Do you think our distant ancestors lived wellness lifestyles? How far back do you think wellness goes? I think they did, long long ago. I think the first wellness innovator was an ancestor common to man and apes, who probably lived in Africa. This animal, in time, developed a conscious awareness of the importance of self- responsibility, for if he/she delegated too much to associates, he/she was likely to get eaten. (The parallels to the modern worksite are striking!) The likelihood of being devoured for not paying attention was a real motivator. My sense from where I sit, in a civilized world millions of years later, is that such a threat would still be a real motivator today. Thus, it’s something of a pity that there are not more saber-toothed tigers on the prowl reinforcing this foundation element of a wellness lifestyle.
For others with such curiosities, a great deal can be learned by visiting Krapina, Croatia where the world’s only Neanderthal Museum opened last week. But I would like to go. The museum features forensic simulations to explain the evolutionary tree in such dramatically scientific ways that only the most hardened creationist will fail to be educated as well as impressed. It sits where the greatest concentration of Neanderthal remains have ever been found. And not just bones and such, but tools and the effects of our relatives (well, some of us) who lived in Asia and Europe until 30,000 years ago. Some artifacts excavated at this site back in the late 19th century are featured in the interactive displays. One highlight attraction is of a Neanderthal family of seventeen as well as eight hundred or so fossil remains of 75 other Neanderthals, all of whom died between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four.
One quote from the museum site supports my idea that these people might have had their own ideas of a wellness nature: Today we look at the Neanderthals as humans. They had emotions, helped the weak and the sick…and had the speech gene just like ours. We could, to discuss wellness among early hominids, go back much further, at least four million years. The earliest pre-humans evolved into a species we know as Australopithecus. This was the first hominid to walk upright, to stretch, do yoga, attend lunch-and-learn midday lectures, jog and otherwise master the fundamentals of exercise science, another important dimension of the wellness concept. OK – this is not museum-quality scientific opinion. But, Australopithecus deserves a lot of credit for how we turned out.
In time, these folks gave way to Homo habilis, a short-lived species, as species go. Homo habilis is believed to be the first to use tools, presumably including knives and forks. Closer to our time, in fact only two million years ago (a flick of an eye in cosmic terms), there came upon the scene the genus Homo erectus. I’m not sure what this group did to distinguish themselves, though judging from the name it might be best not to get too specific. In any event, our guys – Homo sapiens, appeared a mere 150,000 years ago, at the same time that the Neanderthal Museum-dwellers today, the Neanderthals, lived their brief lives in Asia and Europe.
So, I think our ancestors, distant and not so distant, did practice wellness lifestyles in their own fashion, and that these wellness innovators paved the way for the lifestyle artistry some of us seek today. Stand proud, respect these true pioneers and do your part in order that our good species, Homo sapiens, does not fade into history before we have to give way to the next evolutionary advance. At least let’s hope it will be an advance, but I suppose there are no guarantees about that. In any event, maybe some of us might get lucky and end up as displays when folks a hundred thousand or even a million years from now put up the Homo Sapiens Museum, maybe in Florida.
I wonder what the next humanoid species will be called? Perhaps, if our descendants a few hundred thousand or even millions of years from now abandon superstition, sedentary lifestyles, killing each other, being angry most of the time and voting Republican while embracing reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty, the scientific name for the species will be something like “Homo sapiewells.”