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Can we interpret rock art
Tuesday 26 February 2019

EARLY ROCK ART OF THE AMERICAN WEST: THE GEOMETRIC ENIGMA
by Ekkehart Malotki & Ellen Dissanayake

This publication presents us with a fascinating dilemma.

Early Rock Art American West Geometric Enigma
Early Rock Art American West.

On the one hand, the authors offer the concept that the Pleistcene is embedded in our genes; we are still the hunter gatherer. It would appear that 'principal lineaments of human nature are the same in societies around the world, suggesting that all are inherited from a single source.' We are still a 'society of intimates' predisposed to art, and to 'artify'. We are 'cultural creatures' with shared intense experiences. Or, as Jean Clottes proposes, Homo spiritualis artifax might be a more appropriate appelation than sapiens (wise), because of the close bond between spirituality and art (not to mention numerous examples of unwise behaviour).

On the other hand, this book asks how far removed we are from our prehistoric ancestors. Some argue that Western preconceptions about the arts are largely irrelevant to rock art studies. Early mark-makers were nonliterate and therefore had different minds from ours today; how can we possibly understand them? 'Modern thought is scriptocentric in the same way that the pre-Copernican world was geocentric. It is too easy, in thinking about behaviourally and cognitively modern humans, to assume that, apart from living outdoors, they were just like us.'

Ergo, can we interpret rock art?

About the book:
Early Rock Art American West

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