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Taking a glance at the Biggar picture

ENOUGH already with the jokes about finding signs of civilisation in South Lanarkshire.

We're talking about the Biggar area, and that's a fine neck of the woods. The Biggar picture is that archaeologists have found the earliest evidence of human civilisation in Scotland.

Analysing 5000 flint artefacts recovered between 2005 and 2009 from fields at Howburn, near Biggar, they've deduced that the owners were mincing aboot the place 14,000 years ago.

Previously, the oldest evidence of human occupation in Scotland was some 13,000-year-old antiques found in a cave in Argyll.

Speaking as a leading ignoramus, I thought human occupation happened much earlier, but I'm probably thinking of warmer climes. In Scotia Minor, the weather was rubbish as usual and, whenever folk thought of sallying hither to find things to put on the barbie - bang! - another ice age descended, and the tribe packed its bags for Torremolinos.

Indeed, even the folk who made the above flint tools had to do a runner as, 13,000 years ago, the blowpipes froze up again — for another 1000 years.

A thousand years: a blink of the universe's eye. Fourteen thousand: a quick glance. Or, if you prefer, about the last time Hibs won the Scottish Cup.

I've been trying to think what life must have been like back then in Howburn. My betting is that it wouldn't have been that much different from today. In some respects, of course, it would have been awful. Imagine a life without chips. A lack of qualified dentists would have been another pain. And counselling was in its infancy.

But, even without these essentials of modern life, my guess is that, back in the past, it was same old, same old. You say: "But they probably just communicated in grunts." And your point, caller? Have you listened to Scottish footballers being interviewed?

Gathered round the fire at night, Howburn man would be falling out over burdz, hairstyles, and who'd killed the most wildlife. Howburn youth would be hanging about the grove corner, wearing baggy loincloths with low-slung waistbands.

The person without halitosis would have been ostracised. There'd be sectarian rivalry, principally between those who believe the bone should go through the nose from left to right and those who say right to left.

You'd never get any peace really. There were no lone existentialists back in the day. Everyone was part of the herd. You'd be lucky if you had an original thought, thereby leading you to vote No in any referendum ("Hands up those who think this wheel might come in handy.")

And, just like today, as in any human group, there'd always be one, their equivalent of our one nutter per bus, one spoiler per evening class, one bully in the community. Indeed, the latter would have been the chief and a forerunner of today's aristocracy. Is there a Lord Howburn on the premises? If so, he could fair cock a snook at all the other Johnny-Come-Latelies at the House of Lords, or the Labour Club as it is now known.

And you'd have had to make your own club. There was no Sainsbury's to supply all your needs. They didn't even have a Poundland or a Skinstretcher. Everyone was into DIY, which is why historians describe life then as nasty, brutish and short.

But was it really that nasty? Maybe they had a bit of a laugh. Maybe they were kind of content. They were certainly too dim for angst. And they never lived long enough to have a mid-life crisis.

They didn't suffer the misery of reality TV, or indeed any TV. Human beings had to wait till the Middle Ages till they could have a nice night in watching the tapestry. So Howburn man made his own entertainment, and doubtless somebody would suggest charades ("It's a deer — again!").

Yup, these too were Jock Tamson's bairns. And, after a schooner of fermented yak urine and a night dancing to the latest hit drum solos, lo, our great-great-etc grandad got up the gumption to procreate. So here we are today.

Enjoying a contented life of crinkle-cut oven chips and counselling that our ancestors could never have imagined.

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