Prehistoric Cave Drawings

I stumbled upon this article on the TED blog.  Its an interview with Genevieve Von Petzinger, an Anthropologist who has created a large database of early geometric cave symbols. The following quote from this interview is relevant to the discussion in chapter 3 on how the humans progressed in their making of symbols:

“As I was collecting data, I assumed that I’d find this progression from crude markings to more sophisticated art. During the process, because I was looking at each site in such detail, I really didn’t know what the overall trends would look like until I was finished. When I ran my database, I suddenly realized, “Oh my god, 70 percent of the signs were already being used  from the beginning.” This doesn’t fit the theory of a simple, crude start, and then becoming more elaborate, with  more signs being used later on. They’re there right from the start, and they have a very strong presence.

I’ve just finished a journal article where I go back “before the beginning.” It looks at symbolic behavior in Africa prior to humans migrating outward. They have now  found portable objects in Africa that go back 100,000 years. They’re still pretty simple at this point but what’s fascinating is that all of it is geometric. There is no figurative art yet, which actually makes sense to me. Traditionally people thought that the animals came first, and the abstract signs came second, but it now looks like the abstract markings were the first type of expression.”

The Interview


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