01 April 2007

"sex and violence down the mines"

Never mind the title, OK. And APRIL FOOLS on the massively long reading, right? ...right? ickys.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I had immense trouble wading through "The Nature of Paleolithic Art" after about the first 20 pages and it began rambling about reindeer. What? I think I picked out a couple of things before my brain switched off, though, so here it is. (No offense to anyone who really liked it, I just couldn't focus.)

Mostly, I felt really validated when the article mentioned the prevalence of sexual images when humans were involved in cave art, since the man in the Lascaux cave has a pretty obvious (to me) erection. I doubted myself a little when the site didn't mention it (evidently they like bison entrails better), but in the context of a lot of other prehistoric and even modern "pagan" artwork, it makes a lot of sense. I'm sure the first thing that comes to most people's minds when you mention paganism is fertility rites and other various rituals involving the harvest, the hunt, etc, which are portrayed in the cave paintings.

To connect a bit to previous readings, the incidence of cave painting tells me conclusively that these people were capable of abstract thought, at least to some degree. Art itself is a form of abstract representation, and the simple act of creating an image is a form of expression. My favorite example of this is Marcel Duchamp's The Fountain (1912), where the artist's intention is the entire point of the piece, and it's not physically what it's intended to be, kind of. Anyhow, this is Dada, and the point of Dada is that all art is just representation, and it can never actually
be what it's portraying.. Since these paleolithic artists were capable of seeing beyond a horse to a 2-D smear that looks like a horse, it stands to reason that they had the capabilities for a religion of sorts, which likely revolved around the large mammals they lived with and fertility. At this point in human evolution, religion became possible.