Christmas Cup of the Neanderthals

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The actual cup! 

It’s very early in the morn. The three dogs, Bridge, Molly and Jake, have decided THEY MUST GO OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW. I oblige. Out they go.

Bridge, by the way, or Brigit, has a new nickname. The Gremlin. As she is very much a puppy yet, with a propensity for chewing anything and everything. Her favorite chew toy seems to be the rug that overlays most of the living room floor. She will pull it back, then blissfully munch on the matting under that room-size rug. But she’s such a lovebug, how can you drop her off at the nearest shelter, with some mumbled story about how you have no room or some made up tale about allergies? You just can’t! She’s part Kelpie and all Chew Stuff Up.

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Brigit in her Gremlin phase. Ignore the dirty socks left to their own devices, thanks. 

The coffee has not yet been made. The odd thrill and ceremony of opening a new can of coffee. Sniffing the contents, which are probably sawdust with a bit of coffee air freshener sprayed near them. The water poured, the old Bunn squirting brown liquid into the squatty pot below.

My special cup gets taken down from the cupboard. For now, it’s a Christmas design on a white background. Holly berries and leaves. I like it! It’s a big cup, a mug. I don’t have to fill it so often. I found it at the thrift store, of course. Around Christmas, as they tend to put out Christmas items during the holiday season. There’s a shelf where there are items from many seasons. I pause before it now and then. Ponder the rapid evolvement of time, which seemed to evolve so slow when I was but a child. I then pat myself on the elbow for having such Original Deep Thoughts in a Thrift Store.

Ah, so. I have my rituals. As people do. It’s part of our instincts. Part of our heritage, something handed down through the ages. Rituals, ya’ll.

I was watching a youtube this or that on Neanderthals, as you do. After watching kitten rescues, why Bigfoot is actually running the UN with a fleet of global bankers, how to make flan…I happened across where did the Neanderthals go. Yes, they were, ahem, outbred by the new wave of humans or something.

Which probably sends an actual shiver of dread through your common variety average white nationalist. As they screech about how ‘those people’ are producing far more children than white folks.

[[Tangent edited out here]]

Art, ritual and artifice. That caught my wandering attention. As it’s been supposed that Neanderthals did not have language, art, religion, etc, etc and so forth. That they just wandered about, killed animals, ate them, um…not much else. The Cro- Magnons slaughtered them! Evil laughter heard here!

No, argue the solemn scientists and tufted-haired archaeologists. As DNA says these two groups had lots of sex and then babies. Those babies survived, passed down their DNA material, which is…evolution!

Are we still allowed to even discuss evolution in ‘murica right now??? Abortion, now evolution. I must be working for Killary and the Kenyan. I must be a commie! Sputtering sounds heard as my country recycles McCarthy, then mixes that with sexism, racism, birtherism and some other isms.

Neanderthal DNA is present to this day in our genes. More in Sicilians than anyone from Africa. As that band below the ice there in Europe, which ran across modern day France, Spain, Italy, Germany, was a hotbed of territory for Neanderthals and the uppity newcomers who invaded their areas. This was a Nova program, so you can go watch it yourself. It was quite interesting. Pay no attention to how I just butchered it.

But. Art. Ritual. Artifice. That these three aspects have been present in humans since…ever. The learned sorts on that Nova hour were ecstatic at finding evidence of deliberate burial. A skeleton found in a Spanish cave, in a fetal position. With a panther paw left nearby. Deliberate versus accidental! They didn’t find the rest of the panther carcass, the bone had been cut. Ooooh. There was also pigments found in a bit of seashell, as if the Neanderthals had been painting their skin with colored substances.

Rather like people do these days with sports teams, to show who are friends, who are enemies. That tribalism, ha ha, is also granted to the Neanderthals.

They’ve found bird wing bones with scores on them, hinting that these early folks cut the feathers off, as there’s not a lot of meat on a raven wing.

What does this have to do with your damn coffee cup, lady??


Ritual. Everything is off unless I have coffee in a certain favored cup. I have two of them. But I mostly, for now, use the cup with some factory-slapped holiday design on it. Another cup feels so strangely wrong. I cannot explain it. Rituals of comfort, I guess. That sameness I can count on in a world…DEEP THOUGHTS DEEP THOUGHTS AHEAD.

I am not doing so well. In any way. Drinking the coffee from a ‘special cup’ might be part of the numbing steps I take to just get through the day. Which is also ritual.

Adornment was mentioned in that Nova program. Decorations of the person. It was supposed Neanderthals did not wear jewelry. Or paint their faces. Or make art of any kind…except we have cave paintings and all that. All that belief and supposition, of course, was due to…gulp, prejudice based on myths and notions about people whose skin is not, well, white. Why be coy? When the Neanderthal skulls were first found, then studied, it was supposed the people they belonged to were barely above that of your basic animal. That they didn’t speak, they were primitive as all hell, they were…not white people. [Junk science based on skull size, hello.]

You’ve likely heard this for years. Being called a Neanderthal is a generic insult to this day. They are the literal cave men when people sneer about cave men being “cave men”. Brutes who drag ladies about by the hair, tee hee. Grunty sorts who grunt and fart and drink cave beer. Tee hee. 

But now we have to cast that go-to aside. I blame Millennials. Until the next group we’re all supposed to scapegoat arrives, I blame Millenials.

Neanderthals bad, brutish, cartoonish villain-like figures. They were blended, in racist stereotyping, with the ‘mud races’, of course. However, science has uncovered, a tiny bit, that Neanderthals were far more complex, technologically advanced and generally not a simple or brutish set of rascals.

They had stone tools and weapons people in this day and age can barely reproduce, if reproduce at all.  They managed to somehow glue heavy stone shaped points to sticks to form spears or arrows. What??!! The expert in all this found trying to recreate any of that next to impossible! People are smarties who can figure out stuff even way back!!?? I adore that always very innocent surprise that modern day folks express over real old-timey folks being able to do anything, let alone do stuff in complicated, sophisticated ways. It speaks of comforting beliefs handed down about ancient folks that we’ve ingrained as ‘truth’. There’s, uh, a lesson there, I think. 

New information laid over the comforting notions, making for some uneasy shifts.

I also remember reading the Auel books, where she, using the information available to her at that time, wrote her Earth’s Children series, with Ayla being the actual Aryan-like central figure who was like an Albert Einstein amidst the ape-like creatures of habit that those like Ayla called…flatheads. Uh huh. Only she seemed able to make the connection that the Cave Bear sorts were…PEOPLE TOO. Good lordy! 

If you have not read the Clan of the Cave Bear or any of the books that followed, I don’t blame you. They can be tedious as all get out, with Ayla morphing from an interesting, very flawed figure into… peerless super-genuis superwoman doctor supremis who literally discovers everything. She even domesticates animals…as if people could not figure out otherwise that including animals in their lives would be of great benefit.  As if other people were not also trying to domesticate animals! She alone invented domesticated beasties! Horses and dogs, even a cave lion…ugh a bug.

Don’t even get me started on Jondalar!! 

Okay, I won’t get into my seething frustrations with that series. Auel’s attention to detail is fabulous. There ya go.

But I have coffee in my special cup. The stars in the sky, frost shimmering on the ground. Spring waits to pounce. Rituals. Everything is a ritual around us. Deep thoughts, I tell ya. They hit you over the head with a club.

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A closing shot of the Gremlin at rest. 

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