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(Discovery)   Researchers discover that when you apply torchlight to the 30,000 year-old cave paintings in the south of France, they become the world's oldest cartoons   (news.discovery.com) divider line 9
    More: Cool, Stone Age, cave paintings, Paleolithic, retinal, visual perceptions  
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11033 clicks; posted to Geek » on 14 Jun 2012 at 6:51 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-06-14 11:28:07 PM  
4 votes:

The_Philosopher_King: It bugs me that people think that our upper paleo-ancestors had to be dumb. They weren't. Their brains were as big as ours. They just didn't have the technology. They were innovative and resourceful. That is why they thrived. I especially get irked at the people that insist they had outside help.There is no need to call in extraterrestrials to help out our supposedly retarded ancestors. They figured it out for themselves.


I've long pondered the popularity of shows like 'Ancient Aliens,' especially given that Giorgio A. "Car Wash Hair" Tsoukalos is about as plausible an expert on these topics as anyone else with a degree in sports, entertainment, and communication. (Why don't the colleges just be honest and create an explicit Wastoid major?)

One suspicion I have is that modern-day Americans need to be able to believe that comparatively primitive peoples would likely be incapable of acts of sophistication. Why? 9/11, that's why. I think a very large number of Americans are freaked out by the notion that people they consider culturally inferior could possibly sucker punch what they perceive as the greatest and most powerful nation ever. I think the refusal to accept even the possibility of that is what fuels a great deal of the Truther movement: better an evil conspiracy on our part than successful conniving on theirs, or else we'd be confronted with the ugly reality of our own bigotry. But I think it goes back even further. I think that Westerners have long needed to feed their mythology of 'primitive' peoples from other parts of the planet. How else can we assuage the inevitable pangs of conscience about how we've treated them the last few centuries, without admitting that we're not fundamentally better than they are?

Evidence? Look at how differently ancient Greeks and Romans are depicted in popular culture. Greeks are wise and noble, and invariably White. Egyptians strong but superstitious, and invariably Black. In reality, they were co-existing and very similar cultures, in terms of knowledge and technology, and shared a great deal. (Cleopatra herself was ethnically Greek.) And in racial terms, they were all Mediterraneans. So why would they be depicted so differently? Well, for one thing, Greeks are the mythical forebears of Western culture, while Egyptians are the people who enslaved the ancient Hebrews and worshipped snakes or some weird stuff like that. It's important to Western pride that ancient Egyptians be dissimilar -- and culturally inferior -- to ancient Greeks.

Ancient humans get lumped together in the popular mind as one people, though they were actually many, but universally 'primitive' for purposes of modern reckoning. Because of our cultural need to imagine much more recent peoples as primitive, and inherently inferior, it's very helpful to that mythos to imagine ancient peoples who genuinely were primitive as inferior also. Not just technologically, but can't-pile-rocks inferior. Rock-stupid, as they say.

It's just a notion, but I keep thinking it anyway.
2012-06-15 11:54:16 AM  
1 votes:

Magorn: By the way I think a Thaumatrope is a fancy name for one of these:
[brightbytes.com image 360x234]

the interesting question being, if we understood how to make these inthe Paleolithic, how did we lose the tech until the late 18th century?


Brantgoose has a theory.

One, the only way to animate these "animations" is drugs--it could be something as simple as alcohol or something more hallugenogenic, like mushrooms. Two, the drug would cause the "animations" to merge for some people at least, producing the illusion of motion. The inventor of the animation could discover both the effect of the drugs and the way to produce the drawings at the same time. This would be mucho big mana for an artist-shaman to possess and it might be passed on from generation to generation.

Three, when the use of hallucenogenic drugs by shamans and hunter-gatherer animists ceased, so would the "tech". The discovery of two-step animation and the subsequent development of kinetic drawings was a much more complex cultural development, while the early discovery of the same effect could be accomplished by cave painters and others.

There are "animated" drawings from ancient pottery--where the artist has decomposed motion into discret steps, so the "tech" may not have been totally lost between the two periods of discovery, primitive and scientific. Such a simple technique would be liable to "rediscovery" repeatedly by men or women of exceptional gifts, although evidence of their discovery might be sparse.
2012-06-15 10:10:17 AM  
1 votes:

theorellior: The_Philosopher_King: It bugs me that people think that our upper paleo-ancestors had to be dumb. They weren't. Their brains were as big as ours. They just didn't have the technology. They were innovative and resourceful. That is why they thrived. I especially get irked at the people that insist they had outside help.There is no need to call in extraterrestrials to help out our supposedly retarded ancestors. They figured it out for themselves.

What people also don't realize is that the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers couldn't just crack open a book or read about flint knapping on the Interbutts. They had to come up with this crap from first principles, or through observation. Let's say you were out walking and you found some flakes of red metal. It's pretty and shiny, you pick it up. It's hard and cuts your finger. Oooh, useful! But how many years would you use those found flakes to cut stuff before you figured out you could pound it into better shapes? Or scrape it on rocks to make it sharper? Or heat it in the fire to melt it? Or melt it with this other useful silver metal you found to make bronze? Or carefully tweak the proportions of white to red metal to make better bronze?

Fortunately, there were no iPods or cable television back then, so if you got bored there was not a whole lot to do but go kill something, fark your wife, play with your kids, or scrape those red metal flakes on some rocks to see what would happen.


Oddly enough, I've always had the theory that it was the artistic impulse that led to the development of metallurgy and smithing, specifically the decoration of pottery. The mental leap I've never been quite able to reconcile any other way is that it is extremely difficult to extract ore from whole rocks, and so, in most cases you first grind them to a fine powder and then heat them to 1000 degrees or so and the ore flows out (like crushing ice to make it melt faster)

Now, what posessed them to go through all that work in the first place?

The only thing that makes sense to me is that ore bearing rocks are also brightly colored, Copper, in particular makes Malachite, a lovely dark green rock. It occurs to me that these rocks might have been powdered to make pigments to apply to clay pots before firing them into ceramics in primitive kilns (usually a hollowed out space under the communal fire). That would allow the right kind of rock, to be prepared in the right way, and subjected to the right temperature to create molten metal.

After that, as you say, it was a simple matter of observing what happeneed and trying to replicate it.
2012-06-15 09:55:35 AM  
1 votes:

Olympus Mons: Mid way through art school, after seeing all the masters stuff, I kind of arrived at the point where I thought these cave drawings were deserving of some of the best and most important art ever done by mankind. I hope some day in my lifetime to see them in person.


The cave in France isn't at all open to the public. Access is extremely limited...a smal team of researchers is permitted into the cave only for a couple of weeks per year.

There was an amazing documentary filmed there, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. It's probably the only valid use of 3d I've ever seen. The cave artists used the shape of the cave walls in the painings, and they are incredible to see in 3d. If you can track that down, it's as close as you'll ever come. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1664894/
2012-06-15 01:10:16 AM  
1 votes:

Magorn: the interesting question being, if we understood how to make these inthe Paleolithic, how did we lose the tech until the late 18th century?


The Romans knew how to paint with single point perspective over 2,000 years ago. That got lost. And now you get art historians drooling over the Italians during renaissance discovering it. Which they didn't. They were beaten by a couple decades by the painters up in Flanders, present day Belgium, by a couple decades. Only thing is, with the painters of Flanders we have no idea who figured it out or when or how, unlike with the Italians.
2012-06-14 10:08:01 PM  
1 votes:
It bugs me that people think that our upper paleo-ancestors had to be dumb. They weren't. Their brains were as big as ours. They just didn't have the technology. They were innovative and resourceful. That is why they thrived. I especially get irked at the people that insist they had outside help.There is no need to call in extraterrestrials to help out our supposedly retarded ancestors. They figured it out for themselves.
2012-06-14 08:01:55 PM  
1 votes:
Those were some cool exemples.
2012-06-14 05:04:29 PM  
1 votes:
i253.photobucket.com

I just got back from a preview of Mongo Bayatthemoon's sophomore feature Galloping Yak And I must say after his debut, the brilliant Sabre Tooth Tiger, Gonna Git You Sucka! I am thouroughly dissapointed.

Whereas Sabre Tooth drew us in with it's depth of character and enticing only glorious white tusk-like menace. Yak left me wanting more. Much much more.

Half the time I was watching the barely over an hour "Galloping Yak" (is it just me or are directors really skimping on torch-length nowadays). I wondered, what is that Yak's motivation? It's galloping but it doesn't seem to be galloping TOWARDS or AWAY from anything. Perhaps the introduction of a Sabre Tooth Tiger would have made it's fleeing believable, or perhaps some grass or a carrot, or a sexy she-Yak in heat could have been painted in front of the yak to convince us that it had something to hurry towards.

Unfortunately this woodenly painted yawner does nothing promised new beyond what we saw in last year's preview, which frankly gave the whole thing away. Yes there was a yak, and yes it appeared to gallop. But where were the laughs, the suspense, the intrigue?

Two knuckle drags down, way down.

Save your hides, bits of shiny stuff, and barterable goods and wait for what looks like a much more promising cave painting movie that's due to come out next week. "Freaky Furday" in which an immature and crazy acting young marmot finds itself magically exchanged into the body of its wiser and much more conservative mother and visa-versa. Finally a plot twist that will NEVER get old!
2012-06-14 04:05:57 PM  
1 votes:

Magorn: By the way I think a Thaumatrope is a fancy name for one of these:
[brightbytes.com image 360x234]

the interesting question being, if we understood how to make these inthe Paleolithic, how did we lose the tech until the late 18th century?


I'm sure we've had many "dark ages" type eras over the last 30,000 years where a lot of "tech" was lost. Not sure "tech" is the right word, but I get your point.

Lots of things like math and the like were found to be "discovered" well before we thought so. But it could very well be that it was "re-discovered" when we thought becuse the original concepts were lost when a certain civilization died out and didn't share their learning with other civilizations.
 
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