When you look at a piece of art like The Fisherman Bone,
it is sometimes easy to forget that it is one of the oldest pieces
of the oldest artwork in the world. It was created by one of
the earliest artists in the Western Hemisphere, between
14,000 and 40,000 years ago.
Knowing that it is among the first renditions of a human being, and in fact the first portable rendition found on this continent, the question arises: how does this relate to the “development of the modern mind, the evolution of creativity, of imagination, of abstract thought, about what it means to be human?”
All living beings communicate with each other in some fashion or another, be it through the sonar of dolphins, the touch and pheromones of ants, the vocal communication and visual display of birds, but human beings are able to do something that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Our ability to comprehend beyond our vocal and haptic (sense of touch) communication has played a huge role in why mankind has survived as a species. Specifically, our ability to impose meaning onto symbols, graphic or inscription, to create a visual form of language to coincide with our verbal communication. This method developed over thousands of years. Over a long period of time, similar to the development of technology, each tidbit of achievement adding to last until we finally come to the form of language(s) we have today. But to get to here we had to go through thousands of years of development that did not already exist. To quote paleoanthropologist and rock art researcher Genevieve von Petzinger, “Those people didn’t have the shoulders of any giants to stand on. They were the original shoulders.
There are three main types of communication, spoken, gestural — so things like sign language — and graphic communication. Spoken and gestural are by their very nature ephemeral. It requires close contact for a message to be sent and received. And after the moment of transmission, it’s gone forever. Graphic communication, on the other hand, decouples that relationship. And with its invention, it became possible for the first time for a message to be transmitted and preserved beyond a single moment in place and time.”
History has been passed down to us through oral and graphic means. When ancient pieces of the past are discovered, their relevance is studied, analyzed, categorized, and weighed to decipher how important its contribution to that of human history. What I propose is that here with the discovery of The Fisherman Bone is the beginning of the invention of graphic communication. Let that thought settle for a moment.
During the time in which this piece of artwork was created, the earth was not in the same state that it is in today. It was an earth far different, more trecherous, a land covered in a vast blanket of frozen plains, ice and tundra. As proven by the dipiction of the creature on the Vero Mammoth Bone, mammoths roamed the earth, giant sloth, sabertooth tigers walked beside paeleo-man.
“The oldest systems of graphic communication in the world — Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, the earliest Chinese script, all emerged between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, with each coming into existence from an earlier protosystem made up of counting marks and pictographic representations, where the meaning and the image were the same.” (Genevieve von Petzinger) This artwork is 10,000 years older then that. This story bone marks the beginning of the graphic form of comunication, the beginning of a written language. It all started with the etching on this bone, with the story being told here, the fisherman, the talley maks, the size of his catch, a big fish indeed, and an extremely important piece of our human history.
“This is an incredibly exciting discovery,”
– study co-author Dennis Stanford, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, said in a statement.
Dr. Dennis Stanford, Director of the Smithsonian’s Paleoindian/Paleoecology Program, Head of the Division of Archaeology who has lectured here on Vero’s archaeological importance.
There is more to the story that was never told, a second story bone exists that is more spectacular than the Vero Mammoth Bone.
There among the pile of specimens that the Fossil Hunters had unearthed, lay another piece of portable art, or as the Fossil Hunters call it, a “Story Bone”.
Not merely a fossil, with an age and species to decipher, this piece had clear evidence of human interaction. An ancient paleo-artist was telling us a story, through the scratch marks or etchings on the surface of the fossilized bone, a tale was being telegraphed time, the tally marks or chevrons, communicating an even larger picture.
The significance of this artifact is akin to finding the first book, the first paleo version of a portable radio or television, no longer did the story need to remain stationary on a cave wall to make an impact on the tribe. Here, the graphic form of communication is mobile. And it holds a message of equal importance. A human being depicting another member of its race in a graphic representation of consciousness, perhaps the first known example in the Western Hemisphere, “I THINK THEREFORE I AM”.
THE FOSSIL HUNTERS RECENT FINDS
If we only had the resources to follow. Can you imagine what the Fossil Hunters could find?
A Prehistoric Mastodon Tooth and Jawbone Fossil.
It was one of the largest land animals living during the ice age.
This Prehistoric Mastodon bone has been named the Paloma Rib Bone Fossil. It has a carving of a chevron and other markings clearly indicating human interaction.
This piece was found near an ancient charcoal cook pit, a few feet from where we found the Tooth and Jaw Bone. The elephant-like American mastodon was a distant relative of the mammoth, with whom it shared its ice age home…
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The significance of this artifact is akin to finding the first book, the first paleo version of a portable radio or television, no longer did the communal story need to remain stationary on the cave wall to make an impact on the tribe. Here, the graphic form of communication is mobile. And it holds a message of equal importance. A human being depicting another member of its race, a graphic representation of self awareness, consciousness, perhaps the first known example in the Western Hemisphere, “I THINK THEREFORE I AM”.