Category Archives: Sophie M.

Prehistory :)

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.


The American Cemetery

We have spent the past few days in Normandy, visiting D-Day landmarks, and talking about the significant history that accompanies them.

Tuesday morning, after a lengthy bus ride, we arrived at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. After hearing for years in school about this cemetery, and talking extensively about the thoughtful intention and arrangement of the land, it’s safe to say I knew what to expect and felt prepared for ‘look’ of the cemetery; but what I could not have prepared for was the atmosphere.

We arrived, quickly took a few ‘fam’ photos, and were sent off to explore on our own. I walked immediately to the cliff looking out onto the beach. As we approached the railing on the edge, we all quickly grew silent, and just stood looking out over the waves crashing on this legendary beach. Among my thoughts and reactions was surprise—how could a place where so much blood was shed and so many were killed look so peaceful? Not many people were there, so it was relatively quiet, the sound of the waves echoed and was magnified off of the cliff, overpowering the background conversation. The water was vibrant and glistened in the sunlight. It was almost hard to imagine looking out from this same cliff 71 years ago, and even harder to imagine the events of D-Day unfolding in the very place on which you’re standing.

After a brief walk through the Visitor’s Center and Museum, I walked towards the seemingly unending rows of white tombs. As I moved off of the path and in between the headstones I walked in a direction towards the stones so that I was unable to see the name on the front until as I approached it– leaving a strong sense of the anonymity and uniformity that is so often associated with the military present in the cemetery. I had learned in school about the layout of these white marble crosses (and a few Jewish stars of David)—how they were aligned to always appear in a military style line regardless of the angle from which one is looking. As I looked around, trying to ‘test’ this, I failed miserably at ‘disproving’ this, and each turn of my head was simply met with another long line of crosses.

These lines of crosses, despite the seemingly tranquil view, were an unwavering reminder of the lives lost here and the violent war that had taken place here.

I had not expected to feel as connected to the history of the site as I did—when we arrived I thought that I could just walk around for a little bit and hop back onto the bus when it was time to go to continue with our busy day; but, I could not get the image or the feelings out of my head.