Discussion in 'Ancient History and Mythology' started by juantoo3, May 9, 2017.
Font de Gaume
Grotte des Trois-Frères (Sorcerer)
Chauvet (Venus Sorcerer)
Juantoo3, my man, you are on a roll!
Really, really enjoying your posts.
Thanks. It's been a long time interest. I had wanted to put something together and was struggling over how to begin, when the opportunity presented itself in the previous thread. That's why I copy/pasted my reply to begin this and kick it off.
I will probably need soon to highlight some of the research from the field, as to the relationship between art and the pursuit of the Divine, but for the moment I am having some fun posting some of the images found in the caves, and will likely get to the portable art and beads and other finds before it is over...if there is interest.
There's stuff in New Scientist about cognitive processes of the mind.
From an early age humans confront numerous fundamental problems that must be solved in order for them to function in the world. These include distinguishing between inanimate objects and 'agents' – things that can act on their surroundings. Test show that babies in their first year distinguish between the two, and will recognise an 'agent' even if (in experiments) the agent is a computer generated coloured disk. (Nine-month-old babies can recognise agent-ordered movement as opposed to random movement, so if one disk 'follows' or 'chases' another they show interest. They can even discern chaser and the chased. Play the game until the child gets bored, and then if you reverse the roles interest is reawakened.)
Evolutionarily speaking, this facility is really important in looking at why things happen ... so a rustling in the grass might be the wind, or it might be a predator creeping towards you. Or food creeping away ...
These early systems have been described by nobel prizewinning psychologist Daniel Kahneman as 'fast' – they operate automatically and effortlessly. Because of this, they are highly susceptible to false positives. For example, our hair-trigger system for detecting human forms leads us to see faces in the clouds, and our 'agency detection facility' leads us to talk to our computers and cars, or talk of objects as if they possess agent attributes.
Thus the tendency to ascribe events to some agency. I would further add (my own penny in the fountain) that our desire to know, means we are prone to look for meaning in things. So the idea that the cosmos is ontologically meaningless does not suit us ... if we had accepted that from the start, neither the arts nor the sciences would have ever got off the ground.
Kahneman’s also talks of 'slow' forms. Deliberate, conscious reflection on what we experience and know. Aristotle pointed at this, the observation of the world he called physics, and the observation of the unseen world he called metaphysics.
In religious terms, this contemplation of the meaning and truth of religious claims is called theology. Theologians try to make intellectual sense of the enigmatic claims of popular religion. They reflect, debate and sometimes generate abstract formulations that religious and political authorities decide to label as doctrines.
The distinction between what one might call 'popular religion' and theology is paralleled in the distinction between 'popular science' and, for the want of a better term, 'proper science' ('proper' in the sense it follows the strict processes of investigation.)
I overhead a nephew of mine, a research chemist, say to a group of people. "I can't believe in God, how can I? I'm a scientist." A nonsense statement that shows just how assumptive about science and ill-informed about religion he is ...
Theology routinely makes abstract and radically counter-intuitive statements that are conceptually complex and difficult to understand: God is three persons in one, for example, or a disembodied person who is present everywhere at once. Statements which people dismiss quite easily, but will embrace ideas about Quantum Physics with absolute faith because science says so ... furthermore people accept science largely without question, they understand they're most likely not going to comprehend the intricacies of strong theory, whereas the reject a theological definition without question, at least they never question whether they actually understand what it is they're rejecting.
And I have heard scientists declare that once a scientific discipline enters the popular domain, it's subject to all sorts of nonsense — Cosmology, Quantum Physics and the Neurosciences have apparently suffered to a greater degree than most.
A theological definition, or a metaphysical position, is a lot harder to refute than, say, the virgin birth or the resurrection of the dead.
The religions that the vast majority of people actually practise are not the same as the doctrines they learn and recite.
“The religions that the vast majority of people actually practise are not the same as the doctrines they learn”
When asked in experiments to talk or think about God' thoughts and actions, believers tend to talk in the manner of popular religion rather than theological exactitude. The way we think and talk reveals that we (believers and disbelievers) envision God very much as a superior person, that is God is determined by human attributes, but moves 'in a mysterious way' because only He knows the outcome He is leading us all towards. We think of God more as a Superman than in terms of a transcendent omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence above and beyond human traits.
What we need is a dialogue about the Divine that discerns between God as the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, and God as a meta-personal entity, without necessarily saying either one is 'more true' or 'superior' to the other. But you won't find that at the level of popular discussion, either by believers or athiests.
I think you answered your own question...
I don't think so. The cave walls would never have been painted, and the portable art would never have been carved. Seems more to me prehistoric humans were further in depth in understanding the Divine than we are today. I have no way to prove or demonstrate, and my comment is based on the presumption that the Divine exists, but my comment still stands in the light of your comment as both are supposition.
Stated another way, if prehistoric humanity were only interested in socializing and never got around to pursuing deeper connection to the Divine, the artistic efforts to reach out would not have happened. I believe it is in part a function of our innermost mental faculties (Jung) in combination with sensory deprivation brought about by deliberately going deeper into the caves than necessary (the caves were not painted to decorate the living spaces). There is the possibility this was augmented with entheogenic substances, however this would not have been absolutely necessary but would have likely accelerated the process.
By the time the agricultural revolution came around, the human mind was primed and ready with symbolic thought and abstract thought already well developed. Exposure to grain - which is not a human food (humans don't ruminate) - caused the brain to explode into a flurry of activity that helped develop abstract in-depth reasoning, what we call the "rational" or "conscious" mind. Most likely grain entered the human sphere as feed for cattle as we began domesticating bovines, but then we learned to ferment grain as beer...and from then on grain has always been in the human diet, so much that "bread" is considered a staple. But a large percentage of humans still have strong ill reactions biologically from grain even to this day, because humans did not "evolve" to consume grain. (And then you have the whole psychedelic Ergot spoiled grain story that causes LSD-like hallucinatory trips...that would carry off on yet another long winded tangent)
Early cave drawing by the Wrangler Indians
Sorry, couldn't resist...
I'm afraid I miss the association between art and the divine. The cave paintinga to me are the visual descriptors of.life...
OK, jumping the gun a little, but here ya go:
Harvard.edu article synopsis of a paper presented by Catherine Perlès in 2007:
"A picture may be worth a thousand words, but for Catherine Perlès, cave paintings provide a link to understanding thousands of years of human history and thought. In examining cave paintings in Western Europe and archaeological sites in the Near East, Perlès said that the similarities and differences between the artifacts shows that, contrary to a controversial theory by archaeologist Jacque Cauvin, human belief in gods pre-existed the birth of agriculture and the cultivation of animals.
Perlès, a professor of anthropology at the University of Paris X, presented her findings at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology where she delivered the Hallam L. Movius Lecture on April 19.
The thrust of Perlès’ talk focused on the causes of the Neolithic Revolution, a shift from hunting and gathering to an agricultural lifestyle that occurred approximately 12,000 years ago and was marked by the development of villages and agriculture as well as the invention of war, writing, and administration. Currently, the debate surrounding this issue focuses on whether the causes for the shift were economic (a scarcity in flora and fauna to hunt and gather) or ideological (human conception of gods caused them to meditate on divine domination of humans who in turn dominated plants and animals).
Analyzing the European cave paintings from the earlier Paleolithic Age in comparison with Neolithic devotional artifacts from the Near East, Perlès showed that depictions of animals in the paintings were not merely decoration or representational depictions of life, but instead reflected a religious iconography and conception of the world similar to that of the Neolithic Age. Displaying slides of artifacts from the two eras, she pointed out that both Neolithic and Paleolithic art depicted large, powerful animals such as bison or aurochs that humans of the time were loath to hunt due to the inherent danger in the task.
Examining a slide of cave paintings, she said, “Most of the animals depicted were rarely hunted because they were powerful and dangerous species. … The images insist on parts deemed most important — antlers for reindeer and belly for horses.” To Perlès, these facts “express a symbolic vision of the world” earlier than Cauvin and his acolytes had expected.
Artifacts from both periods also displayed a scarcity of human figures. When they appeared, however, human figures in devotional settings of both eras were either unsexed or masculine, with female figures appearing almost exclusively in domestic settings.
Perlès did illustrate the presence of the vertical axis as a crucial difference between the two artifacts from the two periods. Focusing on the cave paintings, she pointed toward the organization of animals on horizontal axes or in circular patterns as being fundamentally different from the Neolithic artifacts in which animals are arranged vertically on pillars and in other media.
Perlès argued that this organization around a vertical axis represents a new evolutionary ideology that reflects a sedentary lifestyle but predates the development of agriculture. The vertical axis symbolized the presence of a hierarchical structure in which relationships between humans and human spirits became more important than relationships between humans and animal spirits. Elaborate burial rituals involving decapitation and storage of the head as a form of honor further contribute to her theory. The lessening of importance in animal spirits as no longer an integral part of the human spiritual world has double importance. First, it shows that humans had begun a process of mental subjugation of animals long before cultivation began. Second, this evolution of the spiritual world in a hierarchical format preceded the development of agriculture and could be seen as part of the sedentary lifestyle.
Concluding her lecture, Perlès stated that the available evidence showed that the conception of gods was not an ideological revolution — a vast, sweeping change that took place in a relatively short period of time and altered human life forever. Instead, she said that when taken together, the cave paintings and archaeological artifacts from later eras showed a slow, evolutionary development of the conception of gods that show evidence of influence from the changing relationships between humans and animals and between humans and their ancestors.
“It is difficult to pinpoint the moment where deities appeared,” Perlès said. “But their appearance could not be a revolution — a brutal and fast process. Rather, there was more likely a natural, slow evolution of gods.”
Smithsonian Magazine article 2012:
"The oldest sculpture of a human being is so small it could be hidden in your fist. Carved out of mammoth ivory, the 40,000-year-old figurine clearly represents a woman, with ballooning breasts and elaborately carved genitalia. The head, arms and legs are merely suggested. “You couldn’t get more female than this,” says Nicholas Conard, the Ohio-born archaeologist whose University of Tübingen team found the sculpture at the bottom of a vaulted cave in southwestern Germany in the fall of 2008. “Head and legs don’t matter. This is about sex, reproduction.
The discovery of the “Venus of Hohle Fels”—named by Conard for the cave where it was found—made news around the world. Headlines called the busty statuette “prehistoric porn.” But the Venus renews a serious scholarly debate that has flared now and then since Stone Age figurines—including a waterfowl, lions and mammoths—were first discovered early last century at Hohle Fels and nearby caves. Were these literal representations of the surrounding world? Or artworks created to express emotions or abstract ideas?
Some experts viewed such pieces as “hunting magic”—representations of sought-after game animals and, therefore, survival tools, not works of art. The problem is, many of the figurines discovered so far—predators such as lions and bears—don’t correspond to what prehistoric people ate. (Their diet consisted largely of reindeer, bison and horse meat, according to bones that archaeologists have found.) Others perceive some prehistoric figurines—including a half-lion, half-man —not as imaginative works but literal depictions of hallucinations experienced by tribal shamans.
The Venus has prompted new thinking, encouraging some scholars to focus on what the figure tells us about prehistoric perceptions of beauty and obesity. Anthropologists at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, recently published a study arguing that corpulent figurines symbolized the hope for a well-nourished community."
That sounds like she is saying...like art...the gods were also manmade.
Online article: http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/clottes/human_animal_activities.php
"Paleolithic wall art cannot be dissociated from its archaeological context. This means the traces and remains of human and animal activities in the deep caves are valuable clues about the actions of their visitors, and are better preserved in them than in any other milieu.
Bears, particularly cave bears, hibernated in the deepest galleries. Some died and their bones were noticed by Paleolithic people when they went underground. At times they made use of them : they strung them along the way and lifted their impressive canines in Le Tuc d’Audoubert; in Chauvet, they deposited a skull on a big rock in the middle of a chamber and stuck two humerus forcibly into the ground not far from the entrance. Cave bears scratched the walls as bears do trees and their very noticeable scratchings may have spurred people to make finger tracings (Chauvet) or engravings (Le Portel).
Humans left various sorts of traces, whether deliberately or involuntarily. When the ground was soft (sand, wet clay), their naked footprints remained printed in it. (Niaux, Le Reseau Clastres, Le Tuc d’Audoubert, Montespan, Lalbastide, Fontanet, Pech-Merle, L’Aldlene, Chauvet). This enables us to see that children, at times very young ones, accompanied adults when they went underground, and also that the visitors of those deep caves were not very numerous because footprints and more generally human traces and remains, are few.
The charcoal fallen from their torches, their fires, a few objects, bones and flint tools left on the ground are the remains of meals or of sundry activities. They are also part of the documentation unwiittingly left by prehistoric people in the caves. From their study, one can say that in most cases painted or engraved caves were not inhabited, at least for long periods. Fires were temporary and remains are relatively scarce. Naturally, there are exceptions (Einlene, Labastide, Le Mas d’Azil, Bdeilhac). In their case, it is often difficult to make out whether those settlements are in relation - as seems likely - or not with the art on the walls. The presence of portable art may be a valuable clue to establish such a relationship.
Among the most mysterious remains are the objects deposited in the cracks of the walls and in particular the bone fragments stuck forcibly into them (see also below). After being noticed in the Ariegie Volp Caves. (Enlene, Les Trois- Freres, Le Tuc d’Audoubert) (Begouen & Clottes 1981), those deposits have been found in numerous other French Paleolithic art caves (Bedeillhaic, Le Portel, Troubat, Erberua, Gargas, etc.). They belong to periods sometimes far apart, which is not the least interesting fact about them because this means that the same gestures were repeated again and again for many thousands of years. Thus, in Gargas, a bone fragment lifted from one of the fissures next to some hand stencils was dated to 26,800 BP, while in other caves they are Magdalenian i.e. more recent by 13,000 to 14,000 years.
The Gravettian burials very recently discovered in the Cussac cave (Aujoulat et al. 2001) pose a huge problem. It is the first time that human skeletons have been found inside a deep cave with Paleolithic art. Until they have been excavated and studied properly it will be impossible to know whether those people died there by accident (which is most unlikely), whether they were related to those who did the engravings, whether they enjoyed a special status, etc. Their presence just stresses the magic/religious character of art in the deep caves."
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