Thag was the leader of the main hunting party, of that there was no doubt.
This wasn’t entirely due to his acumen as a hunter. Part of it was because his predecessors had been idiots and extreme risk takers. Under Thag’s leadership, the hunters of the Thunka Grunka clan would have continuing success, but there was a problem.
For once, it wasn’t because of the f*&king shaman –Weasel-Scratch-Face-Brother– and his continuing quest to bed Thag’s mate, Onga. No, it was a more invidious problem, to whit, the tattoo craze sweeping through the clan.
All the youngsters had picked up the habit at the yearly Great Gathering, held just a moon ago. At first, Thag had hoped it would die off, but it was becoming a thing. All the young hunters were painting pictures of the animals they had killed — not on the cave walls, as Thag was fond of doing — but on their own bodies, using bone needles to put the ink beneath their skin.
It was painful, but popular.
And if Thag didn’t get one soon, he was going to lose the respect of the younger hunters, who all had at least one by now.
So he’d decided on a cave bear. Just a little one, on the left bicep. It still hurt almost as much the time he got kicked by the giant deer. (He hadn’t been able to sit for weeks.)
The only consolation? Onga thought the tat was kind of sexy. And Weasel Brother absolutely refused to have anyone touch his skin with the tattoo needle. He said it was blasphemy, but Thag knew the truth — he was just too old to try new things.
Monkeyluv: And other lessons on our lives as animals, by Robert Sapolsky. Photo by loufi. Originally published 2005.