2001: A Space Odyssey Wiki
2001: A Space Odyssey Wiki

Man-apes appear in the introduction of Arthur C. Clarke's novel, 2001: A Space Odyssey and its film adaption.

2001: A Space Odyssey[]

The man-apes of Pleistocene Africa (c. 3 mya) are perpetually starving, the victims of drought and lack of food. They forage for berries and other edible plants but often go without food. As they gather berries, the man-apes are unaware of the potential source of nourishment, the warthogs that eat beside them. Pigs and man-apes have always ignored each other, as there had been no conflict of interest between them. Like most animals that did not compete for the same food, they merely kept out of each other's way.


New Rock[]

A monolith suddenly appears amongst the man-apes, discovered by Moon-Watcher and his tribe. Moon-Watcher is attentive to a sound he could not have identified, the clank of metal upon stone. He investigates the “New Rock” with a touch, a few licks, and attempted nibbles. While on the trail, the monolith stops them dead in their tracks with a paralyzing simple, but maddeningly repetitious vibration that pulses out from the black crystal slab; hypnotizing all who come within its spell. Their minds are being probed, their bodies mapped, their reactions studied, their potentials evaluated. The throbbing sound becomes louder and insistent, causing them to forget the instincts of their forefathers.

And then they “came to life”—They seemed to be a thing possessed, struggling against some spirit or demon who had taken over control of their bodies. One by one, every member of the tribe is briefly possessed. As they explore new functionalities of their bodies, they are “appropriately rewarded by spasms of pleasure or of pain.”

The next day, they have no recollection of their experience. Moon-Watcher discovers that he can improvise an object with which to kill animals for sustenance—the man-apes' hunger problem is resolved. Then they innovate—the stone club, the toothed saw, the horn dagger, the bone scraper. Through the ascent of man, they invent the most essential tool of all, they learn to speak. From this point this kind of man invents weapons of infinite range and infinite power, but "as long as they existed, he was living on borrowed time."