Monday, May 25, 2009

shopping, art, swifts

Posted by PicasaPicking and choosing at the Farmers' Market.

As I watch the BBC TV documentary about the origins of Homo Sapiens, one point in particular strikes me as reassuring. The presenter, Dr Alice Roberts, is focusing on the arrival, around 40,000 years ago, of the first Homo Sapiens in a Europe already occupied by Neanderthals. "The Neanderthals, were intelligent, technologically up to scratch, like Homo Sapiens (ie made stone tools). What is more they were aclimatised to the cooler northern climate. Yet the Neanderthals became extinct, while Homo Sapiens, which had emerged more recently from the warmer African climate, survived". Why was this? "The capacity to create works of art such as carvings, cave paintings and figurines, developed", she says, "in human not in Neanderthal culture. And this gave us the edge, defined us, set us apart and helped us define territory and identity."
Art sometimes get a bad press nowadays. It is seen as a spare time activity, an indulgence and, when professional, sometimes eccentric and hard to understand. So it is good to think that in the early development of the human race, art played so important a part in our survival. During the Ice Age, which nearly killed off early Europeans, the artists who occupied the caves of southern France and the Iberian Peninsula, produced such astonishing paintings, were fulfilling an important social function. Something, which artists today, no one should doubt it, still fulfill in an age, no less scary than the Ice Age.

In the High Street, despite thumping amplifiers in Chapel Place, celebrating the bank holiday with deafening rock music, I hear the wild, shrieking of swifts, overhead.

5 comments:

marja-leena said...

Ah, prehistoric art is a subject close to my heart and I'd have enjoyed that program. I still wonder though about the Neanderthals vs Homo Sapiens. It's said that sites of paintings in southern Africa are 75 to 85 thousand years old, so is that how long the Homo Sapiens have been there and it wasn't until 35 to 45 thousand years later that they migrated to Europe? Interesting questions on 'humans' and their art.

Lucas said...

The act of choosing nicely defined.

The Crow said...

(o)

Plutarch said...

M-L: I am no expert and don't pretend to be, but I did find the thought about the importance of art stimulating. The dates that the presenter gave are presumably the latest estimations.The South african cave painting were presuambly the work of Homo Sap who got there from East Africa before they got to Europe.
I believe that you could see the programme on the BBC website, where it remains for a few more days. You go to the BBC website bbc.co.uk and download BBC iplayer, at no cost. This will give you a replay of the most important recent BBC programmes. BBC iplayer is something quite new and most impressive. The programme is called The Incredible Human Journey. I think you would enjoy it. Good to know that you are back safely.

marja-leena said...

I'm not an expert either, Plutarch. I agree that the it's fascinating to think how important art was to such early people. I guess I wonder if the Neanderthals weren't also making some kind of art.

Back from the dentist, I just tried to download the player and view the programmes but it seems to be limited to the UK. Hopefully it may be made available to the North American market sometime.