How did cave-men cut their toenails?
As my own toenails need a trim, I was thinking about this earlier. Before the widespread adoption of sturdy footwear, and the invention of sharp blades, the feet of the human population must have been in something of a state. Hard skin and cracked heels would have been everyday issues, as well as cuts, thorns, sharp stones, and splinters. I doubt it was very long before they started to wrap their poor abused feet in the skins of animals they had killed for food, to keep them warm, if for no other reason.
But then I wondered about their toenails. Those things grow fast, and given that ancient man had little but sharp shards of flint to work with, cutting their toenails must have been well-nigh impossible. It’s tricky enough using my ratchet-clippers designed for the purpose, forged in tempered steel. I can’t begin to imagine having to tackle that regular job with a sliver of sharp stone. Perhaps they waited until they were long enough, then somehow snapped them off? Maybe they kicked rocks to create weaknesses or cracks before attempting that? Any of the alternatives sound painful, and just letting them grow is not an option, as they would soon impede walking, or running after game. I came to the conclusion that they must have got another member of their clan to bite them off. That’s the only plausible answer. I think I would have been out hunter-gathering when that job came around. Yuk!
I confess that I often wonder about such random things, where cave-dwellers are concerned. Who first thought of collecting grains, mixing them together with water, and baking them in some form of oven or an open fire? That idea seems to have arrived to everyone at around the same time, as the remains of bread made like that are to be found in the archaeological digs of any country. What ancient genius decided to crush coffee beans, add hot water, and create a stimulant drink? Was it the long-forgotten ancestor of a certain Mr Starbuck perhaps?
And why did they cook meat? This is also a proven fact, as most meat eaten by our forefathers was cooked to some degree, before being eaten. Animals don’t cook meat, they eat it raw. But ancient man cooked his dinner, whether it was a leg of mammoth, or the cannibalistic repast provided by some unfortunate neighbour. Perhaps it was so cold, they needed something warm inside them? Cooked meat may also have kept longer than raw meat, and perhaps not have attracted the attention of predatory animals once the blood was cooked. But the person who came up with the idea must have been popular indeed.
Living an existence based on keeping a fire going, and hoping the sun rises the next day is not to be envied. But that harsh life developed a lot of invention born out of necessity, that’s for sure. Scientists can pretty much date the evolution of mankind as we know it on this planet, and in the grand scheme of things, it hasn’t been that long. Progress has been rapid, that’s undeniable. Lots of things have been invented, most of them bad for us, and the planet. But we can take comfort in one fact.
We no longer have to bite off each other’s toenails.