A piece of 50,000-year-old string found in a cave is the oldest ever discovered. It suggests that Neanderthals knew how to twist fibres together to make cords – and, if so, they might have been able to craft ropes, clothes, bags and nets (New Scientist 09/04/2020)….
All morning Ugg had been in his man-cave.
This was the small opening in the rock beside his and Ogga’s own cave, where he went to “invent” things, a process which seemed to Ogga to involve a lot of hammering, a lot of swearing, and the occasional unexpected fire.
Now Ugg appeared at the entrance to their home, carrying a number of items which he set on the floor. Ogga looked at one of them and screamed.
It was the world’s longest worm.
“Get it away from me!” yelled Ogga.
Ugg looked down at it and laughed. “Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s not a worm. It’s a piece of string.”
Ogga stared at it. “How long is it?” she asked.
Ugg thought. “I’ve no idea,” he said.
“Well, what’s it for?” asked Ogga.
“Lots of things,” said Ugg. “Look, you can wrap presents.” He handed her an object, something around which a small piece of animal-hide had been wrapped, the whole thing being secured by a short piece of string.
Ogga took it, looked at it in confusion for a moment, then pulled gingerly at the end of the string. She gasped at the effect as the bow opened, the string fell away, and the parcel unfolded like a flower. Then she frowned.
“It’s a stone,” she said, stonily.
“Well, yes,” said Ugg. “I was just showing you this as a prototype, it’s not an actual -” he saw her expression and moved on hurriedly. “It also ties things together,” he said. “Look.”
“Two stones,” said Ogga. “Presumably for people who don’t want to carry one in each hand.”
“Ah, yes,” said Ugg, “but what if you wanted to carry three stones?”
“And why would I ever want to do that?”
“Not stones, then. Logs. Fish.”
“That’s what you’re for,” said Ogga. “Any other uses?”
“Oh, lots,” said Ugg. “I’ve imagined quite a few.”
“Mnmm,” nodded Ogga, intrigued. “String theory. And what have you imagined?”
“Um, yes, for summer, when it’s too hot to wear this hide. I pictured myself in some sort of top made of this.”
“A string vest?”
“Yes,” said Ugg. “I think it would be cool.”
“I suppose it would,” said Ogga, “though only in one meaning of that phrase. And what would I wear?”
“Well, I was thinking of a sort of string two-piece -”
“Dream on, caveman,” said Ogga pleasantly.
Ugg blushed. “Most of all, though,” he said, “I could use it for hunting.”
“What, as a lasso?” said Ogga. “It’s going to be some sight when a mammoth charges through the village with you skidding along behind it, frantically trying to use your heels as brakes.”
“That’s not what I meant,” said Ugg. “I could make a net and could use it to catch fish or small animals. For bigger ones I could use this.” He picked up a small branch which had been bent into a curve by having a piece of string too short for it tied at either end. He also picked up a short stick, sharpened into a point.
“Watch this,” he said. He placed the rear end of the short stick against the string, then pulled, bending the branch even further. He turned and aimed out of the cave.
Ogga held her breath.
Ugg released the string. The branch unbent at enormous speed. There was a lash-like whipping sound.
The pointy stick dropped to earth, landing between his fortunately well-splayed toes.
“Why, Honey,” said Ogga mock-sorrowfully. “Failure to launch.”
Ugg pulled the stick out of the floor. He looked so downcast that Ogga regretted making fun of him. She took his arm, hugging it. “They’re great ideas,” she said, softly. “They just need work.”
He smiled at her. “I’ve one more idea,” he said. “I’m going to make bags.”
“I’m going to make a small kind of mesh with handles,” said Ugg. “For women to carry stuff around.”
“We could keep absolutely everything in it,” breathed Ogga, agog.
“Exactly,” said Ugg. “I was thinking of calling it a Her-mesh Hand-bag, and -”
“I want one,” said Ogga.