People Who Lived in Caves
How do you suppose I know about all these things that took place so long ago?
I'm only guessing about them.
But there are different kinds of guesses. If I hold out my two closed hands and ask you to guess which one has the penny in it, that is one kind of a guess. Your guess might be right or it might be wrong. It would be just luck.
But there is another kind of guess. When there is snow on the ground and I see tracks of a boot in the snow, I guess that a person must have passed by, for boots don't usually walk without someone in them. That kind of guess is not just luck but common sense.
So we can guess about a great many things that have taken place long ago, even though there was no one there at the time to see them or tell about them.
We have dug down deep under the ground in different parts of the world and have found there-what do you suppose?
I don't believe you would ever guess.
We have found the heads of arrows and spears and hatchets.
The peculiar thing about these arrows and spears and hatchets is that they are not made of iron or steel, as you might expect, but of stone.
Now, we are sure that only human beings could have made and used such things, for birds and fish or other animals do not use hatchets or spears. We are also sure that these people must have lived long, long years ago before iron and steel were known, because it must have taken long, long years for these things to have become covered up so deep by dust and dirt. We have also found the bones of the people themselves, who died several million years ago, long before anyone began to write down history. The oldest bones we have ever found were in East Africa. We know that people long ago were working and playing, eating and fighting-doing many of the same things we are today-especially the fighting.
This time in the prehistory of the world, when people used such things made of stone, is therefore called the Stone Age.
Life was hard for Stone Age people. They didn't have all the things we are used to having today.
Some wild animals make houses. Foxes dig holes, beavers make houses of sticks and mud. These first people probably had no houses of any sort in which to live. They simply found any shelter they could. They found caves in the rocks or in the hillsides where they could get away from the cold and storms and wild animals. So men, women, and children of this time were called Cave People.
They spent their days hunting some animals and running and hiding from others. They caught animals by trapping them in a pit covered over with bushes, or they killed them with a club or a rock if they had a chance, or with stone-headed arrows or hatchets. They even painted or cut pictures of these animals on the walls of their caves. Some of these pictures we can still see today.
They lived on berries and nuts and seeds. They robbed the nests of birds for the eggs, which they ate raw, for at first they had no fire with which to cook. They liked to drink the warm blood of animals they killed, as you would a glass of milk.
They talked to each other by some sort of grunts or very simple words. They made clothes of skins of animals they killed, for there was no such thing as cloth.
These early people must have spent most of their time hunting for food or trying to get away from animals hunting them for food. They had no thick hide like an elephant to protect them; they did not grow a coat of fur like a bear to keep them warm; they could not run very fast, like a deer to escape their enemies; they were no match for an animal with sharp teeth and claws and strong muscles like a lion. It's a wonder any of them lived to grow up.
Stone Age people had two things that helped them more than sharp claws, or strong muscles, or tough skins. They had better brains than the animals. And they had hands instead of front feet. With their brains they could think. They could think of ways of doing things better.
With their brains they could think of using tools. With their hands they could make tools and use them. Instead of sharp teeth, men could use spears. In place of a furry skin to keep them warm, men could use the skins of animals.
Suppose you had been a boy or a girl in the Stone Age. I wonder how you would have liked the life.
When you woke up in the morning, you would not have bathed or even washed your hands and face or brushed your teeth or combed your hair.
You ate with your fingers, for there were no knives or forks or spoons or cups or saucers, only one bowl-which your mother had made out of mud and dried in the sun to hold water to drink-no dishes to wash and put away, no chairs, no tables, no table manners.
There were no books, no paper, no pencils.
There was no Saturday or Sunday, January or July. Except that one day was warm and sunny or another cold and rainy, they were all alike. There was no school to go to.
There was nothing to do all day long but make mud pies or pick berries or play tag with your brothers and sisters.
I wonder how you would like that kind of life!
"Fine!" do you think?-"a great life-just like camping out"?
But I have only told you part of the story.
The cave would have been cold and damp and dark, with only the bare ground or a pile of leaves for a bed. There would probably have been bats and big spiders sharing the cave with you.
You might have had on the skin of some animal your father had killed, but as this only covered part of your body and as there was no fire, you would have felt cold in winter, and when it got very cold you might have frozen to death.
For breakfast you might have had some dried berries or grass seed or a piece of raw meat, for lunch the same thing, for dinner still the same thing.
You would never have had any bread or cheese or griddlecakes with syrup, or oatmeal with sugar on it, or apple pie or ice cream.
There was nothing to do all day long but watch out for wild animals-bears and tigers; for there was no door with lock and key, and a tiger, if he found you out, could go wherever you went and "get you" even in your cave.
And then some day your father or brother, who had left the cave in the morning to go hunting, would not return, and you would know he had been torn to pieces by some wild beast, and you would wonder how long before your turn would come.
Do you think you would like to have lived then?