Take this exhibition of rusty Spanish-American homesteading tools at the Albuquerque Museum. While the Curator of Modern Art dozes, the few contemporary pieces huddle in an outcove.

The oldest, possibly dating as far back as 20,000 B.C., included more than 20 stenciled hands, which the Cro-Magnon people ostensibly drew by placing their hands on the wall and drawing their contours in charcoal.

The museum is located in Old Town, where the paleolithic peoples, as shown by the transformation of their stone implements and of their artistic styles, were history-making peoples par excellence; they were in the throes of a continuous process of transformation because they squarely confronted the obstacles and dangers of their environment and tried to master them. For that reason, this property in just one kind of crystal, that of silicon, is what lies at the heart of our whole electronics industry. It is what makes transistors and microchips and semiconductors possible. You create them by taking a pure material and enlivening it with carefully calculated doses of impurities... all stone, which is after all largely crystalline, should be seen as a sort of macrochip. A natural, if somewhat haphazard, electronic system capable of storing energies and, given the right circumstances, they are in fundamental opposition to the so-called primitive peoples of today. The existence of these modern primitives is stagnant because I'm sitting on a wooden bench. A slight breeze allows the shadows of branches to caress a curio shop's the smooth brown adobe walls, imitation Mimbres pots lined up in its window. Through the open door, the owner, pacing the dry timbered floor, creaks.

The hands are grouped together, as though they were intended as signatures....Specialists say it is unclear whether the fingers are mutilated or bent, but they agree that the shortened fingers point to a kind of code.

It is as if the ape's development stopped at the thumb, which stands alone. Not assigned the attributes of a god, by default, it is the sign of homo sapiens. To be "all thumbs" is to be completely human.