Today we traveled even further back in history—visiting first the Musée National de Préhistoire, and La Grotte de Rouffignac, to see cave art dating back tens of thousands of years.
Walking into the museum this morning, we were met by a massive timeline (maybe infographic of sorts is more appropriate…) that documented the progression of evolution that led to the human species. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the huge span of time represented before me. As I gathered my thoughts (slightly), I formed my first of a few takeaways from the day– human history is microscopic in the history of the world, and within this narrow window of human history, is the even narrower window of modern humans history, a window so small it looks highly insignificant and somewhat irrelevant on a timeline like this. Even more so, each individual human’s role in this is even more minuscule, so any stress over these things is unnecessary. Despite entering the exhibits with this mentality, I was quickly met with various others, some of which felt at least remotely conflicting.
The sheer number of humans that have lived makes it impossible to ‘remember’ each individual human, and also gives evidence for the fact that those artifacts that have been discovered and studied that we have had the opportunity to see on this trip make up only a very small portion of all those that exist that say something of the lives and ways of earlier humans; but, that being said, this relatively small collection of artifacts have led to a remarkably thorough understanding of the behaviors of these populations. I’ve spent a huge portion of today considering the huge importance of any individual artifacts in the way of the additional understanding it brings to this history. At the museum today there was a case of prehistoric jewelry, including a set of beads, each of which was no more than a centimeter in height. Looking at these pieces, I was astounded by how what was probably never intended to act as a form of historical documentation of their society, was placed before us in a case, and was seen and treated as an important indicator of culture and practice.
My amazement grew when I began to consider what the objects in my life, society, and world say about myself. Looking not at the value of an object in the way of its style or use, but in the way it creates a window to be opened into my world.
Having entered today unsure of what to expect, and having assumed I was uninterested in the topics simply because I was less knowledgeable about them, I’m excited and surprised to have such a strong takeaway. Additionally, I’m glad that I was able to be opened minded, thoughtful, and attentive enough today to get the most out of it. I know that, before this trip, I would have walked away from today with a drastically different reaction.