Scientists Believe Neanderthals First To Be Depressed

Neanderthal

We have known for some time about genetic predisposition to various forms of mental illness, snarkinuss eruptus and clinical depression to name only two. But if an illness is to be passed down from one generation to the next, it must have a point of origin. Now, researchers at the Department of Anthropological Psychology at the University of Basingstoke-on-Trent think they have discovered the answer.

Professor Chumley Meriwether Throckmorton announced that a recently completed in-depth study demonstrates conclusively that Neanderthals were the first humans to experience what is now referred to as clinical depression.

Professor Throckmorton elaborated at a recent press conference. “Neanderthals looked upon the world very differently than modern man. For them the world was vast and unknowable, an endless expanse of hostility and weirdness. Animals, inclement weather, and a noticeable lack of indoor plumbing loomed malevolently, providing an ongoing cavalcade of hazards.

“Unlike today’s human, who feels bolstered by an unwarranted illusion of mastery over the elements, supported as he is by a cornucopia of technological gizmos resting like arrows in his quiver, which, he trusts, with endearing naiveté, are at the ready to defend him from whatever the universe may fling in his path; the poor Neanderthal had little, if anything, at his disposal. Animal pelts for clothing, sticks and stones for defense, and for comfort, well, only the sweet oblivion granted to the truly clueless.

“But if the Neanderthal knew of no other reality couldn’t we assume he was happy in his lot, no matter how modest his circumstances? Yes we could, but we would be wrong. While certainly this state of blissful ignorance characterized the earliest part of Neanderthal man’s suzerainty of the earth, knowledge, like the proverbial garden apple, crept into his consciousness on velvet slippers, had velvet existed at the time, which it did not.

“It became obvious to Neanderthal man from gazing at his reflection in ponds and other glossy surfaces that he was, bluntly, unattractive. Thusly did low self-esteem enter our collective unconscious, setting the stage for poor self-image in millennia to come.

The prospect of a rapidly approaching Ice Age, if an Ice Age can be said to approach rapidly, played negatively on Neanderthal man’s view of the world and contributed to his feeling that it was inhospitable and beyond defeat. Worst of all perhaps were the occasional skirmishes with homo sapiens who, combining cunning, cruelty, and superior tool-making skills, crushed Neanderthals with relentless consistency.

“This overriding anticipation of inevitable doom settled into a dense crust of depression, gradually overtaking Neanderthals.

“Once depression had burrowed into the marrow and encoded in Neanderthal DNA, the die was cast. Next came dating, or intermingling, if you prefer, with homo sapiens, which transmitted the DNA through generations all the way to you, me, and the rest of humanity.”

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Alistair McHarg

Alistair McHarg was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, moved immediately to Edinburgh, and three years later moved to Amsterdam. At 6 he settled in Philadelphia and for 16 years was confused by Quaker education; Germanton Friends School and Haverford College. A Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Louisville nudged him even closer to unemployability.

Convinced at an early age that fate had chosen writing as his calling, Alistair followed a characteristically slow and circuitous path. He has found work as deck hand on a Norwegian tramp freighter touring South America, Bureau of Land Management Emergency Fire Fighter in Alaska, guide at a Canadian wilderness survival camp, truck driver crisscrossing Colorado’s continental divide, and inner city cabbie.

Alistair has been arranging words on paper for a living since 1983.