The great anthropologist and author of “African Genesis,” Robert Ardrey, chose the Genesis legend as the poetic backdrop against which to pose his work. He presents Homo sapiens as “Cain’s child.” Preston Harold states that
In the view of this work, (Ardrey’s) book is of great value, because it brings to the attention of a wide public some pieces of the puzzle, dramatizing the questions that engage the specialists, and it highlights one aspect of man’s evolution that cannot be denied by any faction: the extraordinary turns a creature took to follow the path that led him to become a man, a being “special” beyond belief. Whose child is he and how did he evolve?
Because atomic dating has upset the timetable of what Darwin thought was the most probable way man evolved…
Ardrey concludes that after seventy million years of slow development, man’s brain leapt to the human condition and came about when it did in an evolutionary instant as an ultimate answer to the Pleistocene’s unprecedented demands. His theory involves the bones of the creature he likens to Cain, A. africanus, discovered in 1925 by Dr. Raymond A. Dart.
Much like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Harold explains that Ardrey’s synopsis of an evolutionary jump resulted in a capacity for killing:
Ardrey submits that A. africanus was…”a transitional being possessing every significant human qualification other than man’s big brain” – thus he presents him as an ancestor of Homo sapiens. This creature was a carnivore, a killer. There is abounding evidence that he armed himself with weapons of bone which he appears to have shaped sometimes – and apparently he, too, relished the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” brains. If he was ancestral-man, then the “human being in the most fundamental aspect of his soul and body is nature’s last if temporary word on the subject of the armed predator. And human history must be read in these terms.” History must also be read in these terms: the remains of the South African apemen present a “positive demonstration that the first recognizably human assertion had been the capacity for murder.” The Cain-Abel legend reports this.
There is a deep instinct in us to be over and above our fellow man. This is our “inner Cain.” But what about Abel? We’ll explore him in our next post. Until then, peace…