ADVERTISEMENT
Observations

Observations

Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

Ode to the Last Neandertal [Video]

|

Gorham's Cave

The view out of Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar, where traces of the last known Neandertals have been recovered. Image: Kate Wong

On a recent visit to Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar I stood in the dark, damp recesses of the seaside limestone cavern and cried. I had come to see the site of the last known Neandertals, who lived here some 28,000 years ago. Situated on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, Gibraltar was a refuge for Neandertals for thousands of years when climate change rendered the northerly parts of their range uninhabitable. But eventually they could no longer hang on and Neandertals as a distinctive human group went extinct.

I had spent the day exploring the Neandertal stomping grounds along the coast of the southern tip of Iberia with a group of paleoanthropologists, archaeologists and ecologists who had come to Gibraltar to attend a human evolution conference, and Gorham’s was our final stop. After viewing the cave’s archaeological deposits we were treated to a live performance. Ecologist Doug Larson of the University of Guelph pulled out his guitar and performed a song he wrote about the last Neandertal, called "Last Man Standing." It was incredibly moving to hear this song while at the Neandertals' final outpost looking out over the turquoise sea to the north coast of Africa, to think about the demise of our cousins who endured longer than our own kind has existed. Filmmaker David Valentine spontaneously captured the moment on video, which you can watch below.

LAST MAN STANDIN, May 3, 2005 © D.Larson

Pull the hood down on my face,

feel the cold wind steal my grace

Beg the sun to warm my back

beg the hunger not to attack

200 000 years of peace

all coming down to .this

Left here all alone the others I will miss,

now it’s just me, me and the abyss

think I’m the

last man standing

the last one to recall

the last man standing

wonderin, wonderin,

I can recall the land was ours,

I can recall the many hours

I spent chipping at the stone,

now there’s nothin left nothing left but bones

We were hundreds just last year,

then the cold came and the fear

We saw Africa across the straight

but we cannot swim and cannot wait

See our mark upon the land, see my footprints in the sand

think I’m the

last man standing

the last one to fall

think I’m the

last man standing

wonderin, wonderin

*Post updated 9/28/12 at 12:54 EDT to include song lyrics

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

EVERY ISSUE
EVERY YEAR
1845-PRESENT

Get All-Access Digital + Print >

X

Email this Article

X