Saturday, February 21, 2009

When Did Art Evolve?

Is this a woman? A person? Or just a random rock? It’s the 250,000 year old “figurine,” found at the Berekhat Ram site in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in 1981. Microscopic scrutiny has revealed etch marks that appear to have been made by a tool. It’s one of the artifacts that archaeologists are debating about within a larger discussion of the origins of art.

For those who would like to delve further into this topic, Science magazine has a wonderful article in the February 6, 2009 issue, On the Origin of Art and Symbolism, by Michael Balter. Does the crafting of sophisticated tools require the capacity to hold an abstract concept in one’s mind while changing the raw material to conform to that mental template?
There are large tools called Acheulean hand axes found in Africa that date from 1.7 million years ago. Probably made by H. Erectus, there is debate about whether making them required abstract thought. Given my experience as an artist, I would think so (at least most of the time!) A related blog post by the same author can be found here.

So whatever you are creating, keep at it...your ancestors would certainly be impressed.

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