Museum of the Origins of Man
Analysis of the evolution of art must take into account the functions of these artefacts. First Palaeolithic manmade objects (3 million years ago) were stone tools (tools) and lithic sculptures (art).
Tools are included in material culture, while sculptures are included in spiritual culture.
Sculpture is the oldest application of art, which follows the design engraved on stone. The paintings are the last application of Palaeolithic art, as it has been necessary to invent colors (which are imitation of natural colors) and produce them.
Art is part of the spiritual culture, as always produced for depiction of religious subjects. To make evolutionary relationships, we included works of post-Paleolithic art, of which we know the religious function, along with works of Paleolithic art, whose function we could not understand, if not putting them in comparison with works of art with a same typology of subjects.
Historical art and art of today are now appreciated for their beauty, and have a role in furnishing.
Art and tools from the beginning of Palaeolithic are at the source of beauty, whose evolution through the transformation will be always faster.
The beauty applied to the art precedes the beauty applied to the tools. For the tools was necessary only the function (to cut the skin of mammals or the flesh for feeding, to scrape the skins to make clothes or cover for huts, and so on).
We can see the evolution of beauty in the shape of Paleolithic sculptures. It is amply illustrated in this website, and is clearly visible that it is not the kind of beauty which we are accustomed, as are passed few million years, but the transformation of the kind of beauty is already visible. The same happens for the beauty of art of every following era, until present days.
Sculptures of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic represent predominantly human heads, as imitation of the reality. But the representation of the heads, in any era, according to different "fashion", changes the effective form. This transformation has been called "style."
This transformation, today, is found in art, as in the form of household utensils, of cars and other equipment, and so on.
Depiction of human head in sculpture varies considerably over three million years, as depiction represents very different human species . The oldest sculptures show the head without forehead and chin, while the latest sculptures, with Homo sapiens sapiens, have forehead and chin. It follows that the oldest sculptures have the appearance of a "snout", almost like an "animal", while the most recent are similar to us modern men. However, there are many intermediate forms over time.
The stylistic deformation of a sculpted head of Homo erectus, as example of elongated typology, or with voluntary lack of representation of eyes and nose, always puts in evidence the profile of the face. So, in anthropologic analysis is always possible to determine the species of Homo depicted, although with a degree of approximation. Style is beauty.
Some difficulty in the interpretation, however, occurs when the majority of the lithic sculptures is found in deposits of solifluction.
These sculptures together with stone tools were produced in the Lower and Middle Paleolithic in hilly or mountainous settlements, and then transported by the floods in streams or rivers pell-mell. The running action has removed by smoothing something of the representation in the sculptures and something of cutting-edge or for scraping in the tools.
Some sculptures on display in this site come from deposits of solifluction, but their deturpation is slight. Sculptures and tools, if produced with hard stones such flint, are less deturpables in rolling in comparison to those produced with soft rocks, that can be completely destroyed, and become normal pebbles unrecognizable as sculptures.
Sculptures of lower and middle Paleolithic are eight types:
1) human head
2) animal head
3) human head two-faced
4) animal head two-faced
5) human head joined for the neck at the head of animal
6) human head mixed to animal head
7) naked woman (Venus)
8) head of animal with human body.
The oldest type of sculpture is the human two-faced head, with absolute dating of three million years; it was produced in southern Africa by a kind of Australopitechus, a hominid preceding man.
It is important to consider that the human two-faced head is not imitation of nature, as it did not exist, but is an invention of the spiritual culture of humanity.
All these eight types of sculptures appear in Lower Paleolithic and are all linked to the cult, that is to religion. In fact, in the material culture they would be of no use, as surely they could not be in the interior decoration.
About the religious function of the eight types of sculptures, see on this site an exhibition of sculptures and of other artistic applications, produced in post-Paleolithic eras, showing all the eight types. Their religious function is established from a tradition that lasts up to our days.
As can be seen by the photos, the combination of the heads is always different in size and orientation, even in a same sculpture. This certainly had a meaning unknown to us.
The depiction of the head alone, and of the combinations of heads, is reflected in the cult of the skull of the deceased. Authoritative scholars in the first half of '900 claimed this cult for the lower Palaeolithic, given the large amount of parts of skulls found, compared to other parts of the skeleton.
Findings of human skulls preserved in burials are known from the middle Paleolithic to the historical eras, and to many existing small primitive civilizations. It is also known the conservation of bear skulls in middle Paleolithic.
In the post-Paleolithic eras, eight types evolve dramatically with the application of new working technologies, and use of new materials, with an increase in the composition of the sculptures and of religious meanings.
To the human heads two-faced, new heads add, the human body, many arms, even eyes on the body, clothes, colors, etc., as is found in the Indian deity. Even styles gain characteristics different from other styles, as in geometric anthropomorphic sculpture of Mesoamerica.
Finally, the approximate cultural attribution of an anthropomorphic sculpture of Lower and Middle Paleolithic found in a field of solifluction, where is not possible the absolute dating, is determined by the human species represented, by the type of composition, by the style and technique of working of stone, as well described by Palethnologists for the manufacture of stone tools.
More chronologic determinations are obtained when the sculptures of human heads two-faced represent the union of two different human species, such as Neanderthalensis Homo sapiens and Homo sapiens sapiens.
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