stone tools were made in Olduvai) into a single year, our species evolved on December 2nd. We lived as Hunter gatherers, and later farmers until the first metal, Copper was Discovered at 2am on December the 29th.
In the few thousand years since we gave up our hunter gatherer lifestyle, and eventually Flint ( mostly) we haven’t changed much at all. Our needs are the same, our need for nourishing food, warmth, shelter company…. And as Covid showed us, space to roam. Our brains and bodies are still geared towards that ancient way of life. In fact, realising that explains many of the quirks and ‘disorders, we suffer from.
I often tell the children; "if you understand people in the stone age, you will understand People better” For me that is at the core of why its so important to teach the children where they come from. It sets the stage for who we are and what we have become. But it also carries a lot of lessons that are incredibly important in the modern world;
Resourcefulness, patience, working as a tribe, Not wasting things, working WITH your environment rather than against it. Even the lesson (perhaps my favourite) that our hands and brains together are an incredible team, one that can create anything we could ever want or need and do it beautifully. Within a tribe of people, there were specialists. People who told stories; people who made the best spears, tools, baskets, food, nets… and without any one of them, we would have struggled.
The lesson too that Creativity and Artistry is at the heart of what makes us human. It has always been there, for as long as Homo Sapiens has been on earth, longer perhaps if finds of Neanderthal cave paintings, and tools created to perfectly display fossils are anything to go by. The modern curriculum and government edicts might devalue the arts, but there’s no denying it is a current that runs through all of us, one way or another, and that expressing it makes us feel good.
The irony is not lost on me that I didn’t really like school, but now spend a lot of time in and around them. But actually, it makes sense. What I hated was the social hierarchy that made life miserable for misfits, and the shy, quiet ‘weirdos’ like myself. I loved learning, I still have very fond memories of some of my teachers, and of the particular lessons, and visits. A teacher of mine, Mrs (Kate?) Fraser particularly stands out. She taught history, and her vivid re-enactment of an embalming in front of the whole year group was excellent.
For me the part of the Job I love most is not just bringing the skills to life, , bashing flints, lighting fires; it is seeing the spark lit in them. Seeing their eyes light up, seeing wonder and joy, and knowing they will remember it forever, just as I remember those long ago lessons with ‘Miss Fraser’
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