I Went To The Museum

The irony wasn’t obvious at first. But by the time I’d read to the end of the Denisovan piece, and checked a thing or two, it was clear.

DNA analysis from a 50,000-year-old finger found in a Siberian cave confirms it belonged to human ancestors called the Denisovans.┬áDenisovans? An ancient civilisation? Visitors from an alien planet? Creatures from a land now lost, like Atlantis that we’ve discussed before? I had never heard of them. Had you?

A few hits on the Net, and the answer appeared. The cave where the fragment of bone was found is known as the Denisova Cave. Named after, wait for it, a bloke called Dennis the Hermit who lived in the cave during the 18th Century. This was strangely more titillating

Artist depiction of an old sketch of Dennis the Hermit, after whom the Denisovans were named. The artist (JW) gives magnanimous permission for common use over the internet, provided it is for educational purposes.

than the actual DNA stuff. Because of the irony. Good old Dennis, in the local lingo called Dionisij, in Australia, we’d call him Den, or Denno. Well, he was a hermit. Secluded from humanity. Alone. Not a part of the normal social interactions of humans. Now, in 2012, his name has been given to a WHOLE RACE OF PEOPLE. Well, broadly speaking. Furthermore, up to 5% of humans in certain countries have genetic material named after Den.

And, this puts Den the Hermit as high up in the irony stakes as St Dennis, a third Century martyr, and one of a group of cephalophores in religious history. Martyrs who

Saint Denis (or St. Dennis, or St. Denys) according to legend, carrying his own decapitated head on a two-mile walkabout. Source: The Every-Day Book (1825-26), published by William Hone.

continued to walk and preach after they were beheaded, doing so while carrying their head. Which reminds me that Comedian Steven Wright once said, “I went to the museum where they had all the heads and arms from the statues that are in all the other museums”.

When the world museums finally set up their Denisovan Displays, I doubt whether they’ll include a mention, let alone a look-alike, of Dennis the Hermit. Come to think of it, that’s what he would prefer. Maybe we should keep his story quiet.

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