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World’s oldest art raises question: Is it art?

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Hand and footprints lack a “utilitarian explanation,” researchers say:

An international collaboration has identified what may be the oldest work of art, a sequence of hand and footprints discovered on the Tibetan Plateau. The prints date back to the middle of the Pleistocene era, between 169,000 and 226,000 years ago – three to four times older than the famed cave paintings in Indonesia, France and Spain…

“The question is: What does this mean? How do we interpret these prints? They’re clearly not accidentally placed,” said Urban, a co-author of the paper, “Earliest Parietal Art: Hominin Hand and Foot Traces from the Middle Pleistocene of Tibet,” published Sept. 10 in Science Bulletin.

“There’s not a utilitarian explanation for these. So what are they?” Urban said. “My angle was, can we think of these as an artistic behavior, a creative behavior, something distinctly human. The interesting side of this is that it’s so early.”

David Nutt, “Hand and footprint art dates to mid-Ice Age” at Cornell Chronicle (September 14, 2021) The paper is closed access.

Researchers would not be asking if it is art if it were not so old (between 169,000 and 226,000). The underlying assumption seems to be that humans did not think imaginatively in those days. The evidence seems to contradict the evolutionary assumption.

4 Replies to “World’s oldest art raises question: Is it art?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Most obvious: These are all right hands and right feet. It feels like a religious ceremony, perhaps a kind of baptism and registration.

  2. 2
    KRock says:

    Is it art? Many archaeologists have debated this question for some time now. I am of the opinion that the paintings represent a sort of religious ritual, perhaps as a means of accessing (or honouring) spirits of another realm. Moreover, caves, and other remarkable landscape features (e.g., rock faces, cliffs, waterfalls, etc), are known to have played important role in the cosmological and spiritual beliefs of hunter-gatherer cultures/societies from around the world, ofter serving as gateways, or portals, to the underworld or a sacred realm.

  3. 3
    martin_r says:

    oldest work of art ?

    Darwinists, i have a silly question:

    what about this art (much more advanced), does it count ?

    Fishes evolved 500 millions of years ago …

    So which one is the oldest ?

  4. 4
    EDTA says:

    Tibetan mom: “Very nice kids! We’ll put these up on the fridge right now!”
    Tibetan dad: “We don’t have a fridge.”

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