I suppose this blog will make me a ranter, but I watched the movie named above in silence. It occurred to me, if the Ice Age was a time when mankind’s very existence was in question how could there be massive cities built by large cities of them? Then I recalled, the earliest settlement is supposed to be Jericho and it is dated to 8,000 B.C.E. The great monuments of Egypt are traditionally dated to the third millennium before the Common Era. Even the most liberal scholars has never hazarded a guess much before 8,000. And of course the creme de la creme were the mammoths that did not survive until 10,000 B.C.E.
It irritated me, I’ll admit, that someone took the time to build a plot and used so many items that were obviously impossible. But 10,000 B.C. is hardly the first movie made that is placed in the ice age. Conan lived in what is called the Hyborean Age which ended in roughly 10,000 B.C.E. according to his creator Robert Howard. To name off just a few things about the three movies under that title that come to me as I write there is: The issue of large cities existing in a period when there were none. Kingdoms did not develop until roughly 5,000 B.C.E., and then only in areas that could support a dense population like Mesopotamia, yet they figure prominently in all the stories. So do horses and swords, both of which were not made use of till 4,000 B.C.E. Well, not swords. We might call them large daggers really. They were made of a copper and tin composite and were even shorter than the weapons in Troy because metallurgy had not developed that far just yet.
Do the inaccuracies detract from the stories? I suppose not. However, I think they are an opportunity lost. Howard once said that he had intentionally placed his hero in a period outside of history so that he could do what he wanted in his world without the need to conform with what was happening in real cultures and kingdoms. Our understanding of our past has exceeded his writing now, however, and working in that sort of a fantastical prehistory is no longer possible.
What did 10,000 B.C.E. look like? As I said at the beginning of this blog, it was an era when the very existence of our species was in question. Clans of our species, no more than 20 or 25 individuals, roamed the Earth, finding caves to shelter themselves while they scavenged the area for food and moving on when they had exhausted the local flora and fauna. There were a few permanent settlements, but these were the rare places that had valuables which could be traded for food or that themselves had food or some valuable goods in plenty – obsidian deposits and lakes heavily populated with fish. Life was hard; the northern hemisphere was covered in glaciers while the southern was in a permanent drought and only a narrow band of land seems to have held a healthy balance between the two.
Warfare is absent in the record, there is absolutely no record of battles, raiding, or even an exchange of yelling between two groups. They were humans, so tempers inevitably flared and actions were without a doubt taken that could not be taken back, but there was peace on a large scale. From what we know in the archealogical record, clans gathered at local high points during the solstices and equinoxes for trading of goods and ideas, and probably also of people who wanted to be with different people for any of a number of reasons.
There is nothing of a saga in that setting, I know, no great evils to overcome or monsters to defeat. Still, there must be stories in a world like that. A fight against hunger perhaps, the testosterone of killing a saber tooth tiger with nothing more than spears in 20,000 B.C.E. Perhaps something could be made of their religion, one that featured an odd worship of their prey, a fertility statuette, and red clay.