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Servitude, continued …

January 11, 2015

First Artists
The greatest innovation in the history of humankind was neither the stone tool nor the steel sword, but the invention of symbolic expression by the first artists.


Look at the first image shown in the article above. It is spectacular. Allow us to share more in this, but please, do take time to read the article in full.

Compared with the jaw-dropping beauty of the art created in Chauvet Cave 65,000 years later, artifacts like these seem rudimentary. But creating a simple shape that stands for something else—a symbol, made by one mind, that can be shared with others—is obvious only after the fact. Even more than the cave art, these first concrete expressions of consciousness represent a leap from our animal past toward what we are today—a species awash in symbols, from the signs that guide your progress down the highway to the wedding ring on your finger and the icons on your iPhone.

There’s something else telling about these early African and Middle Eastern eruptions of symbolism: They come, and then they go. The beads, the paint, the etchings on ocher and ostrich egg—in each case, the artifacts show up in the archaeological record, persist in a limited area for a few thousand years, and then vanish. The same applies to technological innovations. Bone harpoon points, found nowhere else before 45,000 years ago, have been uncovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in sediments nearly twice that old. In South Africa two relatively complex stone and bone tool traditions appear—the Still Bay 75,000 years ago and the Howieson’s Poort 65,000 years ago. But the latter lasted just 6,000 years, the former 4,000. Nowhere has a tradition been found to spread across space and through time, gathering richness and diversity, until just before 40,000 years ago, when art began to appear more commonly across Africa, Eurasia, and Australasia. As far east as the Indonesian island of Sulawesi (Celebes), stenciled handprints—once thought of as an invention of the European Upper Paleolithic—were recently shown to be almost 40,000 years old.

It seems unlikely, therefore, that some genetic “switch” flipped in our African ancestors to produce the capacity for a new, higher-order level of cognition that, once it evolved, produced a lasting change in human behavior.



Michelangelo Pieta


What is interesting about the sculpture by Michelangelo posted above is that it tells us more about the Spiritual “person” of Mankind (his condition) than his earlier sculptures. If you think about the artist’s David, in all its male perfection ‘in the flesh’—an almost glorification of this—what he demonstrated later in those sculptures, one can almost sense a moving away from religious ideals, the worldly ideals of the time. I recall a brief conversation with Alfred a while ago, as he was the one to post the Michelangelo images in our SPIR Gallery, that I was more intrigued with the artist’s statement on the “person” shown in his later sculptures. It was as if grappling with something undetermined. I do not want to state where the artist was at this time, nor do I wish to speak for him, but his later pieces say more about the sentencing of Man in his understanding of God.

As no ‘one’ has ever seen God ( 1 John 4.12), the above figure says more to me on Spirit than his David in all its sculpted perfection, standing alone on his pedestal.






Peace and Love

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