Thursday, June 21, 2012

Come back to see my etchings?

The discovery that this cave art is much older than previously thought - about 40,000 years old in fact - demonstrates that art can rise in conditions that look like sensory depravation to us moderns. We might not want to try the Paleolithic lifestyle ourselves, but it doesn't seem to stifle creativity

It also raises the possibility that Neanderthals were responsible for the paintings.* It's not yet proven, and early Ancestors (to use Gibraltarian anthropologist's term for our forerunners) may turn out to have made the paintings. But I tend to think that either way, the capability was there. While even some advanced thinkers in pre-history (e.g. Steven Mithen) have in essence dismissed Neanderthals as incapable of symbolic thought, their relationship to our ancestors makes that dismissal questionable. As the Guardian article mentions, 4% of every European's genome derives from the Neanderthals. Not to put too fine a point on it, that means that a lot of them and a lot of us were making sweet, sweet love. And while sexual partners can differ in intellectual achievement, that tends to be a matter of interest, not one half of the couple having an incomplete brain. Also keep in mind that for all the hybrids to survive, they'd have to be cared for. That tells you something about how the two different communities got on.

* Sorry if I seem to be turning into the Neanderthal guy. What can I say? Some guys are hung up on hockey or the French and Indian War. I have this.


susan said...

You made a good point when you mentioned that the hybrids must have been cared for. Subsequently, they must also have had some interesting attributes in order that they became our Ancestors.

I think it's entirely appropriate to be fascinated by new archeological developments. Discoveries and new interpretations are only going to get more interesting as time goes by. I quite like the idea that we're also a sub-species.

Ben said...

I think both human nature and natural nature are more interesting and intricate than we usually notice. And subspecies is a good way to put it. It gives us a wider context.

By the way, thank you for the tip on using compose. It's much closer to the way I like to write on here.