Lets get a few dry facts out of the way first. Linear-A have split the figures in this set into three categories – Denisovan, Neanderthal and Homo sapien – which we have reflected in our pictures above. Neanderthals are an extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans, and are thought to have lived until 40,000 years ago. Denisova hominins are also an extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans, and are thought to have lived during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic, which is to say from 3 million to 30,000 years ago. Homo sapiens, which at the time of writing are still very much not extinct, emerged around 300,000 years ago.
Neanderthal man, the figures in our top row, is known from various sources, but as you might expect their actual appearance is far from certain. Their remains tell us that they had a more thickset body and shorter limbs compared to modern man, and their faces had a reduced chin, sloping forehead and larger nose. While such relatively subtle characteristics are hard to depict on a model of this scale, we thought the sculptor did a pretty reasonable job when compared to modern recreations. There is no evidence for Neanderthal clothing, but it has been suggested that some of the colder climates in which they lived would have forced them to wear some form of tailored clothing, presumably animal skins, or woven cloth if they had developed that ability. However in warmer areas they may have gone without clothing, or at least fitted clothing. The three figures here wear a simple kilt-type garment round the waist, and one wears a cloak, all textured to suggest fur.
Denisovans (row two) are only known from a small number of tiny remains and the DNA that those contained. Therefore only very general characteristics like skin colour can be deduced, and certainly there is no evidence concerning clothing. However they would have faced the same conditions as the Neanderthal, and the changing circumstances as the climate changed, so it seems reasonable to assume what follows for the Neanderthal applies equally to them. The three Denisovan pieces here are also dressed in a kilt-type garment, although two also have this extending over one shoulder and meeting round the back, with a strong suggestion of a cord or belt around the waist. Many would call this the ‘classic’ look for such species, but whether it is accurate is anyone’s guess.
Homo sapiens such as those in our final row have provided much more evidence of course. Ignoring the recent millennia and the dawn of civilisation, they would have faced similar temperatures and climate changes, but from the looks of these figures they were better able to adapt to the conditions. The first man in our final row again wears a simple kilt, but he clearly has some form of belt round the waist, and he wears tailored boots whereas the other rows are all barefoot. The remaining three figures in this last row wear considerably more complicated, tailored clothing. As well as the kilt and sophisticated boots, they all wear a sort of waistcoat which on one at least looks to be closed with laces, toggles or thongs. To our inexpert eye it looks very sophisticated, but we can certainly not claim any sort of expertise on such matters.
We normally talk of weapons and kit at around this point – here this will not take long. Several of the figures carry a spear which appears to be a simple stone (flint?) spearhead lashed to a long straight stick. Some of the Homo sapiens also have an axe and the very last specimen is perhaps holding a pick? As far as we know this all seems perfectly reasonable.
Perhaps at this point we should relax a little and start calling this set what it is – a collection of cavemen (and the first of several it would seem). Having conducted exhaustive research from ‘One Million Years B.C.’ (1966 with Raquel Welch) to the Flintstones, we can safely say that these models do indeed look very much like cavemen. While the facial features and level of technology do vary between the three groups here, from any distance the average man in the street would be hard-pressed to notice, much less care, about such distinctions. The fur kilts and cloaks all match our modern cultural expectation of such things, and the garment that rises over one shoulder certainly matches the ‘classic’ view of prehistoric man, even if it has far less certain roots in reality (we could find no serious reconstruction that shows such a garment).
The selection of poses too neatly matches what we might expect of such a subject. Several hold weapons as if on a hunt, or perhaps in a conflict, and the rather nice pair are carrying away some form of slaughtered deer. The man carrying a bundle of sticks is a nice idea too, but we were not too sure about the first piece in our second row, labelled ‘First Meeting between Denisovan and Neanderthal’ by Linear-A. The last figure in the top row got us scratching our heads too, as he seems to resemble some form of early basketball player, though the ease with which he handles that quite large rock is impressive.
The sculpting is on a par with other Linear-A output recently, so pretty good with good proportions and some particularly expressive faces. All the clothing has been textured to suggest animal fur, although as always such texture would actually be indistinguishable at this scale. The poses do not feel at all flat, but there are only a couple that are sufficiently active to appear to be hunting dinner or in a conflict. We found relatively little flash except in a couple of places, where there is a large amount (around the deer hunter pair and the kneeling figure in the last row).
We are much more comfortable assessing historic figures than prehistoric, but to our eye this seems like a decent set, and certainly something different. How people will react to this set will depend on what they want to do with it, and since it is called Set 1 we can assume others will follow. Our usual scoring system is not really appropriate for such a collection, but if you are looking for a set of early prehistoric figures then this would certainly be a quite appealing option.