Week 3 – Rock Art

In order to create rock art, early humans must have had a much higher level of cognition than the previous hominins we studied.  There are a variety of theories as to why rock art was created.  Without the artistic technology we have today, it must have been very difficult to create such art.  They took something that is three dimensional in the world and transferred it into two-dimensional.  This implies that they could represent things from a perspective.  Though we take it for granted, I think this means they were smart beings.

The first theory beyond the art was that art was depicted just for art’s sake, does not sit well with me.  As I mentioned before, it must have been much more difficult to paint in that time period, so why waste energy and resources on art that could not serve a greater purpose?  Artists back then did not make a living on art as they do today.  They still had to provide for their family in other ways, so spending time coloring buffalo on the side of a cave wasn’t going to get them anywhere.

The second theory was that art was used for a language.  Again, I agree with Dr. Norder.  One picture could be used to represent many different ideas, so it seems odd that their language would be depicted in these confusing pictures.

The theory of hunting magic has resonates a lot better with me.  Although I know little about rituals in the early time periods, it does not seem unlikely to me that some (not all) of the art was used to call upon Gods to bring more animals to hunt.  It has been done in many other civilizations.  This theory, I think, ties into the ritual increase theory.  It would make sense that if these early humans would call upon the Gods for animals, they would call upon them for other things as well.

Male and Female initiation sites as rock art is a very intriguing theory.  I never would have thought of it on my own.  After hearing Dr. Norder speak about the small handprints and footprints, it seems to me there is no other option (unless we want to return to the art for art’s sake theory.)  No matter your religion or culture, there are always rights of passages and ceremonies we take place in while growing up.  For me, as a Catholic, I was baptized.  For those without religious affiliations, there are still moments like your first birthday when you stick your hands in the cake, or skipping forward to graduation day.  It seems logical that humans from such a long time ago would have participated in activities like that as well.

Shamanistic vision sites could explain certain other, more random paintings, and art for gathering locations could absorb all of the other ones.  As a whole, I do not think that there can be one explanation for all rock art.  It would be silly to think that.  That is why I think it is important to continue to examine these theories with every new finding.