Everything I know, I learned from 10,000 B.C.

Well, not really. But one thing I love about the movies — even the really bad ones — is how they can stimulate interest in subjects that we might not otherwise have looked into. For a history buff like me, it can be especially fun to fact-check movies that are set in the past. If a movie gets something right, great; and if it doesn’t, there is still educational value in figuring out where it went wrong. (See the book Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies for dozens of examples of this sort of quasi-affectionate nit-picking.)

So as bad as a film like 10,000 B.C. might be, I have to admit that it got me curious about a number of subjects — though admittedly not so curious that I bothered to look them up in anything more authoritative than Wikipedia, for now. Below is a list of some of the “facts” that I found — and if any of these claims are in error, feel free to correct them, whether here or at Wikipedia itself.

But remember, this is all in fun; as a moviegoer, I don’t mind the historical inaccuracies in 10,000 B.C. anywhere near as much as I mind the fact that the film isn’t all that entertaining.

So, on to the list:

In my review, I mentioned the fact that sabre-toothed tigers lived in the Americas — and went extinct around the time this film is set, if not a few thousand years earlier — whereas this film features entire tribes of people who appear to be African.

In my previous blog post on this film, I said I was distracted by the eye make-up worn by Evolet. The earliest known evidence of cosmetics usage “is found in Ancient Egypt around 4000 BC.”

Evolet has blue eyes, which is treated even within the film as something new and unusual — as well it should be, since the genetic evidence suggests blue eyes are a mutation that “may have arisen in a single individual around the Black Sea region 6,000-10,000 years ago,” i.e. between 4,000 and 8,000 B.C.

In an even earlier blog post, I alluded to the fact that the earliest known city — Jericho or maybe Damascus — dates to between 8,000 and 10,000 B.C.

The first pyramids, built in Egypt or Mesopotamia or possibly even Greece, date to the 2,000s or 3,000s B.C.

The domestication of horses might have begun in the Eurasian steppes (around Ukraine) as far back as 4,000 B.C., but it didn’t really take off until the 2,000s B.C.; prior to that, horses were hunted for meat.

The woolly mammoth “ranged from Spain to North America” but died out around the end of the Ice Age c. 9,600 B.C., though “A small population survived on St. Paul Island, Alaska, up until 6000 BCE, and the small mammoths of Wrangel Island became extinct only around 2000 BCE”.

Metalworking “predates history”, and “The end of the beginning of metalworking occurs sometime around 6000 BCE when copper smelting became common in the Middle East.” So the villains’ use of swords and gold-plated ornaments might or might not be all that out-there.

Of course, the filmmakers can always claim the villains brought some of the more technically advanced stuff from outer space, or Atlantis, or wherever it is they supposedly came from.

Meanwhile, on a related note: Just think what fun we will have with all the anachronisms next year, when Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs — the third film in the popular Ice Age series — comes out. (The photo below is taken from ComingSoon.net‘s report on the ShoWest convention currently taking place in Las Vegas.)

MAR 14 UPDATE: Pat Graham of the Chicago Reader isolates some of 10,000 B.C.‘s other amusing anachronisms.

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  • The film is obviously placed somewhere in Africa; nevertheless the Caucasian humans have no explanation.

    If it were located in Americas the black humans as well as the Caucasians had no place being there.

    In the end the handful of seeds contains CORN which was brought from Americas after it was discovered by Columbus.

    Considering the technical resources employed in this movie for the special effects and screen sets, the historically sloppy screenplay is a mockery.