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Articles on this Page
- 11/06/14--21:00: _A Lower Paleolithic...
- 11/11/14--17:43: _Possible bas relief...
- 11/12/14--08:27: _Report from Fayette...
- 11/14/14--06:21: _Dutch and North Ame...
- 11/16/14--08:35: _From the Limberg si...
- 11/18/14--06:41: _Tablet of engraved ...
- 11/20/14--08:12: _Mini-tablet with in...
- 11/26/14--07:07: _Three mammoth sculp...
- 11/28/14--09:13: _Lion head and bison...
- 12/03/14--06:28: _Flying duck, wolf a...
- 12/06/14--06:24: _Homo erectus engrav...
- 12/10/14--07:15: _Engraved stone M3-1...
- 12/11/14--06:11: _At two centimeters,...
- 12/13/14--07:48: _Beauty and the Beast
- 12/14/14--05:27: _Sculpture combines ...
- 12/18/14--09:23: _Third mammoth figur...
- 12/21/14--14:59: _Bison head and huma...
- 12/27/14--05:48: _Human face on a peb...
- 12/30/14--05:52: _Petrified wood bird...
- 01/04/15--09:40: _American amateur ar...
- 11/16/14--08:35: From the Limberg site, Beegden, Netherlands
- 12/13/14--07:48: Beauty and the Beast
- 12/27/14--05:48: Human face on a pebble with possible pigmentation from Virginia
It is important to note that the neck connection to the head and the truncation of the necks into the lower right visual corner in both art images above are strikingly similar despite their being separated by at least 200,000 years of the human aesthetic.
These two examples demonstrate how the animals were schematized into stone forms by early artists. The significant similarities here are the left profile views, the remnants of pigment applied to the stones to create eyes as well as the sawtooth breaks made to define the legs. These are very likely culturally moderated forms with consistency from north west Europe to North America.
Both the Beegden site in The Netherlands and the Arkfeld site in Virginia have produced many other figures invoking elephant/mammoth iconography so the context is strong for both of these interpretations.
The top portion of this stone may be interpreted as symbolic of the profile of a mammoth figure facing right. The mammoth may interpreted as cresting a human head, also a North American portable rock art motif seen on this blog in a number of pieces.
Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008
Source: Original, display at Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies
Plaquette de grès gravée, Grotte de Loup, Cosnac, Fouille G. Mazières (collection du Musée National de Préhistoire des Eyzies)
Photo courtesy Don Hitchcock, Dons Maps
Regarding his analysis of engraved stones in the Acheulean, John Feliks writes in his paper THE GRAPHICS OF BILZINGSLEBEN: SOPHISTICATION AND SUBTLETY IN THE MIND OF HOMO ERECTUS
"By employing extensions of engraved lines and points cognitive archaeology can access the geometric mind behind and beyond the artifacts themselves. This is possible because geometric extensions make accessible an invisible field of information outside of, but within the vicinity of, any given artifact. The extent of this field is more limited in some artifacts than in others, and the further out we go from various artifacts the more speculative the interpretations may be. However, depending on what specific information we are seeking, and despite what may be presumed, this is not necessarily the case, as suggested by Fig. 7.14, “Proof of association between an abstract point and infinity.” Depending on how the lines are organized, many interpretations of a surrounding field are perfectly safe.
Once the invisible geometric qualities are discovered and mapped out one can then genuinely access the thoughts of individuals who lived hundreds of thousands or even millions of years ago but who took the time to engrave a few lines. As difficult to believe as it may seem a vast amount of information that extends well beyond geometry and mathematical constructs is available that easily extends into the realms of philosophy by means of geometric equivalents or ‘cross-dimensional fractals.’ This is possible because all human cognition is based upon relationships between abstract points." (Feliks, page 82-83).
"The groundwork for straight edge theory was laid out in a prior publication (Feliks 2006). The visual data offered in the original paper and this new paper is straightforward, confirmable by direct observation, and testable on the page by anyone. It clearly indicates that the engravers of the Bilzingsleben artifacts used a straight edge to facilitate creation of the many subtle radial patterns and parallels featuring perfectly straight lines. The proposal is demonstrated in this paper by direct comparison of the Bilzingsleben engraved motifs with modern standard-increment rulers, the proposed Bilzingsleben rib-bone “ratio ruler,” and by superimpositions of duplicated radial motifs.
The idea that Homo erectus could have used a straight edge had never been considered in science for one simple reason: the necessity of retaining in the evolutionary paradigm an assumed ‘cognitive half-way-there zone’ between early ape-like creatures such as Ardipithecus and modern Homo sapiens. Accepting this assumption as a central axiom, the scientific community in general has long been pre-convinced that Homo erectus was unable even to speak let alone create engravings of a quality level suggesting the work of modern draftspersons or technical designers. Prior to publication of Mania and Mania’s 1988 paper, Deliberate engravings on bone artifacts of Homo erectus, it was considered by most in archaeology that markings on Lower and Middle Palaeolithic bone artifacts were likely a by-product of nothing more intentional than scraping the bones for meat. Not surprisingly, and due to universal acceptance of the paradigm, publication of the images did not result in an immediate reversal of opinion, either. In fact, so ingrained has the “ape-man” perspective of Homo erectus been that the idea has budged very little even two decades after Mania and Mania published the engravings. The most profound effect seems to be that of a debated name change for the Bilzingsleben hominids from Homo erectus to Homo heidelbergensis. H. heidelbergensis serves as a mere buffer-zone species between H. erectus and H. sapiens and is regarded arbitrary by some researchers. Still, even if the name heidelbergensis were adopted, the switch would be a moot choice of association as the straight edge studies point to a level of technology not even attributed to Homo sapiens until 350,000 years later.
Significance of Straight edge theory: Employing a straight edge to make either single straight lines or radial motifs is unmistakably clear evidence not only for language but for highly-evolved language and mathematical abilities. The link is the concept of analogy at two levels. At the basic level, the straight edge in and of itself is a profoundly simple analogical invention easily associated with language because a line engraved with the aid of a straight edge is directly symbolic of the straight edge itself, being a “representation” of the edge. This clearly indicates that Homo erectus understood the association between a physical object and a graphic representation of a particular quality of that object, i.e. its straightness. It is analogous in language to a spoken word or graphic symbol being used to represent an object, a person, or an idea.
On a more complex and genuinely unlimited level both philosophically and mathematically, a central thesis of this paper is that multiple straight edge-engraved lines forming “radial motifs” is a confirmation that the people of Bilzingsleben fully understood the concept of analogy or that one idea can be compared with another. Any analogy based on radial symmetry can be instantly applied to philosophical or mathematical ideas; e.g., Fig. 7.4a & b, “The Realm of Ideas,” where one portion of a radial motif can be readily compared with another portion because angles remain the same at any magnification or distance; Fig. 7.9, “Fractal Angle Symmetry,” where duplicated angles may branch off of base angles; and Figs. 7.11–7.14, where small motifs can be used to imply association with larger or even infinite motifs.
Regardless of how unlikely these claims may seem under the old paradigm view of Homo erectus, use of a straight edge to create radial motifs demonstrates that Homo erectus people not only fully understood what they were doing but were also fully determined and committed to the process of engraving similar motifs at a very high level of quality. The focus is on analogy because attainment of analogy was crucial in the development of modern human cognition as it is the means by which any knowledge may be applied to any other knowledge. This development was not a biological or evolutionary effect brought about by simple expansion or reconfiguration of the physical brain as is commonly taught in anthropology but was the result of what is better described as a “discovery” or “cognitive realization.” (These ideas are not the least bit esoteric because discovery and realization are two ways the brain functions in all creatures that possess a brain.)." (Feliks, page 74-78).
Original photo Don Hitchcock, 2008
This piece may reflect an expression of the predator/prey relationship observed between these animals.
There can be more than easily meets the eye to these portable rock art pieces with subtle forms we are not accustomed to in our contemporary cultures. While an interpreter may be focused on the more obvious engraving here, the entire object must be considered. The use of simple profile shapes which frame other icons is common in portable rock art. Interpretations like these can likely be made for hundreds or thousands of art artifacts in European museums which contain more information than has been recognized to date.
The duck and rabbit combination sculpture is seen in several examples on this blog. This is the first time a canine has been seen in the mix.
(Photo : Wim Lustenhouwer, VU University Amsterdam)
From nature.com: A zigzag engraving on a shell from Indonesia is the oldest abstract marking ever found. But what is most surprising about the half-a-million-year-old doodle is its likely creator — the human ancestor Homo erectus.
Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool production and engraving (Joordens et al., Nature, 2014)
The manufacture of geometric engravings is generally interpreted as indicative of modern cognition and behavior. Key questions in the debate on the origin of such behavior whether this innovation is restricted to Homo sapiens, and whether it has a uniquely African origin. Here we report on a fossil freshwater shell assemblage from the Hauptknochenschicht (‘main bone layer’) of Trinil (Java, Indonesia), the type locality of Homo erectus discovered by Eugène Dubois in 1891 (refs 2 and 3). In the Dubois collection (in the Naturalis museum, Leiden, The Netherlands) we found evidence for freshwater shellfish consumption by hominins, one unambiguous shell tool, and a shell with a geometric engraving. We dated sediment contained in the shells with 40Ar/39Ar and luminescence dating methods, obtaining a maximum age of 0.54 ± 0.10 million years and a minimum age of 0.43 ± 0.05 million years. This implies that the Trinil Hauptknochenschicht is younger than previously estimated. Together, our data indicate that the engraving was made by Homo erectus, and that it is considerably older than the oldest geometric engravings described so far. Although it is at present not possible to assess the function or meaning of the engraved shell, this discovery suggests that engraving abstract patterns was in the realm of Asian Homo erectus cognition and neuromotor control.The Bilzingsleben, Germany, engravings seem to be missing from the archaeological context described by Joordens et al. (2014) so more information on this is presented below.
THE GRAPHICS OF BILZINGSLEBEN: SOPHISTICATION AND SUBTLETY IN THE MIND OF HOMO ERECTUS, John Feliks
In 1988, Dietrich and Ursula Mania published images of unmistakably deliberate engravings on bone artifacts dated between 320,000-412,000 years BP, found near the village of Bilzingsleben in central Germany. Contrary to traditional notions of early peoples, Mania and Manias’ preliminary interpretations suggested that these markings implied the existence of advanced human traits, which included abstract thinking, language, and a “concept of the world.” In this presentation, I will demonstrate that the Bilzingsleben markings go well beyond these already stunning assertions, and document a very large number of graphic innovations and highly advanced intellectual traits in Homo erectus, innovations and traits that have long been regarded the exclusive domain of Homo sapiens. In fact, the artifacts contain so much information that, collectively, they constitute nothing less than a detailed and expansive map directly into the extraordinary mind of this early ancestor. I will demonstrate that the markings reflect graphic skills far more advanced than those of the average modern Homo sapiens. A new list of qualities, abilities, and innovations which must now be credited to Homo erectus, and which are directly indicated by the markings includes: abstract and numeric thinking; rhythmic thinking; ability to duplicate not only complex, but also, subtle motifs; iconic and abstract representation; exactly duplicated subtle angles; exactly duplicated measured lines; innovative artistic variation of motifs including compound construction, doubling, diminution, and augmentation; understanding of radial and fractal symmetries; impeccably referenced multiple adjacent angles; and absolute graphic precision by high standard and, practically, without error. Each of these will be demonstrated visually. Hence, the following advanced cognitive qualities may be quite easily assumed for the species Homo erectus by way of geometric analogy: interrelationship sensitivity and complex organizational skill; language; use of metaphor and hidden meaning; philosophy; mysticism or other “spiritual” perspectives; and a general ability to discern, appreciate, and create the most subtle nuance within any area of intellectual endeavor.Joordens et al. 2014 also make the claim for the Java shell engraving being the oldest known abstract marking in the world which needs to be seen in the greater ancient art context described by James Harrod, Ph. D., at originsnet.org and with more information presented in the paper below.
Palaeoart at Two Million Years Ago? A Review of the Evidence
Current archaeological evidence supports the claim that symbolic behavior, including palaeoart, first emerged in human evolution around 1 million years ago. The purpose of this article is to review archaeological studies that might support the hypothesis that the earliest palaeoart actually is evident around 2 million years ago. This review identifies nine Oldowan artifacts that have been proposed as possible non-utilitarian and possibly symbolic behavior. Among seven stone tools, the three strongest candidates are the Olduvai Gorge, the FLK North grooved and pecked cobble, ~1.80 million years ago, and MNK Main subspheroid with hexagon shape framing an apparent natural dot-and-undulating-line motif, ~1.5–1.6 million years ago, both initially reported and described by Mary Leakey; and the curated Koobi Fora FxJj1 “broken core” with inner rhomboid shape, ~1.87 million years ago. All six stone tools from Olduvai Gorge need scientific re-examination to determine their chaîne opératoire and assess non-utilitarian features. If even one of the Olduvai Gorge artifacts were validated as symbolic behavior this would indicate the emergence of palaeoart one million years earlier than current proposals. It would also suggest that Homo habilis/rudolfensis or a very early Homo erectus had substantially more advanced cognitive, design and symbolic competencies than inferred in current theories. It would constitute a challenge to develop more advanced cognitive semiotic and art-theoretic analytical tools for illuminating the role of such palaeoart in hominin cultural evolution.
This is the third mammoth figure with a human face mask between legs from the Arkfeld site in a context of several dozen mammoth figures and many other portable rock pieces. Please see the posting just prior to this one and its included link to the first one from May 2014.
In his 2011 paper "Cultural cobbles or a load of old cobblers? The detection of iconography and identification of artefactuality in lithics" Richard J. Wilson writes:
The human visual system devotes specialised resources to face perception which are neurologically well determined (Helvenston and Hodgson 2010, 2006; Hodgson 2008a). As Hodgson and others elaborate, there is a deal of evidence that there is a biologically determined preference for perceiving the hominin face (Watson 2010, Helvenston and Hodgson 2010,2006). Likewise, Sinha et al (2006) note that the visual system of humans begins with a rudimentary preference for face-like patterns. Recognition of a face is thus usually associated from an early stage with an emotionally satisfying reward through maternal contact (Hodgson 2010). A reward system intertwined from birth with that of face recognition offers one theoretical motivation for collecting ‘face-like’ stones and rocks such as the Boucher de Perthes object presented earlier – regardless of whether or not they were enhanced further. A predilection for collecting stones which resemble ‘faces’ is comprehensible in the context of the “neurological value” elicited in a system designed to detect and respond to faces.
"Common sense tells us that the primitive people who made haches and tools were able to make figures... ...As to the Symbols and Figures, although I have gathered of these some types which may be seen at my house to-day, numbering about fifty analogous shapes on which the human work is evident, I have converted very few people, and of the number, not one Englishman. Why-they say to me-are you the only one who finds Figure Stones ? Have they never been found anywhere else than at Abbeville ?-and-mention one collection besides your own in which they have been seen ...To-day, Sir, your examples will be questioned, I do not say that I shall have gained my cause, but Truth will have made one more step, and will strike forcibly by coming from two sides."