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1206-: Lecture One, Paleolithic Art

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Eric Weichel

on 11 September 2018

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Transcript of 1206-: Lecture One, Paleolithic Art

Lascaux: cave paintings dated to c.15000 BCE; the style seems to match later caves (c. 12 000 BCE) but one one radiocarbon analysis of a spearhead fragment suggests c. 17000 BCE.
Lascaux was discovered in 1940 by teenagers Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon Coencasin; they are shown here with an important scholar of prehistoric art, the Abbe Breuil, and their schoolteacher.
There are about 2000 images in Lascaux: they were created by blowing pigment through hollowed-out sticks or bones.
Discovered in 1994 in the valley near France's Ardeche River, the Chauvet Cave contains the oldest European 'cave paintings' on record (some of them 32,000 years old), almost perfectly preserved when collapsing rocks sealed off the entrance some 25,000 years ago
Chauvet Cave (ca. 30,000 BCE)
A few thousand years after anatomically modern humans appeared in Europe, cave painting was as sophisticated as it would ever be.

Bhimbetka Petroglyphs: "non-utilitarian" cup-shaped hollows driven into rock; notoriously hard to date, this example from India is in a geological layer securely dated to 220 000 BCE.
This long before the generally accepted evolutionary dates for either anatomically modern humans or Neanderthals, and instead belongs to an archaic species, Homo Erectus. Is this art?
The Venus of Berekhat Ram, found by archeologist N. Goren-Inbar (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) during archeological excavations on the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel during the summer of 1981


it was found sandwiched between two layers of volcanic residue: an upper one dated about 230,000 BCE, and a lower one dated 700,000 BCE.
It is a pebble incised three times to resemble a female pubic triangle.
Blombos Cave ochre processing kit: Haliotis midae (abalone) shell with ochre pigment still intact, from levels securely dated to 100 000 BCE.
Blombos Cave Nassarius kraussianus marine shell beads; c. 100 000 - 70 000 BCE; reconstruction of Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic) bead work stringing.
Diepkloof Rock Shelter, South Africa: pristine sediments from 60 000 BCE contain engraved ostrich egg shells.
Ostrich eggs, though difficult to craft and incise, contian about a litre of fluid, and were used as portable drinking containers.
Apollo 11: charcoal and sediment dated to 27 000 BCE
Venus (Woman) of Willendorf, Oolitic limestone, 11 cm, Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna, c. 28,000 B.C.E – 25,000 BCE: Discovered 1908 near Willendorf, by Josef Szombathy.
Venus from Hohle Fels, mammoth ivory, , aged about 35-40000 years (Aurignacian). Discovered in September 2008 in the cave "Hohler Fels" in the Ach Valley near Schelklingen, Germany
excavations at Hohle Fels Cave in 2008. The red arrow shows the location of the female figurine from 2008, and the two green stars show where the two new finds were discovered.
hand stencils found in the El Castillo cave in Cantabria, Spain, index finger length ratios based on sex could suggest up to 75% of all documented paleolithic stencils were made by women.
The Lion-Man of Hohlenstein Stadel; 29.6 cm x 5.6 cm wide; carved out of woolly mammoth ivory using a flint stone knife.
Found in 1939 by a geologist working at a Nazi-funded dig
The fragments were packed away in a box and not reassembled until 1970; subsequent archaeologists have found additional pieces
These new pieces have been dated to 40 000 BCE; they have also cast doubt on its identification as a "Lion-Man", and is now called "the Lion Figurine".
From the nearby cave of Vogelherd: miniature carved figures in ivory of a horse and a mammoth
These are dated to the middle Aurignacian, at about 30 000 BCE; like the Lion-Figure and the Venus from Hohle Fels, they are incised with markings and lines.
Aurignacian Man, Mammoth (c.30,000 BC), Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, Ardèche, France Charcoal drawing and engraving on rock, length c.80cm
"Chinese Horse", from the famous caves at Lascaux, Dordogne, France, 15000-13000 BCE
Night-Shining White, a favourite horse of the Emperor Xuanzong (Ming Huang), by Han Gan (706 -783), Tang Dynasty (618-907). Handscroll, ink on paper, 30.8 x 34 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of
The Panel of Hands, El Castillo Cave, Spain. A hand stencil has been dated to earlier than 35,300 BCE and a red disk to earlier than 38,600 BCE making them the oldest cave paintings in Europe, made exactly when Neanderthal populations were beginning to be replaced by "modern" humans.
The Corredor de los Puntos, El Castillo Cave, Spain. Red disks here have been dated to 34,000-36,000 years ago, and elsewhere in the cave to 40,600 years, making them examples of Europe's earliest cave art.
The famous polychrome ceiling of Altamira Cave, Spain. The double "claviform" symbol (top right) has been dated to earlier than 33,600 BCE, making it some 20,000 years older than the polychrome bison in the background.
The "hunting accident": discovered deep within a well shaft at the back of Lascaux, in a place difficult to reach, the scene is one of the first known representations of Paleolithic men:

even this is in question, given the bird-headed erect figure and his association with the bird-staff and the wounded bison, possibly suggesting a shaman or spiritual being.
In the face of death, this shamanic figure' s arousal may be a metaphor for regeneration and rebirth - the reawakening of sexuality, and the individual, in the afterlife.
"newer" paintings dated c. 18500 - 14000 BCE

The last and deepest of the Chauvet Cave chambers, the Salle du Fond, is the home of the Venus and the Sorcerer. From the ceiling of the chamber, which is nearly 7m (20ft) high, a vertical cone of limestone hangs down ending in a point 1.10m (3ft 6ins) off the floor. It is on this hanging outcrop that the Venus and the Sorcerer are drawn in black charcoal.





Woman of Laussel, c. 27000 - 22000 BCE, Grand Abri de Laussel, Dordogne, France: now Musée d’Aquitaine, Bordeaux, 54 cms high; 36 cms wide.
This low relief in limestone is part of frieze of four female figures which adorned the back wall of a rockshelter. Further engravings of vulva were also discovered on rocks within the archaeological deposits.
The sexual triangle is well defined and her legs, sculpted slightly apart, are complete and in proportion to the length of her body.

The fingers on her left hand rest on her stomach whereas her right arm bends upwards supporting a bison horn marked with 14 vertical incisions. Traces of red ochre occur on her head, body, hips and stomach.
The Ain Sakhri lovers, stone (calcite cobble), 10.2 cm, c. 9000 BCE, Discovered in Ain Sakhri caves, Wadi Khareitoun near Bethlehem; British Museum, London
Just published in July 2013, the earliest yet securely-dated flower burial in human history! Natufian grave reconstruction from Raqefet Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel, c 11 700 BCE - 9 700 BCE.
impressions from stems of Salvia Judaica were found preserved in the mud-lined burial pit: the flowers have decomposed, but the mud hardened around their outline
-also phytoliths indicating tissue of a dicot plant at Raqefet: basically fossilized plant remains: silica is taken up by the plant, and after the plant decays, it is put back in the soil as a mineral secretion.

The 'Younger Dryas', c 10 800 - 9 500 BCE
- abrupt reversal of the warming trend in effect since the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (18 000 BCE)
- lasted just over 1300 years: "brief" anomaly in trend of a warming earth
-coincides with the rise of Natufian culture.
Aurignacian steatopygous human figures that we already know from Brassempouy, Grimaldi, Willendorf, and Laussel.
The Lespugue Venus: statuette of a nude female figure from the Gravettian period, dated to between 26 000 and 24 000 years ago.
discovered in 1922 in the Rideaux cave of Lespugue (Haute-Garonne) in the foothills of the Pyrenees by René de Saint-Périer (1877-1950).
Approximately 6 inches (150 mm) tall, it is carved from tusk ivory, and was damaged during excavation.
The Venus of Dolní Věstonice I (Gravettian, 23, 000 BCE) was discovered on July 13th, 1925 in Dolní Věstonice, South Moravia (Czechoslovakia), during Moravian Museum excavations.
The figurine is among the world's first known ceramics, and is made from fired clay, about 11.5 cm high.
More than 75 years after its discovery, a fingerprint on the left side of the figurine back was analyzed; a child aged 7 - 15 had handled the clay before it was placed in the kiln.
clay phallic figures of the Cucuteni culture, from Beresti, eastern Romania, 4th millennium BCE
Pre-Cucuteni Clay Figures 4900-4750 BCE Discovered in Balta Popii, Romania
So-called 'Goddess Council', Museum of Piatra Neamt. Cucuteni culture, Romania, 4900-4750 BCE

Seated mother figurine with child (no. 519) from House Q.VI.5 at Hacilar. The bottom and legs of the child are beneath the right arm of the reclining figure. Dated to the sixth millenium BCE. The hair and pupils of the mother's eyes bear traces of black paint. Height 6.6 cm
The artifacts were excavated from Hacilar by Professor James Mellaart between 1957 and 1960.
Unbaked clay female figurine (no. 518) "Mistress of Animals" clutching a leopard cub and seated on a leopard. From House Q.VI.5.; height 13 cm.
Unbaked figure of a pregnant woman (no. 576) resting on her left side from House Q.VI.5. Length 11 cm.
While the figure on the left is unquestionably authentic, being dug up out of the archaeological site by a team working with scientific methods, political instability and economic hardship in the region has led to frequent tomb-raiding, with many objects of questionable provenance purchased on the black market. Some of these have proven to be forgeries when examined by scientific tests in museums. The figure at right's status is unknown.
The Middle East continued to see the diversification and intensification of agriculture, which either led directly to, or was a byproduct of, larger and larger settlements with more complex patterns of organization. Hacilar, Anatolia, modern Turkey.
Hacilar
Seated mother goddess figurine from Catal Huyuk, circa 5800 BC. Made out of clay - height 16.5 cm (without head). Found in a grain bin in Shrine A II; the head has been restored.
Cybele drawn in her chariot by lions towards a votive sacrifice (right). Above are the Sun God and heavenly objects. Plaque from Ai Khanoum, Bactria (Afghanistan), 2nd century BCE
Çatalhöyük (7500 BCE to 5700 BCE)in southern Anatolia: the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site extant, with a population of between five and ten thousand people fluctuating over the centuries according to the settlement's economic and political health.
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