If you listen, they will teach you.
It took several thousand years for human beings to start drifting back into North America and reestablish themselves. Gone were the vast herds of mega-fauna that once roamed its savannas. Florida’s coastline had shrunk, presenting these new inhabitants with a whole new set of challenges.
Our modern culture has taught us to believe in Social-Darwinism. This insidious notion – “survival of the fittest” – easily translates into “might makes right.” It was the very foundation of the idea of the “master race,” promoted by Nazi Germany.
However, the Windover Pond archaeological site, near Titusville, Florida, offers a different kind of story . . . one that sends a very different message to us from over 7,400 years ago. It’s message of love confines the concept of social Darwinism to the attic of a by-gone era where it belongs. Darwinian evolution is a paradigm of social evolution, but it is but only one phase in the wonderful story of cultural change. Of course, there is evolution, but there are more mechanisms at work than what are most obvious. What the Windover Pond excavation has revealed is that these ancient people took great care of their injured and genetically disabled people.
A child was born to those ancient people who a gaping hole in the vertebrae of his lower back. The bones never grew together. Spina bifida, stole the use of his legs. Although the world of 7,000 to 8,000 years ago was truly challenging, this child survived until he was fourteen years old despite that his feet had withered away. His people continued to care for him, carrying him with them on their migrations to hunt and gather food. They did not “vote” him out of the tribe or discard him as a “weak link”. They did not throw him away. Because the remains of their dead were buried in a bog, the anaerobic environment preserved a lot of biological materials including brain matter and the contents of one woman’s stomach in which was there were medicinal herbs thought to have been used to treat her cancer.
We get a glimpse of their culture in other ways. The dead were lovingly wrapped in woven fabrics. These finely woven fabrics indicated a variety of weaving styles including a twill design. These medicinal and utilitarian use of plants show us that these ancient people had developed a level of sophistication in their understanding of how to use the resources available to them in their environment.
Visit Windover Pond for more amazing stories of these people.
Read Life and Death at Windover: Life and Death of a 7,000 year old Pond Cemetary, by bioarchaeologist, Rachel Wentz.
A Face from the Past
This Windover man on his way to a hunt was based a forensic reconstruction on his skull by Hermann Trappman.