Tag Archives | Cave Paintings

Sulawesi Cave Paintings Offer New Conclusions About Origins of Art

Cave paintings in Sulawesi, Indonesia, have been estimated to be at least 39,900 years old, changing ideas about creative art being exclusively European, reports BBC News (note to Graham Hancock fans: how does this affect Graham’s hypothesis in Supernatural?):

Scientists have identified some of the earliest cave paintings produced by humans.

Sulawesi cave painting with Dr Maxime Aubert (Photo: Dr. Aubert).

Sulawesi cave painting with Dr Maxime Aubert (Photo: Dr. Aubert).

Until now, paintings this old had been confirmed in caves only in Western Europe.

Researchers tell the journal Nature that the Indonesian discovery transforms ideas about how humans first developed the ability to produce art.

Early artists made them by carefully blowing paint around hands that were pressed tightly against the cave walls and ceilings. The oldest is at least 40,000 years old.

There are also human figures, and pictures of wild hoofed animals that are found only on the island. Dr Maxime Aubert, of Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, who dated the paintings found in Maros in Southern Sulawesi, explained that one of them (shown immediately below) was probably the earliest of its type.

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The First Ancient Human Artists Were Women

handprints

Did women invent art? National Geographic reports:

Women made most of the oldest-known cave art paintings, suggests a new analysis of ancient handprints. Most scholars had assumed these ancient artists were predominantly men, so the finding overturns decades of archaeological dogma.

Archaeologist Dean Snow analyzed hand stencils found in eight cave sites in France and Spain. Snow determined that three-quarters of the handprints were female. Women tend to have ring and index fingers of about the same length, whereas men’s ring fingers tend to be longer than their index fingers.

“People have made a lot of unwarranted assumptions about who made these things, and why,” said Snow, whose research was supported by the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration.

Because many of these early paintings showcase game animals, many researchers have proposed that they were made by male hunters. The new study suggests otherwise.

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Were Prehistoric Cave Painters High On Hallucinogenic Plants?

cave paintingsDo psychedelics produce the common shapes and patterns found in prehistoric cave art around the world? Alternet reports:

Prehistoric cave paintings across the continents have similar geometric patterns not because early humans were learning to draw like Paleolithic pre-schoolers, but because they were high on drugs, and their brains—like ours—have a biological predisposition to “see” certain patterns, especially during consciousness altering states.

This thesis—that humanity’s earliest artists were not just reeling due to mind-altering activities, but deliberately sought those elevated states and gave greater meaning to those common visions—is the contention of a new paper by an international research team.

Their thesis intriguingly explores the “biologically embodied mind,” which they contend gave rise to similarities in Paleolithic art across the continents dating back 40,000 years, and can also be seen in the body painting patterns dating back even further

“The prevalence of certain geometric patterns in the symbolic material culture of many prehistoric cultures, starting shortly after the emergence of our biological species and continuing in some indigenous cultures until today, is explained in terms of the characteristic contents of biologically determined hallucinatory experience,” the researchers hypothesize.

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Were Neanderthals Original Cave Painting Artists?

Danny Vendramini (CC)

In his novel Entangled, Graham Hancock spun a tale suggesting that Neanderthals were way more creative than the violent homo sapiens who wiped them out. New research suggests that Hancock may have been right, reported by James Noble Wilford in the New York Times:

Stone Age artists were painting red disks, handprints, clublike symbols and geometric patterns on European cave walls long before previously thought, in some cases more than 40,000 years ago, scientists reported on Thursday, after completing more reliable dating tests that raised a possibility that Neanderthals were the artists.

A more likely situation, the researchers said, is that the art — 50 samples from 11 caves in northwestern Spain — was created by anatomically modern humans fairly soon after their arrival in Europe.

The findings seem to put an exclamation point to a run of recent discoveries: direct evidence from fossils that Homo sapiens populations were living in England 41,500 to 44,200 years ago and in Italy 43,000 to 45,000 years ago, and that they were making flutes in German caves about 42,000 years ago.

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World’s Oldest Optical Illusion Found?

Bison or Mammoth?This is interesting. I wonder how they relate to the therianthropes found in cave paintings popularized by Graham Hancock and others. Andrew Howley writes on NatGeo News:

Prehistoric artists were creating mind-bending double images of their own, according to a new paper presented earlier this year at an international convention on rock art research.

The paper’s author, Duncan Caldwell has surveyed the Paleolithic art of several caves in France and discovered a recurring theme that he says can’t be simply accidental. Throughout the cave of Font-de-Gaume, and in examples from other sites as well, drawings and engravings of woolly mammoths and bison often share certain lines or other features, creating overlapping images that can be read first as one animal, then the other. Rarely, if ever, do they do the same with other animals.

While images of horses, deer, extinct cattle, and even rhinos often appear in such caves, and often partially or entirely overlap each other, it is only the mammoth-bison pair that Caldwell found regularly appearing superimposed so exactly.

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America’s Own Ancient Rock Art

Those interested in the first evidence of art usually focus on sites like Lascaux in France or Altamira in Spain, but for Americans it turns out there is a site in California’s China Lake, near Death Valley, that rivals those or any other rock art locations around the world. David Page managed to visit despite the U.S. Navy declaring the area off limits, for the New York Times:

Ridgecrest, Calif. — We were inside Restricted Area R-505 of the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, rolling in a minivan across the vast salt pan of an extinct Pleistocene lake on our way to see a renowned collection of ancient rock art. On the console between the seats was a long-range two-way radio. It was there so that our escort, a civilian Navy public affairs officer named Peggy Shoaf, could keep abreast of where and when any bombs would be dropped — or launched, or whatever — so that we wouldn’t be there when it happened.

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