Art & Music around 10,000 BC

Africa

A hurly-burly of folk movements, new technologies, mythological orientations, and vivid art forms now breaks upon the scene, and we are at the opening of a new age. The bow and arrow have appeared, the hunting dog, and an art of rock painting alive with vivid little forms: bowmen hunting and fighting, ritual scenes, dancers, sacrificial scenes. Whereas the paintings of the caves specialized in the forms of the animals of the hunt, here we discover a lively dance of human figures in a wonderfully vivid stickman style, developed with a sense for the composition of scenes and the rendition of movement. And whereas the art of the caves gave the magical, timeless atmosphere of the realm of myth, the happy hunting ground of eternity, and the operations therein of the archetypal shamans, here we have an atmosphere of life on earth and the ritual acts of living communities. We note, too, that women are prominent in the scenes, with elegantly rendered ample hips and legs, and willowy bodies, gracefully poised. The scenes are vibrant with the rhythms of the concerted action of groups. Not the shaman now, but the group is the vehicle of the holy power. The heartland of this new style was the grassy hunting ground of North Africa, where today there is only desert, and the type station is Capsa (Gafsa) in Tunisia. (Primitive Mythology)

Southwest Asia

The traditions of the native Upper Paleolithic Palestinians are also represented, although in the hands of the Natufians the crude stone mortars known to a few of these earlier Kebaran sites were transformed into works of art, and accompanied by marble plates and bowls, "decidedly elegant" footed vessels, and containers with meander and curvilinear designs carved in relief on the surface: a display of expertise in the grinding, pocking, and polishing of stone that is without precedent in the archaeological record of known earlier sites. (Plato Prehistorian)

The site of Gobekli Tepe [in Eastern trukey] is simple enough to describe. The oblong stones, unearthed by the shepherd, turned out to be the flat tops of awesome, T-shaped megaliths. Imagine carved and slender versions of the stones of Avebury or Stonehenge. Most of these standing stones are inscribed with bizarre and delicate images - mainly of boars and ducks, of hunting and game. Sinuous serpents are another common motif. Some of the megaliths show crayfish or lions. The stones seem to represent human forms - some have stylised 'arms', which angle down the sides. Functionally, the site appears to be a temple, or ritual site, like the stone circles of Western Europe. To date, 45 of these stones have been dug out - they are arranged in circles from five to ten yards across - but there are indications that much more is to come. Geomagnetic surveys imply that there are hundreds more standing stones, just waiting to be excavated. (126)


Carbon-dating shows that the complex is at least 12,000 years old, maybe even 13,000 years old. That means it was built around 10,000BC. By comparison, Stonehenge was built in 3,000 BC and the pyramids of Giza in 2,500 BC. Gobekli is thus the oldest such site in the world, by a mind-numbing margin. It is so old that it predates settled human life. It is pre-pottery, pre-writing, pre-everything. Gobekli hails from a part of human history that is unimaginably distant, right back in our hunter-gatherer past. How did cavemen build something so ambitious? Schmidt speculates that bands of hunters would have gathered sporadically at the site, through the decades of construction, living in animal-skin tents, slaughtering local game for food. The many flint arrowheads found around Gobekli support this thesis; they also support the dating of the site. This revelation, that Stone Age hunter-gatherers could have built something like Gobekli, is worldchanging, for it shows that the old hunter-gatherer life, in this region of Turkey, was far more advanced than we ever conceived - almost unbelievably sophisticated. It's as if the gods came down from heaven and built Gobekli for themselves. (126)

About three years ago, intrigued by the first scant details of the site, I flew out to Gobekli. ...on the day I arrived at the dig, the archaeologists were unearthing mind-blowing artworks. As these sculptures were revealed, I realised that I was among the first people to see them since the end of the Ice Age. And that's when a tantalising possibility arose. Over glasses of black tea, served in tents right next to the megaliths, Klaus Schmidt told me that, as he put it: 'Gobekli Tepe is not the Garden of Eden: it is a temple in Eden.' (126)

These days the landscape surrounding the eerie stones of Gobekli is arid and barren, but it was not always thus. As the carvings on the stones show - and as archaeological remains reveal - this was once a richly pastoral region. There were herds of game, rivers of fish, and flocks of wildfowl; lush green meadows were ringed by woods and wild orchards. About 10,000 years ago, the Kurdish desert was a 'paradisiacal place', as Schmidt puts it. In the Book of Genesis, it is indicated that Eden is west of Assyria. Sure enough, this is where Gobekli is sited. Likewise, biblical Eden is by four rivers, including the Tigris and Euphrates. And Gobekli lies between both of these. In ancient Assyrian texts, there is mention of a 'Beth Eden' - a house of Eden. This minor kingdom was 50 miles from Gobekli Tepe. Another book in the Old Testament talks of 'the children of Eden which were in Thelasar', a town in northern Syria, near Gobekli. The very word 'Eden' comes from the Sumerian for 'plain'; Gobekli lies on the plains of Harran. Thus, when you put it all together, the evidence is persuasive. Gobekli Tepe is, indeed, a 'temple in Eden', built by our leisured and fortunate ancestors - people who had time to cultivate art, architecture and complex ritual, before the traumas of agriculture ruined their lifestyle, and devastated their paradise. (126)

 

The astonishing stones and friezes of Gobekli Tepe are preserved intact for a bizarre reason. Long ago, the site was deliberately and systematically buried in a feat of labour every bit as remarkable as the stone carvings. (126)

 

In the pits, standing stones, or pillars, are arranged in circles. Beyond, on the hillside, are four other rings of partially excavated pillars. Each ring has a roughly similar layout: in the center are two large stone T-shaped pillars encircled by slightly smaller stones facing inward. The tallest pillars tower 16 feet and, Schmidt says, weigh between seven and ten tons. As we walk among them, I see that some are blank, while others are elaborately carved: foxes, lions, scorpions and vultures abound, twisting and crawling on the pillars' broad sides....because Schmidt has found no evidence that people permanently resided on the summit of Gobekli Tepe itself, he believes this was a place of worship on an unprecedented scale—humanity's first "cathedral on a hill." (127)

 

In rapid-fire German he explains that he has mapped the entire summit using ground-penetrating radar and geomagnetic surveys, charting where at least 16 other megalith rings remain buried across 22 acres. The one-acre excavation covers less than 5 percent of the site. He says archaeologists could dig here for another 50 years and barely scratch the surface. (127)

Egypt

 

Indus Valley

 

China

 

Europe

 

[The cave paintings at Altmmira, France] are now given dates between 34,000 and 12,000 years ago. Analysis shows that the colors were produced by mixing natural mineral pigments, such as ocher and manganese dioxide, with a binder (blood, urine, vegetable juice, or something similar), and that they were either brushed on with an implement made of animal hair or applied by making a kind of crayon from the pigments and lubricant. Some painting may also have been done by using a pipe to blow the powdered pigments on a surface prepared with animal fat. Many of these paintings were executed in the dark recesses of caves, by light provided by lamps made of stone bowls filled with animal fat, with a wick made of lichens, grass or juniper.(Patterns in Prehistory)

For six to eight thousand years, from approximately 17/15,000 to 9,000 BC, southwest Europe was dominated by Magdalenian culture and art. (The eponymous site is La Madeleine in the Dordogne valley.) Although Magdalenian influence was to spread across central Europe and into Russia during this period, the decorated caves for which these people are famed apparently were confined to a region bounded on the west by the Atlantic ocean, on the east by the Rhone. The majority of these caves are on or near large rivers, most of which empty into the Atlantic. At the beginning of the Magdalenian era, which approximately coincided with the maximum lowering of sea level, the Medoc littoral through which many of these waters ultimately flow (via the Garonne river) extended more than thirty miles into what is now Atlantic ocean. What part of the Magdalenian culture may since have been lost to the rising seas is incalculable; what remains cannot be described, in any meaningful sense, as primitive. (Plato Prehistorian)

With the emergence of the Magdalenians, the painting and engraving that had been largely restricted to the daylight zone of cave entrances began spreading deep into the interior chambers. Animals once represented primarily by forepart and dorsal line became superlative creatures of more than lifelike grace and proportion. But with the proliferation of detail, the animals grew more and more realistic until, at the end of the eleventh millennium, they are comparable to photographic images. At around this time the deep interiors of the caves gradually began to be abandoned, with the art shifting to stone plaques. Less than a thousand years later, toward the end of the tenth millennium, a steep decline marked the end of Magdalenian art as a whole. The few remaining examples show a dissolution into "crudity and schematism."(Plato Prehistorian)

One final contradiction to conventional thought may be found in the remarkable unity of Magdalenian art, which unlike the tools (and the signs), shows virtually no regional differentiation. Sieveking has noted that while primitive peoples in our own and recent times use art forms that are tribally (and thus in most cases territorially) distinct, a similar regional distinction seldom applies in the Paleolithic period--"and most particularly does it not apply in the Magdalenian." Throughout southwest Europe a uniform style is recognizable in the art, and whenever the style changed, it changed everywhere. (Plato Prehistorian)

The arming of the Magdalenians also seems to have coincided with the gradual abandonment of the decorating of inner chambers of the caves. Although the execution of portable art would continue for a thousand years before it too vanished, the very rare cave paintings that can be dated to the tenth millennium are more often found at entrances than in the deep interiors of the caves. Weapons continued to increase, art to decline, until in the ninth millennium the decay of Magdalenian culture was complete. (Plato Prehistorian)

 

Of the unexpected emergence of this new style of painting, one critic remarked: "From the point of view of stylistic evolution, Levante art appears to have had no childhood. All of a sudden it's there.” In contrast to Magdalenian art, Levantine painting is dominated by human rather than animal figures, and a narrative quality rarely found in the Magdalenian period. If the archetypal animals at Lascaux may be said to suggest non-historical concepts of time, the new Spanish art is distinctly grounded in the incidental and the transitory. There are women clapping and dancing, men shooting deer and gathering honey, and above all, warriors armed with bows and arrows in every imaginable attitude of the fray. (Plato Prehistorian)

Mifsud draws attention to the little-known Ghar Hasan cave located on a precipitous cliff-face on Malta's south coast not far from the more famous Ghar Dalam. For the first time in the long history of the cave, a repertoire of Palaeolithic art forms were partially uncovered from beneath the stalagmitic encrustations which covered them for the past fifteen millennia. The figures numbered altogether approximately 20 designs, and they are painted in red, brown, dark brown and black. They represent various animal figures, an anthropozoomorphic design, several handprints and an array of ideograms... In Panel One, at least two of the animal figures represent the elephant, 'two heavy quadrupeds with a long muzzle'. These animals were extinct in Malta before the end of the Pleistocene. (Underworld)

The caves were the sites of animal magic and of the men's rites. They are the underworld itself, the realm of the herds of the underworld, from which the herds of the upper world proceed and back to which they return. They are of the realm and substance of night, of darkness, and of the night sky, their animals being comparable to the stars, which are slain by the sun yet reappear. The mythologies of the animal masters and shamanism, the journey to the other world by way of a ceremonial burial, men's threshold rites, rebirth, and the masked dance inspired the liturgies of this brilliant age. ...in the temple-caves of southern France and northern Spain a firm continuity can be recognized, uniting the Magdalenian with the Aurignacian, as though the intervening Solutrean had been but a passing episode. The animal forms of the mural art now are masterfully rendered in a powerful, painterly style, with fluent lines and rich coloration, through eyes that had looked at animals in a way that has not been known since, and by hands perfectly trained. This art was magic. And its herds are the herds of eternity, not of time - yet even more vividly real and alive than the animals of time, because their ever-living source. At Altamira the great bulls - which are almost breathing, they are so alive - are on the ceiling, reminding us of their nature; for they are stars. And so here they are, these heavenly herds, in the primal abyss of the night sky. For according to the logic of this sort of dream, this game of myth, where A is B and B is C, this cave is the timeless abyss of the night, and these paintings are the prototypes, Platonic Ideas, or master forms of those temporal herds of earth, which - together with the people - are to play the play of the animal master, the willing death, and the sacramental hunt. (Primitive Mythology)

British archaeologist Paul Devereux recently made a truly awesome discovery about Paleolithic caves. He has shown that more than just visual art and ritual was going on in these caves; music was also being played in them. Devereux studied the acoustical properties of Paleolithic caves that were used forty thousand to twelve thousand years ago. Key Paleolithic caves have various red ochre and black dots, lines, and symbols that many people have wondered about. Devereux discovered that these crude symbols mark the acoustical properties of stalactites and stalagmites, as if the stalactites and stalagmites are vaulted acoustical pipes, similar to a pipe organ. The marks indicate which stalactites and stalagmites to strike to produce various tones within the caves. Devereux calls these stalactites and stalagmites lithophones. (The Mayan Code)

South America

 

Mesomerica

 

North America

 

Other

10000 BC Dating for pottery in Japan. (God-Kings & the Titans)

Farther east, there is evidence that modern humans had lived in Japan from about 30 kya, based on dating their flint tools. All four main Japanese islands were connected, and the southern island of Kyushu was connected to the Korean peninsula while the northern island of Hokkaido was linked to Siberia. These people appear to have survived the ice age and then around 12 kya developed a unique culture, which lasted for several thousand years. Their culture is known as 'Jomon', which means 'cord pattern', to describe the design of the pottery that these people produced - the earliest in human history. What is remarkable is that the Jomon were still a hunting, gathering and fishing society, living in small groups, when they developed this advanced technology. Furthermore, they also fashioned ceramic figurines. (Climate Change in Prehistory)