Jawbone of Contention
Rudabánya is a place where you can ponder the depths, the depths of human and scientific history. Tucked into the Cesrhat Hills north of Miskolc, at one time this village was a mining center.
The mine brought more than iron ore to the surface. It also excavated the remains of one of the oldest primates found in Europe. The ten million year old jawbone of Rudapithecus hungaricus, an ancient monkey, is on display here.
Try to imagine what Hungary must have been like then! Start with this one certainty: it would have been nothing like what we see today. There was no idea of a Europe, no idea of a Hungary.
Humanity was as distant to that time, as that time is distant to us today. Indeed knowing that this past existed does not make it any clearer.
It is still vague, mysterious and perhaps inconceivable. If anything our perception of this period is probably even more incorrect because we imagine the landscape and climate to be roughly analogous to the present.
Oh we may say that we know it was different, that geologists and climatologists have told us otherwise. But what do we compare it to, except the world around us, a world unlike any other, especially that world.
We imagine this primate to be either like us or like a monkey, but how can we imagine something we have never seen and never will. It is mind boggling to consider that evolution cannot provide as an answer. Keep in mind, that evolution actually caused the extinction of this primate.
To put the age of this jawbone on a more historical time scale, consider that it belonged to a creature that lived nine million nine hundred and ninety eight thousand years before the Romans set foot in Hungary.
And that’s just an approximation. It’s a long, long time ago.
A tantalizing question remains at Rudabánya: What else might lie beneath? The mining ended here quite a few years ago.
The chance of another major fossil excavation at Rudabánya continues with field schools digging in the area. Until that time, we are left with seemingly endless questions and very few answers.
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