Archive for the ‘History’ Category

100,000 Years of Art

Just stumbled across this article on the Discovery.News website entailing the discovery of an “ancient art studio” in a cave in South Africa. Inside the cave (Blombos Cave) were two abalone shells holding an ochre mixture (red pigment) with an array of tools around it.

Photo of one of the abalone shells from the article:


Though I find it interesting and quite fascinating, I do not find it all that surprising (cave art anyone?). I suppose the real intrigue behind it all is the sophisticated processes (chemistry involved) in the actually creation of the ochre pigment and such. What I find to be even more intriguing is the phrases used in this article in reference to creating art itself. Some of my favorite exerts were as follows:

~…”humans had the conceptual ability to source, combine and store substances that were then possibly used to enhance their social practices” – wrote the researchers in the journal Science‘s Friday edition.

~ Other findings “suggesting the emergence of abstract thinking and modern human behaviour much earlier than previously thought.”

~”The findings represents an important benchmark in the evolution of complex human mental processes.”

As I read the article I thought: wow, it is refreshing to read about the importance of art in human society as well as its history, and how it actually benchmarks advances in human evolution and intelligence.  Usually, articles are spelling out all the reasons why art needs to be put to the way-side, and have our children’s education focused on Math & Sciences, so it was quite pleasing to read on about arts place in advanced thought and processes. The article began stating that the findings of art supplies, materials, storage were a sure sign of our conceptual ability to use enhancements for our social practices, “it also demonstrates that humans had an elementary knowledge of chemistry and the ability for long-term planning 100,000 years ago,” which was the statement that concluded the article.

So with such statements praising art as an enhancement to social practices, abstract thinking, and part of the evolution of complex human mental processes… I once again find myself wondering why art is thought to be the lesser of skills to be taught to our future generations. We’re even completely tying chemistry into the equation! Can’t we all just get along? Abalones and ochre for everyone!!! I must say, that the “chemistry” (it seems more like it was just common sense to create a better pigment to me) used 100,000 years again to create the ochre paint is pretty advanced. Using marrow fat instead of plant resin which created more of a paint like substance seems much more logical than adding egg whites like those in the Renaissance.

Props to chemistry for being able to break down the ingredients of the ochre pigment and recreating it… that, like art, is pretty damn awesome.


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