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Inventing the Cave ManFrom Darwin to the Flintstones$
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Andrew Horrall

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781526113849

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526113849.001.0001

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The parents of Adam and Eve: missing links

The parents of Adam and Eve: missing links

(p.57) 3 The parents of Adam and Eve: missing links
Inventing the Cave Man

Andrew Horrall

Manchester University Press

This chapter argues that by the 1870s the popular idea of human prehistory in Britain had become fixated on the concept of the missing link, the as-yet undiscovered creature at the point where the evolutionary descent of humans and apes had split. British showmen and circus owners exploited this fascination by passing off all sorts of creatures as missing links, from actual monkeys to actors in disguise. The two most important missing links are analysed in detail: Pongo the first live gorilla seen in Europe, and Krao, a Burmese girl with congenital deformities. They were promoted in Britain with explicitly evolutionary language. Scientists scoffed, but the public clearly understood the deceit, which they accepted as entertaining and harmless. Pongo and Krao inspired cartoons and humorous songs. They were imitated on stage by acrobats and in pantomimes. And drawings of missing links were used in advertisements. Pongo and Krao were also the last important evolutionary freaks. The globe had been comprehensively explored, evolution and European prehistory were far better understood, and the increasingly commercialised entertainment industry strove for middle class respectability.

Keywords:   acrobats, Farini, missing link, pantomime, songs, Westminster aquarium

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