Wednesday, April 22, 2015

thought for the day/ Blombos cave and the 21st century revolution in Archaeology

Lion man of the Hohlenstein Stadel

I grew up with the knowledge of the European(primarily French) cave paintings as the oldest human creative efforts. People often wondered if there was creative efforts like that further back in time because of how old our line of descent is(back to like 4 million years). Archaeology certainly has found much exciting things.  Today, archaeology is revolutionized.

The findings of Blombos cave, South Africa . . . of a red ocher block with abstract patterns,

Note, African's today like to paint themselves with red ochre,

The red ochre block above dates to ~ 75,000 B.C. . . . blowing away the archaeological paradigm of the twentieth century!

For much of the twentieth century, the controversy was, "did human brains magically flip some genetic switch?"  Or, "did ideas come and go?"  The last question means . . . did ideas enter human cultures for a period, then disappear in a kind of dark ages?  The twenty first century archaeology answers in the latter. During about a hundred thousand year period, cultures came and went.  They did not pass on their discoveries to the future.  Future people rediscovered ideas and fashioned them in new styles all their own. Seems that population size has something to do with sophistication of ideas.

Another problem I'd note is that for that hundred thousand years that more or less biological progress was made, there were ice-ages that would have brought cultures 'back to the stone ages' figuratively speaking! For instance in the European cave paintings, we don't see the abstract symbolism we've just found in Blombos cave of twice the age!

Twentieth century archaeology new well, that ancient people's kept hunter/gatherer skills even if farming.  They'd switch between the two depending on the weather. In the beginnings of mankinds march towards science/technology, until it was developed enough(say after the European renaissance), mankinds was still quite dependent on the course of nature. As mankind used technologies, they often found themselves in situations where they needed science/technology they were hopeless to develop in the time needed.  So, cultures would collapse back to a previous state of living.  This is what twenty first century archaeology is seeing.

- I should note the lion-man which graces the top of this post.  I liked to say that in cave painters time, the hands symbolize self-reflection.  But, creative combining of ideas(even if not logically correct), like the combining of animal with human forms we see in Egyptian art, didn't come till, well Egyptian times.  Well, this lion-man is dated to 40,000 years!

Also, with this lion-man creativity, almost certainly used as some kind of spiritual god(giving man the power of the lion; Native Americans for instance would wear big cat or bear skulls to take on the properties of these great beasts!), to take on the powers of these other animals that humans don't(possibly how the god concept evolved from such ancient times) . . . in a related biblical passage, there's a goat god mentioned in Leviticus 17-7.  Although, some translations are not literal/or hide it as 'demon'.  For instance King James Bible, which is quite imfamous for mistranslating to hide embarrassing passages(one could argue that the King James verison of the bible was written to hide all kinds of errors and embarrassing problems discovered since the Arab/Spain translations occurred/spurred learning in 1060 A.D.) does this. Here's the New International Version/translation, of Leviticus 17:7, "They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols[b] to whom they prostitute themselves."

- I feel like I should say something about the astonishing refusal to question things I'm seeing in today's elite intellectuals(in relation to ideas coming and going); but, for various reasons, I don't feel the need to.  They'll either run into problems, change back to critical thinking and defending rationality, or they'll go away.  So, I won't waste much more breath on scientific ethics here!


  1. I know I've mentioned Blombos cave before . . . way down/lost somewhere down there . . . but, I've seen the archaeological revolution that Blombos cave mentioned repeatedly in the last so many months in scientific American and National Geographic . . . that I felt compelled to relive it and maybe stress some points about it some more!

  2. I also wanted to put that lion-man and some other stuff like the red ochre African tribe tradition in this story!