Posts From October, 2016

Light years away by Edurne Rubio – a review

I have been fortunate to attend a representation of “Light years away” by Ms. Edurne Rubio in Groningen, Netherlands. The artist is the daughter of one of the explorers of the cave system of Ojo Guareña, near Burgos, Spain and has a long and intimate connection with the caves. The performance mixes monologue, surround sound, video and theatrical performance. In its basic structure, it is the representation of a guided tour of the caves, one that is imaginary and not constricted by time or space. For those not knowing the caves, it is an extraordinary long (about 110 km known) cave system, with several subterranean lakes, at least 6 levels, and multiple openings. The upper cave system was frequented by humans from the Upper Paleolithic to the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age, in different moments, before being rediscovered only in the past century. There are significant traces of human presence, including complex panels of rock art, residues of torches, burials, and even ancient... Read the rest of this entry »
 

Bison discovered in cave art

Cave art is perhaps the apex of humanity. Nothing in the animal world or in the early prehistoric world of hominins and hominids compares to it. It is one manifestation of humanity that is truly ours, of our own species, shared with nobody else. We can be told that lithics is monkey’s business, and we might wonder at the species that separate us from the animal world, but when it comes to cave art, we are in safe human ground. Cave art represents the world as people perceived it. But most importantly, it recorded this perspective without any of the symbolism found in other forms of art. Even a simple Venus figurine, or more complex figures such as the Lion-Man from Hohle Fels, is intrinsically symbolic and open to interpretation. Venus of Hohle Fels, Germany. Credit: University of Tübingen. The subject of cave art is more recognisable, and cave art has been even compared to comics and animation (by Marc Azéma) for its detailed representation of animals, including bisons and... Read the rest of this entry »
 

Monkeys make stone tools

Capuchin monkeys produce unintentional stone flakes. Credit: Nature video A recent paper published by Nature has revealed that capuchin monkeys in Brazil can produce unintentionally lithic tools (flakes) similar to those attributed to early hominins. Some of the earliest stone tools have been dated about 3.4 million years ago and since then stone tools have been a staple for prehistorians. This is not the first time that monkeys and other animals have been spotted using tools, or even producing tools to achieve a simple and immediate objective. Using a stone to crack a nut, or a stick to reach some food are known behaviours. These monkeys however have been filmed smashing stones together and licking the result, probably a way to access some required minerals and salts, in a behaviour well known for elephants. Elephants digging minerals. Credit: Richard Ruggiero/USFWS What surprises of the monkey’s behaviour is that the end result, which they appear to discard as... Read the rest of this entry »
 

Modern humans vs. the other hominins

The discovery of possible human teeth in Flores, in the same cave where Homo floriensis lived, has opened up a debate on the colonization of our planet by anatomically modern humans. In many ways, humans are not dissimilar by other natural species, and except for the use of complex languages, the ability to create tools, and human creativity (the ability to think and imagine the abstract or what is not yet material, the human mind), it is hard to separate humans from animals from a scientific point. Increasingly, intelligence and consciousness are recognized in animals, last perhaps the dolphins, who have some form of language (The study of acoustic signals and the supposed spoken language of the dolphins) and even larger brains than humans. So it is becoming difficult to define humans, and all characteristics that are unique can be reduced to abilities in abstract and symbolic thinking. Studying hominins, the ancestors of modern humans, can offer some clues about traits that are... Read the rest of this entry »
 

Recent presentations

You can see online or download two of my recent (2016) presentations:

Island Obsidian Distribution and Socioeconomic Patterns in Prehistoric Sicily and the South-Central Mediterranean (2016) (SAA 2016)

and

Rivers in Prehistory: Human-Environment Interactions in the Making (WARP30)

The second presentations in particular will be of general interest as it is part of my recent work on rivers, and the first work after my book Rivers in Prehistory.