prehistoric art and us

Wandering through some old book-marked articles, I came across a very interesting old one (2003) that seems very timely so soon after my Creswell Crags post.

In Taking shape: Prehistoric art and us Victoria James discusses what prehistoric art and artifacts can tell us about the emergence of modern human behavior, centred on a book by Randall White, “Prehistoric Art: the Symbolic Journey of Humankind”. There has been great controversy over when exactly early hominids were considered to be “human” in the modern sense, in their skills and behaviour.

As I understand it, some experts believed very early patterned and non-representational “art” did not qualify as the work of a modern human. I’ve always felt strongly that anything that was made by the hands of early humans showed they were indeed human, not animal, as well as displaying “modern” skills.

James writes,”Indeed, some of the most powerful evidence for human cognitive sophistication found in White’s book lies not in the “artistic” quality of such objects as cave wall paintings, figurines or items of personal adornment, but in what such works reveal about the technological skill and complex organization of the societies that made them.”

And, “A guesstimate that we have considered is that this process may have been completed as much as some 300,000 years ago. That may be the depth of the modern mind.”

Related posts:
becoming human
what makes us human?
the spell of rock art

April 29, 2005 in Anthropology, Rock Art & Archaeology by Marja-Leena