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  • Mark Brafield

What's a few million years between friends

The news this evening included a report about Little Foot, one of the oldest and most complete skeletons of our ancestors found in the Sterkfontein Caves north-west of Johannesburg.

Little Foot is a complete skeleton of a 30 year old adult female, the remains believed to be about 3.67 million years old.

The leader of the research team, Professor Ron Clarke, spent 20 years completing the excavation, explaining how the bones were fragile and flaky, with the result that the greatest of care was needed in order to free the bones from the surrounding rock in which they were found.

When questioned about the length of the operation, Professor Clarke said that far from feeling exhausted or aged, he felt 'younger and stronger'.

It is hard for us to imagine the timescale of 3.67 million years and and it puts Little Foot's 30 years (and our four - score years and ten) into profound perspective. But maybe we can relate to the Professor feeling 'younger and stronger' as a result of his intense absorption into what must surely be his life's work.

Carl Jung suggested that the secret of a joyful and fulfilled life was to find whatever it was in your life that made the hours seem like mere minutes, and then to spend as much time as you could pursuing that activity.

The great 'cellist Paul Tortelier expressed a similar view of the way in which the artist was refreshed and made younger by his work even as he grew older in years; 'Happy the artist who lives long, for he is wise, and he is young'.

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