Margaret Mead? Paul Brand? Philip Yancey? Steven C. Beering? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: A primordial human who fell and broke a femur (thigh bone) would have faced terrible odds of survival. A vulnerable individual who was unable to walk and gather food would probably expire. Yet, a caring and supportive culture would enable recovery. An injured individual would be supplied with food and would be nursed back to health.
Apparently, an influential scientist asserted that the earliest sign of true civilization in the fossil record of humans was a healed femur because it indicated the existence of a compassionate society. This assertion has been attributed to the prominent anthropologist Margaret Mead. Of course, many societies simultaneously display compassion, indifference, and cruelty. Would you please explore this anecdote?
Quote Investigator: The first match known to QI appeared in the 1980 book “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: A Surgeon Looks at the Human and Spiritual Body” by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. Acclaimed physician Brand described a lecture given by Margaret Mead that he attended. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1980 Copyright, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: A Surgeon Looks at the Human and Spiritual Body by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Chapter: Bones: A Frame, Quote Page 68, Zondervan Publishing … Continue reading
To her, evidence of the earliest true civilization was a healed femur, a leg bone, which she held up before us in the lecture hall. She explained that such healings were never found in the remains of competitive, savage societies. There, clues of violence abounded: temples pierced by arrows, skulls crushed by clubs. But the healed femur showed that someone must have cared for the injured person—hunted on his behalf, brought him food, and served him at personal sacrifice.
Margaret Mead died in 1978, and the accuracy of this anecdote depends on the memory and veracity of Brand.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
|↑1||1980 Copyright, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: A Surgeon Looks at the Human and Spiritual Body by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Chapter: Bones: A Frame, Quote Page 68, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Verified with scans)|