Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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from the trenches
The Ascent of Caveman Volume 60 Number 5, September/October 2007
by Zach Zorich
Before the dawn of dialogue, in the age of rubber dinosaurs, a species of wild-eyed idiots emerged in the minds of filmmakers. Unlike any creature that has ever walked the earth, they were Hollywood cavemen. Director D. W. Griffith's 1912 film, Man's Genesis, marked the first on-screen appearance of both primitive man and dinosaurs. Since then, cavemen have become a convenient device for making statements about human nature and selling car insurance. This fall, ABC will air a sitcom featuring the Geico cavemen, marking the latest stage in Hollywood hominid evolution.

Photos: Jerry Ohlinger's Movie Material Store

Three Ages 1923
Thwarted by a stronger, wealthier man, Buster Keaton gets creative in the pursuit of love, inventing the catapult, stone ax, and golf club.
Teenage Caveman 1958
This high-concept, low-budget train wreck features Robert Vaughn rebelling against weird rules made by old men wearing carpet samples.
Trog 1969
Thawed out and angry, Trog starts off by eating a spelunker, but develops a nurturing side by hanging out with Joan Crawford.
One Million Years B.C. 1966
The late 1960s marked the golden age of Hollywood cavemen. As symbols of humankind's basest desires, they became objects of terror and sexual fantasies. In this remake of a 1940s film, the hero, Tumak, fights a menagerie of beasts straight out of the local pet store, but the real action is whatever Raquel Welch is doing.
When Women Had Tails 1970
Hominids never had tails, which makes Senta Berger's not only miraculous, but also the strongest scientific evidence yet for Intelligent Design theory.
Caveman 1981
There is a lot of Buster Keaton in Ringo Starr's lovesick cave-geek, Atouk, and the goofy language he speaks will make you wish this were a silent film. "Atouk zug zug Tala?"
Clan of the Cave Bear 1986
Daryl Hannah gives the theory of multiregional evolution a boost by interbreeding with a Neanderthal. But that won't save a subspecies of hominids who can't count past seven.
Saturday Night Live 1991
No longer "frightened and confused," Geico's cave-hucksters are the descendants of Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, who blazed a career path for men with robust brow ridges.
© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America