One trait that makes humans different from all other animals is our imagination: the ability to visualize something that doesn’t really exist and then make it real. We all use our imaginations every day, and it’s so automatic that it’s easy to take it for granted.
But there was a time in our distant past when – if you haven’t thought about this it may be hard to accept – humans didn’t have an imagination. In other words, it’s hard to imagine that we couldn’t imagine.
Early Homo sapiens spent their time hunting, gathering, and tending to all the other basic survival chores like the rest of the animal kingdom. At that point, our brains did a good job of keeping us alive, but abstract thinking was somewhere off in the distant future.
Over the millennia, we evolved and made the game-changing leap from survival to abstract thinking. We’ll never know exactly why or how this transformation happened, but it’s fascinating, and hopefully a bit humbling, to think about the change and where it’s led us.
Over the next few weeks we’ll highlight what early humans and some of our more recent ancestors did with this newfound imagination. We’ll take you to a cave in Germany where humans took their first steps into an imaginary world, and then we’ll jump forward in time thousands of years to the mysterious messages written in petroglyphs in America’s desert Southwest. And finally, we’ll go down south to the Andes to listen to the imaginary voices of the Quechua’s talking textiles. We can’t imagine the trip without you, so we hope you’ll follow along.
James & Terri