Ever wonder how those scrawny protohumans without claws, sharp teeth or thick skin survived the likes of Sabertooth? Me too, so I researched it and ended up with The Evolution Files, the prehistoric trilogy of Lyta, Xhosa and their tribes. Turns out to be a dashing tale, full of suspense, drama, and the appealing characters that we moderns can relate to. What didn’t kill them made them stronger, and isn’t that what Darwin predicted when he labeled evolution ‘survival of the fittest’?
I first met Lyta late one night as I was preparing for a grant presentation (which I didn’t get). I’d sent Otto to collect data on the rise of Homo habilis–known artifacts, paleoclimatology of Africa, Plio-Pleistocene geology. That kind of stuff. He’d been at it a while and had finally prepared the four-dimensional report he is accustomed to delivering. Within a few minutes, he’d panned in on a female habiline trotted across the African savanna. Despite a truncated forehead, prognathic snout, and negligible chin, in a jogging suit, I realized she’d be indistinguishable from most of my colleagues her at the University. Her movements were graceful, thanks to her long slender legs topped with the round firmness of mankind’s first gluteus maximus. I was surprised how raised her thorax was at that point in her evolution. It was a clear indication she could draw the deep breaths required for extended jogging. I jog five miles a day, but this female could probably do that before breakfast.
Her shoulder length hair hung like exploded cattails, the color of dusty obsidian. A bulge broke the flat plane of her lightly-furred stomach. Dried mud and dung covered her face and shoulders. Slender digits of well-formed hands grabbed vegetation as she ran. Every movement bristled with caution and confidence as she searched her surroundings. Her head swiveled side-to-side, over and over.
And she stared straight directly at me as though she could see me. Her coffee-brown eyes, the same variegated shade as mine, sparkled with intelligence.
There was something else, too. A desiccated trail of tears etched her cheeks like an African wadi. I couldn’t see any cuts or bruises. Could early humans feel emotional pain?
As I was pondering that, I heard a nicker off to the side somewhere. She gasped. Was she frightened? Someone barked what sounded like ‘Lhoo-tih’ and the movie froze, eleven seconds after it started.
Lyta. She had a name.