Cavegirls in Cosmetics

Posted: January 20, 2010 in celebrity, copywriting, environment, politics

As we enter the second decade of the twenty first millennia the first of the international fashion weeks is scheduled to start in mid February. London will be the venue for the first new designs of The Tens, showing us the direction fashion, couture and style will be headed in the future. 120 miles away at the University of Bristol information is being discovered about the interesting history of style and culture.

Archaeology professor João Zilhão at Bristol University has discovered evidence that the use of cosmetics goes back not only to our early human ancestors  but even to our pre-human antecedents, the   Neanderthals. Not only did they have make-up but they produced containers in which to store it, compacts if you will. These toiletries were manufactured from drilled sea shells which were found up to 60km inland, indicating both trade and organised migration where objects considered valuable would be retained and used or exchanged. It was known that shell had been used for adornment since prehistory but Zilhao’s  more recently discovered artefacts show that they were also used to keep pigments and coloured clays which were perfect for personal decoration.

So it seems that adorning the body in order to present a more attractive profile or impress our social status upon our peers through our outward appearance isn’t just a very old idea, it’s an idea that goes back to before we even existed as humans. The first humans existed in Europe from 40,000 years ago while neanderthals existed in Europe from 50,000 years ago and although they co-existed it had previously been believed they kept to their own regions and the only contact they had with one another was confrontational. However there is evidence now that the two societies not only shared culture and goods but may have even occasionally interbred. A child’s remains, found in Lagar Velho, Portugal which have been dated to 24,500 years ago show evidence of mixed Neanderthal-human parentage which, while certainly proving genetic exchange, would also lend strength to the theory that cultural  exchange took place between the earliest European inhabitants.

Because Neanderthal fossilized remains were the first European to be found,  they were presumed to be closer to our primate ancestors , that is they were thought to be nearer primates and the missing link. However, since evidence now shows that neanderthals and Cro Magnons, that is modern humans, exchanged culture, goods and it seems,  affection then the differences between them and us were in fact very slight. Things like made objects and cosmetics had been thought to be only within the realm of the human, neanderthals were assumed to be ‘cavemen’; troglodytes who merely grunted at one-another and threw sticks and rocks at passing animals yet what little evidence there is for this attitude is rapidly diminishing as we learn more about them. We see they had cosmetics which denote culture and they made cases to put them in which indicates they were capable of forward planning and sensed that a product had value and should be kept, developing a method and products by which to do so.

Neolithic ‘cave’ man not only seems never to have actually lived in any caves but he now proves to have had culture, religion and medicine, as evidence in herbal preparations found with bodily remains and successful  surgery including trepanning, surgery  to release pressure on the brain to relieve epilepsy, and release evil spirits by boring a hole in the skull. Considering these advances in science and religion it seems strange that we should believe these proto-humans as amoral savages who could only say ‘Ug’. Developing religion, decorating themselves and their surroundings with magical symbols, often with outstanding accuracy as found in preserved cave paintings and caring for the sick while only communicating with one another through rudimentary grunts and gestures seems barely possible. Indeed, the trachea and larynx couldn’t have evolved to an advanced state only for its practical application to be  later realised by man who then used their control of the  voice-box  to develop complex language. It seems fare more likely that the larynx would have needed to develop as greater requirements were made of it, as language and the needs of the speaker developed the structure of the throat would have needed to keep pace with it.

So it seems that while couture models are sometimes and unkindly regarded as being little more than clothes horses, parading up and down wearing too much make-up and clad in clothes that only exist to display the social status of the wearer they are, in reality, engaging in activity which is older than man himself, activity which can be seen to have been concomitant with advances in science, language, art and culture, advances by which we define ourselves as human.

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