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Unorthodox Thoughts

chewing gum for the mind

It is commonly accepted by most that before agriculture and animal husbandry held sway within the fertile crescent, most humans were rather brutish and simple people who were only concerned with their basic needs.  Hunting, fishing, gathering, shelter..

However we know that our brain’s ability to reason, at least on an anatomical level has remained the same for about 200,000 years.  We also know that there have been extinctions of roughly thirty known hominins (hominids); and these are not monkeys, these are humans I am talking about.

In fact, all hominins since homo habilis (2.4 million years ago) have been human.  All of these branches of humanity failed in the end, with the last failure happening between 30,000 and 24,000 years ago in Neanderthal. (but not until they gave us some of their DNA)  Could you imagine if there were other forms of human life that were sentient living on Earth with us today?  That was the reality during prehistory.

The Lascaux Cave paintings discovered in France by four teenagers in 1940 changed the way we think about pre-history to some extent.

Estimated to be between 17,000 and 30,000 years old, they not only represent art; but a good understanding of time and long-term project work, maintenance and restoration as the cave walls show forensic evidence of being painted (and the caves complex being occupied) over a period of 5,000 – 10,000 years.

lascaux caves, franceI have read articles written that ask silly questions such as “Can the Lascaux paintings be considered art?” After visiting Lascaux, Pablo Picasso emerged from the caves so impressed that he lamented, “We have discovered nothing!”

During the winter solstice sunset these paintings are lit up within the cave, implying an understanding of time and astronomical cycles.  The star constellations of the Bull, Unicorn and Capricorn are also depicted in the paintings; which in turn reinforce their dates of creation due to the known position of star constellations at the times of creation.

The interesting thing to me about Lascaux is that it was found in an undisturbed cave, safe from the ravages of man and nature.  In fact, after only 72 years the paintings have been seriously damaged by the presence of humans and are no longer able to be visited.  How did ancient man keep the same series of paintings congruent for 5,000 – 10,000 years?  To me, it implies a dedication to culture and a respect for the past that hasn’t been possible for the last 5,000 years at all.  Maybe we can learn more than just about art from the Lascaux paintings?

(NOTE – there is another hominin that died off between 17,000 and 12,000 years ago named Homo floresiensisThis was a dwarf human with a smaller brain and was discovered on the island of Flores, east of Java.  The brain of Home floresiensis was much smaller than Neanderthal and modern humans.  Coincidently, Neanderthal had a larger brain than ours.)


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