“The past slips from our grasp. It leaves us only scattered things. The bond that united them eludes us. Our imagination usually fills in the void by making use of preconceived theories… Archaeology, then, does not supply us with certitudes, but rather vague hypotheses. And in the shade of these hypotheses some artists are content to dream, considering them less as scientific facts than as sources of inspiration.” Igor Stravinsky, composer
There’s this place on the Sefton Coast, in England, that made me cry. But then again I often cry: a lonely old
woman doing her shopping lost between aisles of cereal boxes; a grown man drunk in the middle of the day holding the hand of a child with hard eyes; a stray dog trying to appraise the situation, in search of the real intentions of the human that offers a half-eaten sandwich. You see? Plenty of crying in one day.
This place on the Sefton Coast made me cry for a completely different reason: I didn’t see loneliness that engulfs you and kills you bit by bit, I didn’t experience disenchantment through the eyes of a child and I didn’t feel the fear of uncertainty. I only saw a row of silent footprints, a track of quiet purpose.
If you ever go there you will see footprints of men, women and children left behind many, many years ago. Dating from the late-Mesolithic to mid-Neolithic, a path of footprints of people going about their business thousands of years ago, unaware… Just hunting, picking up shellfish maybe… the children would help or just play on the beach and watch the waves battering the coast and wonder what they would encounter on the other side. I don’t really know. It just made me sad looking at the ghosts of people that are no longer, these scattered clues of past lifes, echoes of actions and routines forever engraved on the cold rock.
As odd as this might seem – and just for my own sake, I think- I feel the need to immediately create a narrative that would make the story of these ghost people meaningful. I use as many details as it is possible from my abridged knowledge of late- Mesolithic and mid-Neolithic civilizations and give them a happy ending. I imagine their life, their relationships and their struggles. I wonder if they laughed. I decide ‘yes, they did’. I don’t know if they had names or a simple “you there!” would have sufficed.