National Geographic : 1956 Oct
554 Willard R. Culver, National Geographic Staff Animal Bones Tell the Story of Ancient Man as a Hunter Upper: Russell Cave's tenants of 2000 B. C. appear to have esteemed dogs, for they interred them carefully. The large skull came from such a burial. Smaller raccoon skull was crushed for its tasty brain tissue. Lower: Most layers in the cavern revealed bear bones, including this lower jaw-evidence that Alabama men hunted the animals thousands of years ago. believed that any turn of the trowel might uncover a hoard of buried gold. Legends passed on from the days of early settlers (among them Thomas Russell, for whom the cave was named) hinted at gold hidden by the Creek and Cherokee Indians who had lived in the area. Another story, from the early days of Bridgeport, Alabama, told of a train robbery in which two armed men made off with a fortune in gold. A posse tracked them to Russell Cave. Both bandits were killed, but the gold was never found. Was it buried in the cave? If so, we dug in the wrong place, in a cave in 1000 for we found not a nugget. As we worked our way downward, the pottery showed a change in hard ness and decoration. At about five feet it disap peared altogether. This was significant; it meant we had reached a recognized level of human prehistory, the beginning of Woodland culture and the end of what we term Archaic. The date for this change has been estab lished at about 1,000 years before the birth of Christ. Time Moves Backward Gasoline lanterns were our only lights, and as we dug in the dim and shad owy cave the effect was almost as if we were per sonally traveling back ward in time, cut off from the modern world by thick limestone walls. Now, at 1000 B. C., it was fasci nating to think of what would be happening in the rest of the world. About this time King Solomon would be ruling in Israel. The ancient Egyptian civilization along the Nile had already passed its peak. Rome and Carthage would not even be built for another two centuries. What was it like to live B. C.? From things we found in the Alabama deposits (and from things we did not find), we can deduce a rea sonably clear picture of a cave man's daily life. Since we found no agricultural implements at this depth we surmised he did not grow any of his food. His sole sources of supply must have been hunting, fishing, and gathering of wild grain, nuts, and fruits. He fished with bone hooks, probably using worms and insects for bait. He cracked mus sels and other shellfish. With stone-tipped weapons he killed rabbits, turkeys, raccoons, opossums, deer, and other animals.