The world is a strange and sometimes alarming place. People do horrible and wonderful things to each other. The earth moves dangerously, in hidden patterns and dances – plates shift, glaciers rumble and call with gravelly voices, molten spurtings and hot steam jets and spewed collections of ash and rock tumble and shatter. It is a place vibrant with life and movement, and even amidst rapid and threatening change, is beautiful. The oddest things become preserved or changed into something lasting – a little calcinated shell, a bit of coal under pressure, the mummified peat bog remains of past life.
What little we know about the past we see through two lenses – through the lens of whatever written work might remain of a past age, and through its preserved physical evidence, made up of artifacts, features, and sometimes the physical bodies of the people themselves. We know through these few things, which is honestly how we understand many things we have not lived. We look at Asian art and read the Spring and Autumn Annals and think we know something about how people lived, but the experience of such a life is not the same. We see through a window, rather than living in the open air. Still, more data helps give us a better understanding, a bigger window.
Most recently, the window was pushed just a bit wider in Britain by the discovery of something in a skull. Now, we all know what lives in skulls, but I hesitate to say what may be there until further tests are done. it is probably one of the oldest discoveries of brain tissue yet. But why do we care if there are scraps of flesh left in someone else’s head? Perhaps because it is a truer link with the past. Or perhaps it will tell us something new about brain morphology, or the way we think. Perhaps it will tell us nothing at all. regardless, it is something of wonder, something amazing that the world, through whatever rare chance, still manages to pull off, somehow.