ochre point

marian4456  asked:

As I am re-reading DIA, I was intrigued by the skeletons Jamie and Claire find in the cave. First time around, I glossed over the part where DG writes that one of the skeletons has some red hair clinging to it. Have you any theories who the skeletons might be?

Hi marian4456  - thanks for your ask!

Ah, the “Paleolithic Lovers.” Such a poignant part of Dragonfly in Amber - when Jamie and Claire are newly restored to each other, and they cling to each other for dear life.

Jamie is a romantic - he sensationalizes things. And I think in the mental state he and Claire were in, at that particular moment - he saw a bit of himself and Claire in that beautiful, tragic tableau.

“Sassenach! Come here, will ye?” There was something odd about his voice, and I hurried toward him. He stood at the entrance of a small side-cave, looking down.

They lay behind an outcrop of the rock, as though they had sought shelter from the wind that chased the bison.

There were two of them, lying together on the packed earth of the cave floor. Sealed in the dry air of the cave, the bones had endured, though flesh had long since dried to dust. A tiny remnant of brown-parchment skin clung to the round curve of one skull, a strand of hair gone red with age stirring softly in the draft of our presence.

“My God,” I said, softly, as though I might disturb them. I moved closer to Jamie, and his hand slid around my waist.

“Do you think… were they… killed here? A sacrifice, perhaps?”

Jamie shook his head, staring pensively down at the small heap of delicate, friable bones.

“No,” he said. He, too, spoke softly, as though in the sanctuary of a church. He turned and lifted a hand to the wall behind us, where the deer leaped and the cranes soared into space beyond the stone.

“No,” he said again. “The folk that made such beasts… they couldna do such things.” He turned again then to the two skeletons, entwined at our feet. He crouched over them, tracing the line of the bones with a gentle finger, careful
not to touch the ivory surface.

“See how they lie,” he said. “They didna fall here, and no one laid out their bodies. They lay down themselves.” His hand glided above the long arm-bones of the larger skeleton, a dark shadow fluttering like a large moth as it crossed the jackstraw pile of ribs.

“He had his arms around her,” he said. “He cupped his thighs behind her own, and held her tight to him, and his head is resting on her shoulder.”

His hand made passes over the bones, illuminating, indicating, clothing them once more with the flesh of imagination, so I could see them as they had been, embraced for the last time, for always. The small bones of the fingers had fallen apart, but a vestige of gristle still joined the metacarpals of the hands. The tiny phalanges overlay each other; they had linked hands in their last waiting.

Jamie had risen and was surveying the interior of the cavern, the late afternoon sun painting the walls with splashes of crimson and ochre.

“There.” He pointed to a spot near the cavern entrance. The rocks there were brown with dust and age, but not rusty with water and erosion, like those deeper in the cave.

“That was the entrance, once,” he said. “The rocks fell once before, and sealed this place.”

He turned back and rested a hand on the rocky outcrop that shielded the lovers from the light. “They must have felt their way around the cave, hand in hand,” I said. “Looking for a way out, in the dust and the dark.”

“Aye.” He rested his forehead against the stone, eyes closed. “And the light was gone, and the air failed them. And so they lay down in the dark to die.” The tears made wet tracks through the dust on his cheeks. I brushed a hand beneath my own eyes, and took his free hand, carefully weaving my fingers with his.

He turned to me, wordless, and the breath rushed from him as he pulled me hard against him. Our hands groped in the dying light of the setting sun, urgent in the touch of warmth, the reassurance of flesh, reminded by the hardness of the invisible bone beneath the skin, how short life is.


No - I don’t think that it’s some version of Jamie and Claire - the strand of hair has gone red with age - it’s not Jamie. As to the significance, I’ll side with Diana Gabaldon, on what she’s said about this:

Who were the Paleolithic lovers in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER? What was their significance?

I didn’t really have anything specifically in mind about the Paleolithic lovers–they were simply a metaphor for the briefness of life and the importance of love–but then again, often I write something that I intend to be only colour, and it sort of turns into something else in later books.

There’s that ghost in Outlander, for instance….<g>

I got the lovers from The National Geographic, as a matter of fact.  The original were a couple from Herculaneum (or possibly Pompeii) whose skeletons had been found during the excavation, lying the manner I described in Dragonfly– his arms around her, trying to protect her when the fire came down on them. One of the most touching and dramatic pictures I’ve ever seen. It’s stuck in my mind for years and years, so it was there when my subconscious needed it as an image of mortality and love. One reason why writers ought to read more than just their own genre (whatever that may be).

And here’s the picture she shared on her website - of a couple found in Italy.