walking here, dimly-lit
The cave bear
came to rest here
many moons ago;
millennia, in fact
during the ‘Last Glacial Maximum’
which we once-upon-a-time
far too poetically called
‘The Ice Age.’
of the cave-bear jaw
found lying on the cave-floor
which might have been fashioned into a flute
I hear that strange and subtle music
of the kind
that carries through the centuries,
from the last Ice Age, or
The Last Glacial Maximum:
did not survive it, and
I’m haunted by their almost-song:
Who will hear ours, once we are all gone?
About this poem
I have written this poem in response to Earthweal’s weekly challenge. This week, Brendan asked us to imagine a haunted wilderness. I took inspiration from a recent visit to Potočka zijalka cave, in which bones of the now-extinct cave bear were found. One fragment of bear jaw had been pierced by 3 holes, which may or may not have been man-made, a kind of rudimentary flute made by the ancestors of modern humans.
A similar bone flute has been found in Divje Babe cave in Northwestern Slovenia, but this, in contrast, was likely to have been fashioned by Neanderthals. If the flute is a genuine artefact, this would prove that Neanderthals were capable of making and appreciating music. Unlike the makers of the Potočka zijalka flute, the Neanderthals (and the cave bear) did not survive the last Ice Age.
I tried to imagine the ancient music of our ancestors resonating through the chamber of the cave, and was haunted by the idea of that long-lost song. Now we as a species face an existential threat, as Neanderthals did tens of millennia ago. Who will hear our music once we are gone? Will we leave behind a haunted wilderness, when there is no one left to haunt?