Thursday, March 11, 2021

ART WEEK continued: Cave Art and Graffiti

Street Art

Has anyone ever wondered whether the same motivations for early cave artists are the same as those for the modern day graffiti artists and taggers?

An article on the subject:

News in Science
Cave art may have been teen graffiti
Wednesday, 12 April 2006
Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News
Testosterone-fuelled boys created most prehistoric cave art, according to a book by one of the world's authorities on this type of art.

The theory contradicts the idea that adult, tribal shaman spiritual leaders and healers produced virtually all of it. It also explains why many of the images drawn in caves during the Pleistocene, between 10,000 and 35,000 years ago, somewhat mirror today's artwork and graffiti, largely produced by adolescent males.

"Today, boys draw the testosterone subjects of a hot automobile, fighter jet, Jedi armour, sports, direct missile hit, etc - all of the things they associate with the adrenaline of success," says Professor R Dale Guthrie, author of The Nature of Paleolithic Art. "I think the full larder [of] success of the excitement and danger of killing a giant bison or auroch in the Pleistocene was the equivalent of the testosterone art today," says Guthrie, who is an emeritus professor in the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He says that many of the cave art images of animals are rather graphic, showing, for example, speared animals with blood pouring out of their mouths and noses.

But hunting and animals were not the only things on the cave artists' minds. Guthrie has also noticed that males were drawn with no defined sexual parts save for a simple line designating the penis. Few men were even represented, but the images of women in caves tell a different story. "Female images dominate and are nude, almost every one full-figured above and below," says Guthrie. "Unlike the other animals, the sculpted, engraved and painted human females and female parts are sometimes done schematically, distilling and inflating the primary and secondary sex characters."

Guthrie also determines that several cave art images are incomplete, overlapping, brief and rudimentary, as though the people who created them were still learning to draw. This type of sketching dominates cave walls, which also display a handful of works that appear to have been drawn by well-practiced artists, who were probably adults.

Perhaps the most convincing piece of evidence for the new theory consists of 200 handprints that were left in the caves next to the art. These prints were produced by people who chewed ochre, held up a hand, and then spit the colorful orange-yellow spew all over the hand, leaving a wall imprint. Guthrie analysed the handprints and then compared the results with earlier research on male and female hands. The hand lengths, palm widths and the finger widths and lengths mostly match hands that would have belonged to boys aged nine to 17. Some teen female handprints were identified in the caves, but young male prints were more common. Other handprints resulting unintentionally from people leaning against muddy cave walls, as well as footprints, also suggest that young boys were creating the cave art, according to Guthrie.

Paul Martin, professor of quaternary biogeography at the University of Arizona, says he is inclined to agree with the new theory and findings. "[Guthrie] has an extraordinary knowledge of wild animal ecology globally, and especially in the northern hemisphere," Martin says. "In addition, he brings detailed knowledge of late Pleistocene fossils to his study of cave art. Finally, like many zoologists, especially those with children of their own, he is an astute observer of human behaviour. "If he finds that much cave art reflects teenage or preteen preoccupations, I am prepared to believe him," he says.

ABC Science
April 12, 2006


From another article:

Website: Historical Honey

Symbolic Behaviour: From Cave Art to Graffiti
There are many parallels between ancient cave art and modern day graffiti: like cave paintings, graffiti is a form of symbolic expression, using abstract ideas and shapes to communicate a message to other humans. This message may be different to that portrayed in early cave art, but it is the same mechanism and process.

If the cave paintings of the past reveal so much about our species development and evolution, then surely the modern works of today will be valued and studied in the future. If we hold ancient art in such high esteem, then we need to preserve modern society’s history through art. Sure, it’s conflicting, it’s controversial, and it doesn’t even really seem to last on its own, but street art, like the cave art of old, is one part of today’s culture that we can preserve for the sake of tomorrow. Graffiti makes comments about the social and political state of our world. The voices of everyday people are so small in history and archaeology; expressions such as cave art and graffiti are really special as they reflect the lives of the average person in society rather than elites.



From The Atlantic:

The Atlantic

October 9, 2014

Confirmed: The Oldest Known Art in the World Is Spray-Painted Graffiti

The first paintings ever made by human hands, new research suggests, were outlines of human hands. And they were created not in Spain or France, but in Indonesia.


Sixty years ago, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, a group of archaeologists discovered a series of paintings spread across 100 limestone caves. The images—rendered, by the time of their discovery, in sepias of varying saturations—featured stencil-like outlines of human hands and stick-legged animals in motion; they were in appearance, at least, quite similar to the cave paintings that had already been discovered, and made famous, in Spain and France.

The paintings were proto-graffiti. They were early versions of that car window in Titanic. They were humans, making their mark.

They were also, obviously, old. But they were not, it was thought, oooooold-old. They couldn't have been created, their finders figured, much more than 10,000 years ago. Had they been any older, everyone assumed, they would have faded away in the humid tropical air.

But you know what they say about assumptions. According to a paper published today in the journal Nature, those paintings, etched into those caves, are much older than those first scientists had thought. Tens of thousands of years older, in fact. So old that they are now thought to be the oldest known specimens of art in the world. If art is one of the things that make us human … then it seems we've been human for even longer than we've realized.

It's long been assumed that the oldest human paintings were created in Europe, in the caves of France and Spain.

. . . the Sulawesi paintings are, at minimum, 39,900 years old. Which makes their minimum age at least 2,000 years older than the minimum age of the oldest European cave art. (While the paintings are strikingly similar in content—human hands, animals teetering on stick-like appendages—they are also strikingly different in style. The Indonesian images "look ‘line-y,’ almost like brush strokes," Alistair Pike, the archaeologist who identified what was preciously considered the world’s oldest cave art, in Europe, told Nature. Early European images, on the other hand, "look dabbed, almost like finger paint."

All of which make the Sulawesi dating not just a scientific discovery, and not just a cultural revelation, but also something of a political point. "It allows us to move away from the view that Europe was special," Aubert told Nature. "There was some idea that early Europeans were more aware of themselves and their surroundings." The discovery of proto-art in Indonesia—the flecked and frozen outlines of the hands of unknown humans—negates that idea, scientifically. "Now," Aubert says, "we can say that’s not true.”


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