E.H. Gombrich on Humans and Their Propensity to Change

“Now let’s take a look at these people (these earliest humans) dressed in skins, as they paddle their boats made of hollowed-out tree trunks towards their village of huts on stilts, bringing grain, or perhaps salt in the mountains. They drink from splendid pottery vessels, and their wives and daughter wear jewelry made of colored stones and even gold. Do you think much has changed since then? They were people just like us. Often unkind to one another. Often cruel and deceitful. Sadly, so are we. But even a mother might sacrifice her life for her child and friends might die for each other. No more but also no less often than people do today. And how could it be otherwise? After all, we’re only talking about things that happened between three and ten thousand years ago. There hasn’t been enough time for us to change.”

Excerpted from: Gombrich, E.H. Trans. Caroline Mustill. A Little History of the World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

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