Just so story: Why did uman development on earth never advance beyond the late Stone Age?

The lesson

Somewhere in the Fertile Crescent, ca 5,900 BCE, a small circle of young boys, the weaker sons of brave tribal warriors, are gathered sitting crosslegged around the town bard, memorizing epic songs of their society like such young boys do in every town everywhere in the Late Stone Age. The bard sings a stanza and the boys have to commit it to memory and sing it back. When they have got it right, the bard sings the next stanza for them and so it continues day after day, year after year, generation after generation thus preserving the tribe's culture and values. "Sing, O Muse...."

Bard Retktumbanalpal: "Hey you there! Yes, I mean you, Makamakuk! what are you doing? You've got a little stick in your hand and you are fiddling with it on a litte brick of soft clay. You are supposed to be memorizing the stanza of the song I'm singing. What are you doing?"

Student Makamakuk: "I'm copying down what you are singing so I can sing it back to you, honored Teacher."

Bard Retktumbanalpal: "You are doing what? Why aren't you memorizing the song like you are supposed to?"

Student Makamakuk: "I don't need to, honored Teacher. All I have to do is look at what i've pressed into the clay and sing it back. Here, honored Teacher. Let me show you. [Student Makamakuk sings back exactly correctly in his still crystalline boyish clear voice the most recent stanza the bard had set the students to memorize.]

Bard Retktumbanalpal [glaring in ut barely controlled rage at Student Makamakuk]: "Give me that hunk of clay and that stick! Now! [Student Makamakuk obediently hands over the clay and the stick. Bard Retktumbanalpal looks at them uncomprehending for a few moments. He then snaps the stick in half and stomps up and down with all the force of his muscular 210 pound body on the clay, trampling it until it into bread crumbs all over the dirt floor of the room in the mud brick building where the class is held.] Somehow you were cheating! This must be sorcery! We never see anything like this when we fight the Gimlinians[1]. Enough of you! Memorize the stanzas in the song, Student Makamakuk, or I wlll send you out into the desert with the lions and the hyenas!"

Student Makamakuk bows his head and sheepishly asks the bard to repeat the stanza for him. He has to ask several times but finally gets it right. He just barely escapes being sent out into the desert with the lions and hyenas. But just to be sure the student has learned his lesson the bard lashes the his back 10 times with a thick leather whip. The boy collapses crying on the floor. "Be a man, not a girl, Student Makamakuk!"

Student Makamakuk: "Owwlllll!"

Bard Retktumbanalpal: "Good. Now students let us sing this tanza onece more all together and then we will move on to the next one. The story is long and days are short.... And you've all got to go to sword and shield practice too."

*      *      *      *      *      *      *

That is how the late Stone Age towns of the Fertile Crescent remained frozen in primary orality. Human life on earth never advanced further, although they did eventuaully learn about the wheel.

When he got back home to his family tent after school that night, Student Makamakuk secretly presed down the story of his day on another clay brick he had hidden under his straw mattress. But once burned twice shy: Student Makamakuk never touched a fresh piece of clay or a small stick and he never so much as looked toward any person's face again. His spririt had been broken and he no longer wished to live: "Yessir, honored Teacher."

A short time later, a great fire burned throu much of the village and and both Student Makamakuk and the bard died in the fire, but the fire also baked the piece of clay. It was found when extraterrestrials visited the earth many years later. They carefully wrapped it and loaded it into their space ship to take back the their Museum of Cosmic Curiosities, as a specimen of what they had found on planet earth, a planet to which they never found reason to return.

Here is what Student Makamakuk pressed into the clay, and which, ulike him, survived the fire (Courtesy of Cosmic Archives):

The story
+2024.02.16 v057
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  1. The Gimlinians are a neighboring tribe with which bard and student's tribe conducts ritual war every year to build, each on their own side, loyalty to their own tribe through ritualized animosity against the other side. They jump and down at each other like chimpanzees and scream obscenities at each other, but rarely are any of the brave fighters actually killed in what really is more mock combat. Indeed, once a Gimlinian became had of bard and student's tribe but continued to put on an act to vigorously stoke the animosity between the two groups to stoke xenophobic loyalties. The warriors on both sides also secretly shared women.
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