Friday, July 26, 2019

Earliest Art Made By Humans?

Artnet News has a post on a discovery in Henan Province, China that purports to be the oldest indications of consciously-created art.  From Sarah Gascone:
Abstract patterns carved on bone fragments discovered in China could be the oldest art ever made, dating back to between 105,000 and 125,000 years ago.

The marks on two bones were found at a site in Henan Province thought to be populated by Denisovans, an extinct species or subspecies of ancient humans, according to a new study in the Cambridge University Press journal Antiquity. The markings on the weathered rib bones contain traces of ochre on one specimen, the earliest evidence of pigment’s use for decorative purposes.

The newly discovered artworks pre-date even the 73,000-year-old markings—thought by some to be abstract drawings—found last year on a rock excavated from a South African cave, and previously thought to be the earliest-known example of human artistic activity.
Here is an image of the markings:

Photo Credit: Francesco d’Errico and Luc Doyon.

There seems to be a persistent thought that people of this age simply could not make art of this kind. I think it more stems from the fact that this kind of representation rarely survives in the fossil record. We know that as far back as 300k, there was division of labor and that there was quite a bit of population mixing this far back.  There is also a record of Neandertal cave paintings at 65k.  It is nice to find this kind of artistic expression but it ought not to surprise us. 

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