Sunday, February 6, 2011

Paleolithic Sex

An artistic carving on a reindeer antler has been evaluated by archeologists, and their report will soon be published in the March issue of the Journal of Archaeological ScienceThe picture accompanying this preview is crucial to appreciating the points made below. So look at it. The scholarly concensus seems to be that this carving is 10,900 years old (radio carbon dating) and that the subject is a woman with spread legs. The symbolic value would seem to be a fertility ritual. Okay, if you have looked at this picture, and read the article accompanying it, you will notice, perhaps, that there could be other interpretations. First off----that is a figure of a woman and man in one body, and a quick guess would be it represents a union of natural and/or spiritual forces. That is not what the article says, but that part seems obvious to me, just from the photograph of the carving.
The meaning of the universal zigzag pattern around the figure is illuminated, by the stick figure,  if I am correct. You have the opposition of angles in the zigzag itself, perhaps connoting a recognition of the duality of forces controlling the world.Duality as in light/dark, male/female, hunger/satiation, etc.  If  (IF) this is an early evidence for man's rational intellect (binary thought, there are only ever two options) it would have been more powerful and creative at it's inception, and therefore more able to deal with complex spiritual realities (as opposed to today's mechanical intellect where binary connotes an inability to deal with novelty.) My thought that the figure represents of union, a transcendence of the dueling dualities, is strengthening by the positioning of the stick figure in relation to the zigzag. Notice the legs of the figure align with the zigzags opposite it, (to make a new pattern) and also there is a rhythmic flow with a different stretch of zigzag and the legs of the figure, so the effect is of a continuous zigzag pattern. 
Although modern academe would not appreciate the next point, I am comfortable stating that for the early thinkers of our species (and up until modern times) there was no opposition between facets of living, such a sex versus art versus religion versus science. The moment was whole and holy for those who were going to live a longer life than their neighbors. A focus on reality meant increased survival odds, as opposed to the modern era, where, at least temporarily, the silly and the irrelevant often thrive. 
There is a somewhat different version of this post at another blog of mine, at is just the last paragraph that is changed.