by Drew Baumgartner and Mark Mitchell
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
They might not have done so with elaborate ritual, since there has never been solid evidence that they included symbolic objects in graves, but it is clear that they did not just dump their dead with the rest of the trash to be picked over by hyenas and other scavengers.
Drew: What makes us human? As with any attempt to draw hard lines around a vague concept, there seem to be exceptions to every feature we might describe as human, forcing us to consider that other species might just qualify for whatever working definition we land on. Such is the case with Neanderthals — the “they” in the quote at the top of this piece — which display enough of what we understand as culture and morality for me to be satisfied with their humanity. But were their contemporary Homo sapiens? The trouble with that nebulous definition of humanity is that our gut tends to default to speciesism, especially in the moment. It’s easy for me to rule Neanderthals in now, but what about chimpanzees or dolphins? They have irrefutably human-like use of tools and language, but they just don’t feel human — they inspire a kind of visceral “this is an animal” feeling that requires a great deal of rational thought to overcome. That confusing, blurry line between human and non-human has long been a point of fascination for sci-fi writers, whether the non-human is a robot, alien, or some kind of mutated human, literalizing the struggle Homo sapiens seem to have in even recognizing the humanity of one another. This is far from the only intriguing theme in Vita Ayala and Emily Pearson’s The Wilds 1, but it might be the most unexpected. Continue reading