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Label: ancient art

Friday 07th November 2014Ancient Art

When you think of the earliest examples of artwork ever discovered, you probably think of cavemen painting on walls. Primitive hunting scenes, and extremely crudely stylised figures of men and women in various basic layouts. You may even be able to call to mind some of the more well-known examples that you probably learned about in school - the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, being one of the most popular examples in the latter half of the 20th century. The earliest recorded examples in Europe are dated to roughly 30,000 BCE, and are found in Spain, in the El Castillo cave. It may surprise you to learn, then, that these are not even remotely close to the earliest recorded human artwork, as a recent study discovered.


Examining various rock art formations and paintings across Southeast Asia, a team from Griffith University lead by Professor Paul Taçon discovered that many of the formations dated to 40,000 BCE, and are widespread across all of Southeast Asia, from Indonesia to China to Malaysia and Thailand. This may not seem too remarkable, at first, until you realize that up until this study, many scholars had theorized that artistic practices had first evolved in Europe and then spread outwards via human migrations as tribes expanded and explored new areas.


Those of you with a sociological or anthropological background will no doubt immediately notice the flaw in that Eurocentric view and be unsurprised by it, but these findings are solid evidence that artistic practices evolved much earlier than are evidenced in Europe, and suggest that as early humans migrated out of Africa, they took a thriving artistic practice with them, instead of developing one along the way.


This theory would likely have been disproven much earlier, if it weren't for the fact that the unique geology of Africa makes it less likely to find artworks protected from the elements, which can rapidly decay artwork to the point of unrecognizability. It is often theorized that the reason we find cave paintings dated from that time period isn't because early humans only painted in caves, but rather because those are the only places where they have been preserved.


Sometimes, when struggling with a piece of work in the present day, it can be helpful to think about the fact that human beings have been creating for longer than we can easily imagine. It's an inextricable part of our consciousness, and no matter how difficult it can seem at the time, it's literally part of us to create.

Posted on November 07th 2014 on 08:59pm
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Labels: , ancient art, news
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