Commentary by Dick Wolfsie
I was looking for a magazine to take on the plane to pass the time on our two-hour flight to Houston. The conventional wisdom is that print magazines are dying, but the truth is that special-interest publications are as popular as ever. At the airport, I had dozens of choices, many of which had to do with surviving some impending doom, building no-nonsense abs or making holiday cookies.
I chose a publication called “Archaeology,” intrigued by the cover that proclaimed
“The Top Archeological Discoveries in 2015.” I figured if any magazine could dig up some cool stuff this would be the one.
The first story is about hikers in South Africa who called the local police, reporting they had found some “transitional hominid remains.” I think it is a good bet they simply called and said, “Hey, we found some dead guy,” but the magazine needed to class things up a bit for their brainy readership. According to a report by a local scientist who examined the skeleton, the creature had a brain the size of a small orange but the skull was human-like and he could walk upright. “I’ve never seen a combination of traits like that,” said paleontologist John Hawks, who was not familiar with The United States Congress.
In Kenya, a research team claims to have unearthed tools dating back to the dawn of man. Most of the implements were large rocks fashioned into hammering devices, as well as a few arrowheads. However, scientists were baffled by the Phillips-head screwdriver they found, because it predates the Phillips-head screw by about three million years.
My favorite discovery comes from Regensburg, Germany, where archeologist Silvia Windauer claims to have uncovered the world’s oldest pretzel, originally baked about 400 years ago. “It was rock hard, tasteless, and inedible,” said the professor, which is pretty much what you also say about a four-day-old pretzel. Wait: did she really taste it? By the way, the scientists also found the remains of dozens of discarded, uneaten rolls in what looked like an ancient trash bin, speculating the baker simply overestimated what he needed that day and chucked the extra. Legend has it that the chef later migrated to Italy where he invented the idea of unlimited breadsticks.
In Indonesia, scientists claim to have come upon an early form of tracing. They found a kind of stencil that early man possibly fashioned out of leaves and then used to re-create the images on cave walls with colored dust. This may have resulted in the earliest paint-by-numbers concept, but the idea never caught on, because at that time they had only invented the number 1 and number 4.
What was the first musical instrument? No one is really sure, but apparently something that sounded like a kazoo was once uncovered in some ruins in Portugal. The item was next to a Neanderthal man, but his body was isolated some 50 miles from the rest of his tribe. Scientists are not sure why this man was left alone to die. I have a pretty good idea.