Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What explains the ascendance of Homo sapiens? Start by looking at our pets - The Boston Globe

This argument seems to put the cart before the horse, so to speak:
The centrality of animals in that early artwork has long intrigued anthropologists. Some have suggested that the animals were icons in early religions, or visions from mystical trances. Shipman, however, argues that the paintings serve a more straightforward function: conveying data between members of a species that was growing increasingly adept at hunting and controlling other animals. Lascaux, in this reading, was basically primitive Powerpoint. The paintings, Shipman points out, are packed with very specific information about animal appearance and behavior.
The important thing is not what the paintings depict, but the fact that there are paintings at all. The fact that we could use our imaginations to organize ourselves around activities like hunting and later agriculture.