Finally after ten years, I am close to publishing the heart-rending and fast-paced biography of Lucy. Written in the spirit of Jean Auel, this is the paleo-historic saga of our earliest ancestors as lived through the eyes of a
female Homo habilis. Since Donald Johanson uncovered the tiny three-and-a-half foot clawless, flat-toothed Australopithecine, we have asked, Who is she? And how could she survive in a world of mammoth predators and unrelenting natural disasters she had no understanding about? This book answers those questions as well as more fundamental ones like Where did God come from? Why did man create his first tool? How did culture start? Here’s a summary:
Lucy: A Biography follows three species of early man (Australopithecus, Homo habilis and Homo erectus), as they fight for the limited resources of Pleistocene Africa. Lucy, of the species habilis, blames herself for the death of her family and agrees to mate with a stranger (Raza). As they journey to Raza’s homebase, they are tracked by two deadly predators: Xha, of the smarter and more powerful species Homo erectus, and the violent and unforgiving Nature, a sentient being who meddles with fate and Lucy’s future as though it were a chemistry experiment. The story is carefully researched to shared the geography, climate, and biosphere that would have been Lucy’s world 1.8 million years ago, when man was not King and nature ruled with a violence and dispassion we call ‘disaster’ today.
Every week, I’ll post part of this story.
Here’s Part 2 of the Preface. If you missed Part 1, click here (A note: While I took Lucy’s name from the infamous Australopithecine skeleton discovered by Donald Johanson, Lucy is a Homo habilis. Her adopted child Boa is an Australopithecine):
This is her story. She is a scientist, forever seeking new approaches to problems. She was the first primate to use tools to make tools, to control her environment and select among choices rather than submit to instinct when making decisions about her future. She uses her capacious brain, requiring 20% of her caloric intake to maintain, to survive and multiply in the most dangerous habitat known to mammals. She spends considerable time foraging for anything edible (evolving from a plant-eating herbivore to a decidedly-unchoosey omnivore was a brilliantly adaptive move for early man), sleeping, caring for her young, and avoiding predators. Because she is so much more efficient at these jobs than any other primate, she possesses surplus time and uses it inventing tools to enhance her quality of life and communicating with her band. This is the first time in history a mammal surpassed Maslow’s broadest Hierarchy of Needs.
As tectonic forces buried deep beneath the African continent tear East from West and a series of active volcanoes bordering Lyta’s homeland clog the air with ash and wash the landscape with rivers of fire, she and her kind are adapting to the evolving environment by changing the way they do things. Her predecessors possessed no skills for recognizing a problem, realizing the need for change, and solving it. She is able to identify a crisis and wrangle an adaptation from Nature. Lyta is a mentally gifted hominid, yet modern man sees her as barbaric and crude. Someday, maybe 1.7 millions years from today, some scientific writer will try to explain the actions of the ancient species, Homo sapiens sapiens. In his lense, we will appear primeval, incapable of thoughts meriting “modern man’s” attention.
It is with this perspective I present these noble creatures. I make no claim to original investigations. To steal the words of E.A. Allen, in his 1885 The Prehistoric World, I trust “…it will not be considered impertinent for a mere loiterer in the vestibule of the temple of science to attempt to lay before others the results of the investigations of our eminent scholars.” Their manner of speaking, the primal grammar and sentence structure, has been lost, so I follow the research of Dr. Lev Vygotsky on primitive societies. He found primitive man to be a thorough communicator, his conversations filled with detail about his surroundings and even of places he only once visited. Lyta’s communication isn’t limited to words, but includes a smorgasbord of devices to convey her message—vocalizations, body movements, hand gestures, intonation, facial expressions—skills we only vaguely understand and often discredit. I have translated her words and those of her band into a Homo sapiens sapiens-friendly language.
Additionally, primitive man had no concept of counting or numbers. To convey this in a manner more appropriate to their time, I used the research of Dr. Lev Vygotsky—again—and Dr. Levi Leonard Conant from his 1931 book, The Number Concept. For example, Lyta will never say that her band consisted of fifteen individuals, rather she will describe a band with “enough females to gather fruit and nuts and care for the children, and enough males to hunt scavenge and protect the band”. While ‘fifteen people’ is more concise, to her it is meaningless.
Often, you will be tempted to disbelieve her life. Once again, fact is truly stranger than any fiction a creative Thinking Man brain can invent.
Part 3–next week…
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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and author of two technology training books for middle school. She wrote Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a tech columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s seeking representation for a techno-thriller Any suggestions? Contact Jacqui at her writing office, WordDreams, or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.