A set of ivory figurines found in southwestern Germany add to a growing cache of the oldest art known.As Dr. Conard described it,
The 30,000-year-old carvings underline the remarkable creativity of our earliest European ancestors. Nicholas Conard of the University of Tfcbingen, Germany, discovered the 2-centimetre-high figures in the Hohle Fels Cave in the country’s Swabia region.
The figurines, and similar relics previously unearthed in Swabia, are the earliest known representations of living forms. “Without question, they are the oldest corpus of figurative art in the world,” says archaeologist Anthony Sinclair of the University of Liverpool, UK.
The carvings were almost certainly made by Europe’s earliest modern settlers. Their location supports the idea that modern humans migrated into Europe along the River Danube more than 30,000 years ago.But the complexity of the findings undermines the traditional view that art began crudely and gradually acquired sophistication. “The new evidence refuses to fit,” says Sinclair. “It seems that the first modern humans in Europe were astonishingly precocious in their skills.”
The finds include the oldest known representation of a bird, a therianthropic sculpture and an animal that most closely resembles a horse.Or, as the NYTimes more informally put it:
One of the pieces is the oldest known representation of a bird, which resembles a cormorant or a duck. The others appear to be the head of a horse and a figure half-man, half-animal.Now, this is very interesting. What it suggests to me is that art began as a way of seeing, and of representing what you see, rather than something laboriously and rather drearily built up out of the earlier invention of circles, lines, dots, squiggles, and zipatone.
It’s possible that I think this because I’ve always been mildly irritated by the kind of deliberate primitivism in art that’s hard to distinguish from never having learned to draw. Trouble is, if I say that, I’ll get approving comments from person-or-persons who think I mean Klee or Kandinsky, whose work I do like, rather than de Kooning, whose work I don’t. So please don’t think that.
But never mind all that. Representational art from the Upper Paleolithic is just inherently cool, no matter what else is going on.