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Cave Art of Europe…what were they saying?


The Puzzler

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The cave art of prehistoric Europe is something. What were they doing it for, why go down into caverns inaccessible to most? How were they capable of such intricate imagery in this time!? How did Homo sapiens learn to draw like that and did humanity lose knowledge of how to draw like that? Why? Did something happen that shook the foundations of this artistic style? Is proto-writing involved?  Did it bring us closer to being intelligent Homo sapien beings amongst others? Is it responsible for language, maybe via Neanderthals or were they just Leonardo da Vinci’s for fun? 

Did we learn this from Neanderthal culture?

Thoughts? 

In 2018, researched announced the discovery of the oldest known cave paintings, made by Neanderthals at least 64,000 years ago, in the Spanish caves of La Pasiega, Maltravieso and Ardales. Like some other early cave art, it was abstract. Archaeologists who study these caves have discovered drawings of ladder-like lines, hand stencils and a stalagmite structure decorated with ochre.

Neanderthals, an archaic human subspecies that procreated with Homo sapiens, likely left this art in locations they viewed as special, says Alistair W.G. Pike, head of archaeological sciences at the University of Southampton in the U.K. and co-author of a study about the caves published in Science in 2018. Many of the hand stencils appear in small recesses of the cave that are hard to reach, suggesting the person who made them had to prepare pigment and light before venturing into the cave to find the desired spot.

The markings themselves are also interesting because they demonstrate symbolic thinking. “The significance of the painting is not to know that Neanderthals could paint, it’s the fact that they were engaging in symbolism,” Pike says. “And that’s probably related to an ability to have language.”

https://www.history.com/news/prehistoric-cave-paintings-early-humans

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Was the evolution of Homo sapien intelligence a result of Neanderthal teachings?

 

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/neanderthals-cave-art-humans-evolution-science

————————————————————-

Neanderthal artists made oldest-known cave paintings

Designs at three Spanish sites are thought to predate human arrival in Europe by at least 20,000 years.
—————————————————
A new discovery that Neanderthals were painting cave walls more than 64,000 years ago has anthropologists rethinking the history of art. Found deep in Spanish caves, the rock art was once thought to be the work of modern humans, but the new dates mean that Neanderthals must have figured out fingerpainting, too.
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On 6/23/2023 at 8:40 AM, The Puzzler said:

The cave art of prehistoric Europe is something. What were they doing it for, why go down into caverns inaccessible to most? How were they capable of such intricate imagery in this time!? How did Homo sapiens learn to draw like that and did humanity lose knowledge of how to draw like that? Why? Did something happen that shook the foundations of this artistic style? Is proto-writing involved?  Did it bring us closer to being intelligent Homo sapien beings amongst others? Is it responsible for language, maybe via Neanderthals or were they just Leonardo da Vinci’s for fun? 

Did we learn this from Neanderthal culture?

Thoughts? 

In 2018, researched announced the discovery of the oldest known cave paintings, made by Neanderthals at least 64,000 years ago, in the Spanish caves of La Pasiega, Maltravieso and Ardales. Like some other early cave art, it was abstract. Archaeologists who study these caves have discovered drawings of ladder-like lines, hand stencils and a stalagmite structure decorated with ochre.

Neanderthals, an archaic human subspecies that procreated with Homo sapiens, likely left this art in locations they viewed as special, says Alistair W.G. Pike, head of archaeological sciences at the University of Southampton in the U.K. and co-author of a study about the caves published in Science in 2018. Many of the hand stencils appear in small recesses of the cave that are hard to reach, suggesting the person who made them had to prepare pigment and light before venturing into the cave to find the desired spot.

The markings themselves are also interesting because they demonstrate symbolic thinking. “The significance of the painting is not to know that Neanderthals could paint, it’s the fact that they were engaging in symbolism,” Pike says. “And that’s probably related to an ability to have language.”

https://www.history.com/news/prehistoric-cave-paintings-early-humans

Hi Puzzler

There are ostrich egg carvings found in Africa that are 60,000 years old.

Life

Oldest 'writing' found on 60,000-year-old eggshells

By Kate Ravilious

3 March 2010

 

 

New Scientist Default Image
 

What do they say?

(Image: Pierre-Jean Texier/Diepkloof Project)

 

COULD these lines etched into 60,000-year-old ostrich eggshells (see photo) be the earliest signs of humans using graphic art to communicate?

Until recently, the first consistent evidence of symbolic communication came from the geometric shapes that appear alongside rock art all over the world, which date to 40,000 years ago (New Scientist, 20 February, p 30). Older finds, like the 75,000-year-old engraved ochre chunks from the Blombos cave in South Africa, have mostly been one-offs and difficult to tell apart from meaningless doodles.

The engraved …

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527504-300-oldest-writing-found-on-60000-year-old-eggshells/

http://heritage-key.com/blogs/willhunt/ostrich-egg-shells-discovered-south-africa-could-be-earliest-evidence-human-language/

Ostrich Egg Shells Discovered in South Africa Could be Earliest Evidence of Human Language

http://heritage-key.com/medialink/files/texieretalpnas2.jpgArchaeologists in South Africa have recently unearthed some of the earliest evidence of human behavior – a cache of ostrich eggs dating back 60,000 years, etched with intricate geometric designs.

The abstract carvings are signs of what archaeologists call ‘symbolic thinking,’ a capacity particular to Homo sapiens. Unlike earlier hominids, our brains allow usto affix meaning to objects, to draw associations, to recognize and create symbols.
Symbolic thinking is the roots ofwriting, language and art; it is,to risk grandiosity, what makes us human.

 

So when the team at Diepkloof Rock Shelter, led by prehistorianPierre-Jean Texier, dug up the60,000-year-old decorated ostrich eggs, they knew they’d found something special. The eggs suggest that we ‘became human’ – i.e. started creating art, decorating objects and thinking symbolically – 20,000 earlier than scholars had originally thought.

 

The Creative Explosion Theory – Blasted

Until the 1990s, the accepted date for the dawn of modern thought was give-or-take 40,000 years ago. Homo sapiens, so the theories went, were anatomically modern by 200,000 years ago in Africa, but they didn’t adopt modern cognitive behavior until after they arrived in Europe. The stunning late Upper Paleolithic cave paintings at Chauvet,and Lascaux(Chauvetdates back roughly 35,000 years), were evidence of what scholars called a ‘creative explosion’. This, experts surmised, was the moment in history when language, art, and symbolic thinking converged in a great burst of cognitive power. It was, in other words, when humankind became human.

 

The decorated ostrich eggs bolster Henshilwood’s assertion that the abstract designs scratched into the ochre at Blombos were not haphazard doodles, but evidence of Middle Stone Age symbolic thinking.

These theories held until strange outliers started turning up at archaeological digs in Africa. Namely at a site called Blombos Cave, located about 180 miles east of Capetown, South Africa. Between 1991 and 2002, State University of New York (Stony Brook) archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood uncovered a treasure trove of artifacts which pointed to early symbolic thinking. Among other things, his team found tiny decorative mollusk beads and complex bone tool kits. Most remarkable, though, were pieces of ochre inscribed with a grid of elaborate geometric patterns. Given the complex nature of the designs, and the fact that ochre is a soft material, unsuitable for practical uses like tool-making, Henshilwood asserted that the etched ochre was a case of decoration, and evidence of complex thought. He went one step further with his hypothesis, suggesting that the intricate cross-hatched designs “could have been interpreted by those people as having meaning that would have been understood by others.” In other words, they were based on language.

But the part that had the scientific community scratching its head was the age of the finds: the stratum of rock from which these objects were excavated was dated between 77,000 and 70,000 years. That’s about 40,000 years earlier than the gooey-sounding “creative explosion” in Europe. Of course, these little cross-hatches didn’t hold a candle to the masterpieces in Chauvet and Lascaux. But the implications of the find were no less astounding. Talk about an altered timeline: according to the discoveries at Blombos, our ancestors had been behaving and thinking like modern humans for twice as long as scholars thought. Nevermind the holes this theory exposed in an entirely Euro-centric version of the history of humankind.

not sure I agree with the second link but added it as it does have additional information

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Tbh the lines imo do resemble a need to communicate….in writing. Interesting, thanks.

He went one step further with his hypothesis, suggesting that the intricate cross-hatched designs “could have been interpreted by those people as having meaning that would have been understood by others.” In other words, they were based on language.”

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On 6/23/2023 at 7:40 AM, The Puzzler said:

The cave art of prehistoric Europe is something. What were they doing it for, why go down into caverns inaccessible to most? How were they capable of such intricate imagery in this time!? How did Homo sapiens learn to draw like that and did humanity lose knowledge of how to draw like that? Why? Did something happen that shook the foundations of this artistic style? Is proto-writing involved?  Did it bring us closer to being intelligent Homo sapien beings amongst others? Is it responsible for language, maybe via Neanderthals or were they just Leonardo da Vinci’s for fun? 

Did we learn this from Neanderthal culture?

Thoughts? 

In 2018, researched announced the discovery of the oldest known cave paintings, made by Neanderthals at least 64,000 years ago, in the Spanish caves of La Pasiega, Maltravieso and Ardales. Like some other early cave art, it was abstract. Archaeologists who study these caves have discovered drawings of ladder-like lines, hand stencils and a stalagmite structure decorated with ochre.

Neanderthals, an archaic human subspecies that procreated with Homo sapiens, likely left this art in locations they viewed as special, says Alistair W.G. Pike, head of archaeological sciences at the University of Southampton in the U.K. and co-author of a study about the caves published in Science in 2018. Many of the hand stencils appear in small recesses of the cave that are hard to reach, suggesting the person who made them had to prepare pigment and light before venturing into the cave to find the desired spot.

The markings themselves are also interesting because they demonstrate symbolic thinking. “The significance of the painting is not to know that Neanderthals could paint, it’s the fact that they were engaging in symbolism,” Pike says. “And that’s probably related to an ability to have language.”

https://www.history.com/news/prehistoric-cave-paintings-early-humans

Have we really lost the knowledge of how to draw like that?

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13 hours ago, Doc Socks Junior said:

Have we really lost the knowledge of how to draw like that?

Hmm…probably not tbh…but I spose I meant straight after, the gap that seems to be apparent….maybe after we left the caves of Europe, there was just no where to produce it…it sat back in our consciousness, until we were about to create it once again…could even be why civilisation just burst onto the artistic scene from let’s say standard Sumerian times…our artistry had been suppressed…and suddenly was about to come out again. 

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It seems to me to be a simple law of development ability if I thought psychologically about it.

it’s a thing we begin to do, as young as can be, given paper and colours, we paint and draw. Children’s drawings are cherished. Some grow into very good artists, some don’t worry about drawing anymore much. So the paintings of such detail in the caves may have no more meaning than an artists painting of quality. Like an art gallery. 
 

They don’t really need to contain any meaning or ritual abysses, just an interesting look into the developing potential of Homo sapiens.

Drawing and painting images, post-scribbling, is part of kindergarten, it’s cognitive development, when you draw you see deeper within the 3D scope and context of the picture….and in that time when our cognitive abilities were being refined it’s possible it was what actually led us to be the most thinking, dominant species on Earth.

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Then also, we get a lapse of time between man at the end of his cave dwelling European art galleries…to Sumer.

Is it because they didn’t/weren’t able to keep practising the art? 
Leaving the caves. 
Before building cities in the plains of Mesopotamia. 
Not much happened, except survival and massive change of environment.

This clearly says to me, that continuing development of brain and cognitive abilities relies on humans creating art.

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Homo sapiens is the planet's first "hold my beer" species.

Hominins have been around for 5 million years and never got much beyond skinning, tanning hides, making stone tools, etcetera.  Homo sapiens, in the vastly shorter time period since they emerged came up with Gobekli Tepi, Karnak, the great civilizations, amazing architecture, and traveled to the moon with explorations out into the stars.

I don't think you have to look much further than "it's h. sapiens."

We invent.  We experiment.  We fail and we try again and again in new ways, because that's how we've become the dominant species.  Although we may have learned from our predecessors, we didn't stop there.

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I think this is a stretch.  While all written languages are at some level a series of lines drawn on a surface, and some like Ogham do bear some similarities to this crosshatching, I don't think we can make the case that there is enough deliberate symbolic variation to constitute a script here on these egg shells.  I would also point out that while plenty of cultures decorate eggs, not many of them choose egg shells as the medium on which to enter written communication.  Archaeologically speaking, writing emerges some time after agriculture as part of an increasingly complex state apparatus.  Script is needed for record keeping and for passing messages reliably over large distances, and so its value as a tool requires a standardization of notation system that is broadly adopted by specialists who generally form an early professional scribe class.  You may think there were societies that advanced 75000 years ago, but I am skeptical.

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3 hours ago, Kenemet said:

Homo sapiens is the planet's first "hold my beer" species.

Hominins have been around for 5 million years and never got much beyond skinning, tanning hides, making stone tools, etcetera.  Homo sapiens, in the vastly shorter time period since they emerged came up with Gobekli Tepi, Karnak, the great civilizations, amazing architecture, and traveled to the moon with explorations out into the stars.

I don't think you have to look much further than "it's h. sapiens."

We invent.  We experiment.  We fail and we try again and again in new ways, because that's how we've become the dominant species.  Although we may have learned from our predecessors, we didn't stop there.

That was sorta my point…do you think our artistic abilities, which are apparent at a time we became dominant in Europe at least…led us to become “smarter”..more tenacious? More clever, because of the intelligence being artistic actually creates within our brains..?

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47 minutes ago, The Puzzler said:

That was sorta my point…do you think our artistic abilities, which are apparent at a time we became dominant in Europe at least…led us to become “smarter”..more tenacious? More clever, because of the intelligence being artistic actually creates within our brains..?

Hi Puzzler, 

You raise some good questions and points, I think cave art around the world is fascinating not just Europe, some of it in Africa is amazing, the hunting scenes from the Koi-koi and san people of Sothern Africa the famous white lady and others are all amazing. i also believe these are some of the oldest in the world too. 

So i think the creative artistic abilities were around before the European findings. 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/feb/27/worlds-oldest-art-is-in-africa-not-europe#:~:text=Found in Blombos Cave in South Africa%2C the pieces are,always ahead of the game!

Edited by Peter Cox
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19 hours ago, The Puzzler said:

That was sorta my point…do you think our artistic abilities, which are apparent at a time we became dominant in Europe at least…led us to become “smarter”..more tenacious? More clever, because of the intelligence being artistic actually creates within our brains..?

I think it's the other way around.

And I think you're too focused on Europe and not on the world at large.  

If art leads to becoming smarter and more tenacious, then the balance of technology and so forth would not have developed in Europe, the home of vast numbers of peasants laboring under a tiny number of elites who had time for art.

Art is precious.  Art lifts us all and shows us parts of the world that are beyond ordinary understanding.  Art inspires and grants peace and insights.  But you can't do that without time and space to see and create and that was something that almost all Europeans did NOT have time for.

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4 hours ago, Kenemet said:

I think it's the other way around.

And I think you're too focused on Europe and not on the world at large.  

If art leads to becoming smarter and more tenacious, then the balance of technology and so forth would not have developed in Europe, the home of vast numbers of peasants laboring under a tiny number of elites who had time for art.

Art is precious.  Art lifts us all and shows us parts of the world that are beyond ordinary understanding.  Art inspires and grants peace and insights.  But you can't do that without time and space to see and create and that was something that almost all Europeans did NOT have time for.

In a way, that was also my point…it seems that a timeframe of the last really artistic cave art in  Europe, amd yes, I’ll concentrate there for now, I do not see comparable cave art anywhere in the world to Lascaux or Altamira for example…

then the rise again of excellent art, I’ll use the first “civilisations” as that example

I do think it was because there was no time and space to create, in which humans didn’t evolve all that much at all.

Something stopped the development. Global catastrophe, moving out of the caves, a loss of the learning skills, a loss of the tools and pigments…an inability to create art for a time.

Lets say between Altamira 15,000BC to the rise again of the great art of Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilisation.

Thanks for your answer though, it’s all worth pondering.

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41 minutes ago, The Puzzler said:

In a way, that was also my point…it seems that a timeframe of the last really artistic cave art in  Europe, amd yes, I’ll concentrate there for now, I do not see comparable cave art anywhere in the world to Lascaux or Altamira for example…

then the rise again of excellent art, I’ll use the first “civilisations” as that example

I do think it was because there was no time and space to create, in which humans didn’t evolve all that much at all.

Something stopped the development. Global catastrophe, moving out of the caves, a loss of the learning skills, a loss of the tools and pigments…an inability to create art for a time.

Lets say between Altamira 15,000BC to the rise again of the great art of Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilisation.

Thanks for your answer though, it’s all worth pondering.

Except... they didn't stop creating art.

Also, most didn't live in caves.

There's art from that time period all over the world.

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1 hour ago, Kenemet said:

Except... they didn't stop creating art.

Also, most didn't live in caves.

There's art from that time period all over the world.

Is it that those areas did not have a break in artistic license abilities. Did those people achieve much? How high was their artistic skill?

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Do you or anyone else, have any examples of high art skill, such as Altamira as my last port of call at that time, in the world, between 15,000BC to 5,000BC…  what are you referring to here…?

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Do people like Leonardo daVinci indicate a rise in culture and human ability to evolve further through the return of high end artistic skill…

He as a person certainly seemed to encompass this idea, as he delved into many other forms of artistic invention in his lifetime. 

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Maybe Picasso said what I’m trying to lol…found this article…

Since Lascaux,” Picasso is supposed to have said after he saw the famous ice age cave paintings in 1940, “we have invented nothing.” Sadly, the quote is hard to source. But he should have said it, because it fits the insight that pervades his work, with its appetite for influences from ancient Iberian statuettes to African masks. Namely, that art’s story is not a trajectory of ascent, but more of a looping spiral, constantly retracing its steps.”

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/apr/23/cave-paintings-art-lockdown-obsession-30-000-years-lascaux

Will it be AI art or 3D printer art that will quantum leap us into a new evolutionary era for humankind…? I wonder.

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That’s what makes cave art so entrancing: it records the moment consciousness makes an entrance”

It can only mean by the continuation of art keeps our consciousness alive and progressing.

Certain cultural horizons who do not continue art for long periods of time, may even be susceptible to a loss of progress. 

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38 minutes ago, The Puzzler said:

Maybe Picasso said what I’m trying to lol…found this article…

Since Lascaux,” Picasso is supposed to have said after he saw the famous ice age cave paintings in 1940, “we have invented nothing.” Sadly, the quote is hard to source. But he should have said it, because it fits the insight that pervades his work, with its appetite for influences from ancient Iberian statuettes to African masks. Namely, that art’s story is not a trajectory of ascent, but more of a looping spiral, constantly retracing its steps.”

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/apr/23/cave-paintings-art-lockdown-obsession-30-000-years-lascaux

Will it be AI art or 3D printer art that will quantum leap us into a new evolutionary era for humankind…? I wonder.

If you are limiting what Picasso says to the field of painting, it has a certain merit.  In other ways it is just daft.  The beauty of the Lascaux art is undeniable and I sorely wish I could have seen it in person.  The economy of line, form and pigment to create an uncannily realistic depiction of the animals of the time is simply amazing, and it is a tribute that Picasso understood that he was looking at the work of a master from long ago.  On the other hand, the industrial world has invented such wonders that our primitive ancestors couldn't even have begun to conceive of...

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7 minutes ago, Alchopwn said:

If you are limiting what Picasso says to the field of painting, it has a certain merit.  In other ways it is just daft.  The beauty of the Lascaux art is undeniable and I sorely wish I could have seen it in person.  The economy of line, form and pigment to create an uncannily realistic depiction of the animals of the time is simply amazing, and it is a tribute that Picasso understood that he was looking at the work of a master from long ago.  On the other hand, the industrial world has invented such wonders that our primitive ancestors couldn't even have begun to conceive of...

That was certainly worth saying.

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19 minutes ago, Alchopwn said:

If you are limiting what Picasso says to the field of painting, it has a certain merit.  In other ways it is just daft.  The beauty of the Lascaux art is undeniable and I sorely wish I could have seen it in person.  The economy of line, form and pigment to create an uncannily realistic depiction of the animals of the time is simply amazing, and it is a tribute that Picasso understood that he was looking at the work of a master from long ago.  On the other hand, the industrial world has invented such wonders that our primitive ancestors couldn't even have begun to conceive of...

I’ll elaborate on this part…

The industrial world…is that art? ……”that our primitive ancestors couldn’t even have begun to conceive of?”

And what? Would we expect them to….what they did was lead us on the path to the industrial Revolution…

The thing is….it’s the prior thought, that in fact, holds the key to the current thought….if we follow the Picasso example…

l. That’s what makes cave art so entrancing: it records the moment consciousness makes an entrance. Before 33,000 years ago, all our evidence of the natural world comes from fossils, which reveal the story of life from single-celled creatures to dinosaurs to mammals. Then suddenly humans appear – and they are doing portraits.”

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28 minutes ago, Alchopwn said:

If you are limiting what Picasso says to the field of painting, it has a certain merit.  In other ways it is just daft.  The beauty of the Lascaux art is undeniable and I sorely wish I could have seen it in person.  The economy of line, form and pigment to create an uncannily realistic depiction of the animals of the time is simply amazing, and it is a tribute that Picasso understood that he was looking at the work of a master from long ago.  On the other hand, the industrial world has invented such wonders that our primitive ancestors couldn't even have begun to conceive of...

I am.

Painting. And only high class printing, not scribbles on eggshells or cut marks nor tribal design, rock etching and the like. Painting life like images.

And tbh I was being even generous in time saying civilisations like Sumer and Egypt…..when I could really span this out to Renaissance times. (Give or take a few instances a few thousand years apart, Cretan art could be considered.)

The Renaissance is when we literally started to come out of a two thousand year dark age….

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