Since I was a little kidling, I’ve had a fascination with rocks. And art. Those were two big things for me, and, after all these years, they still are. I truly think this dates back to my genetic connections to my ancient, ancient ancestors.
Some of me, as I’ve mentioned before, is Neanderthal. Truthfully? I think Neanderthals get a bad rap. They are our closest extinct human relative. Why they went into extinction is a bit of a mystery. Personally, I think they walked too far south. Or, maybe they ate a bunch of bad berries. A big bunch.
Either way. For back then, they seemed pretty smart. They made tools. Diverse and sophisticated tools. It has also been found that they controlled fire, lived in shelters, and made clothing. I have to say, on the first two of those traits, I am highly skilled. On the third? The part about making clothing? I think I kept my ape-based-genetics there. I’m not too swift with a needle and thread.
Anyway, there’s more. The Neanderthals were skilled hunters of large animals. “Spear to the Wooly” and such. And here’s another fact. Neanderthals deliberately buried their dead and occasionally even marked their graves with offerings. Like putting flowers down. The science folks say that no other primates, and no earlier human species, had ever been quite so Coolio. Only those Neanders used such “sophisticated” actions. Symbolic too.
They lived about 400,000 to 40,000 years ago. It was toward the end of this that Humans and Neanderthals started making art.
We’ve been discovering it. The oldest known Caveman-ish Art dates back to a later Stone Age (the Upper Paleolithic Period). That was right about 40,000 years ago. Little bits of art began to appear around this time. All over the world — like Europe, the Near East, Asia and Africa.
Here’s what the Stone-Agers did. They made little stone sculptures. The oldest piece they have found is a small ivory sculpture. It is a female figure with exaggerated breasts and genitalia. The discovery-people in those khaki outfits, named this little thing the Venus of Hohle Fels, after the cave in Germany, where they found the thing. It’s about 40,000 years old.
Again, I mimic my ancestors. Every time I’m outside, I grab a few random rocks and try to make a cairn. I don’t know why I feel the need to do this, but I do. I’ll spend mesmerized moments, trying to make impossible rocks find balance with one another. But. Those Cairns didn’t come around in history until much later.
Back to the Stone Age men and women. They also began carving symbols and pictures onto the walls of caves. They made stone chisels to do so. Of course, these carvings are called Petroglyphs. They depict different things — like animals. And they probably carved them for a reason. Like as maps. Or a way to show trails, or constellations, and such. Archaeologists have discovered Petroglyphs on every continent — except for Antarctica. I suspect the penguins might have something to do with this. Or the Neanderthals who started walking south and maybe didn’t get that far.
I think I’m reminded of all of this because our brand new Art Center just opened here in downtown Eaton. “Preble Arts.” It totally ROCKS. So, you can see. The connection is obvious.
We are lucky to have such a magnificent place for Art in our little town. And who knows, in 40,000 years, the future Humans may travel back to Earth, and find relics of the place. And they will marvel, as I am marveling now.
And for our ancient Humans and Neanderthals? They gave us a good start with rocks and art and many other things. Which may explain my occasional cravings for Brontosaurus Burgers.
“Every artist was first an amateur” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Creativity takes courage” — Henri Matisse
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” — Pablo Picasso