Think of the struggles of a farmer, facing fierce winters in Minnesota to build a life for himself and his family during the 1850s. Maybe his name was Olafsen, maybe it was Henriksen, maybe it was something else. It doesn’t matter now, does it? That farmer is long since gone and so is his memory. But something he did, fields he worked, something he built—even if it has long since decayed—remains, making anonymous contributions to the world today. That long-ago foundation enabled someone else to build a better barn, work a heartier farm, protect more people from bitter winters.
No one remembers the name of that Minnesota farmer, nor of the migrant worker who tended crops in northern Mexico in the 1940s, nor the name of the button-makers who helped clothe people in 1830s England. But those long-forgotten people make anonymous contributions to today. And it also must be true, then, that the hunters and gatherers of ancient times, perhaps not even having names in the sense we know of names today, did the same. They are gone, forgotten, utterly anonymous. But they mattered then and they matter now, though we know nothing of who they were and what they looked like and what they did. Their cells form the fabric of the web we call today.