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Archaic culture

07 August 2013
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When and where did the culture occur? This question cannot be answered definitely. The first big era of human history is called as primitiveness and if this means its main material – the Stone Age. The Stone Age (in Greek – a paleolith) is divided into stages:

The Lower (early) paleolith (3 million – 100 thousand years ago);

The Middle paleolith (100 thousand – 30 thousand years ago);

The Upper (top) paleolith (30 - 8 thousand years ago).

From the Lower Paleolithic period we reached monotonous and rough instruments of labor; chipped flint pebbles and chips (hand-axes). They were used by the ape-men Pithecanthropus, Sinanthropus and the others.

Chronology of prehistoric past of mankind rather dated, approximately, it is impossible to determine with accuracy up to years, decades, even centuries. We didn't reach names, images, biographies, certificates of people of that time, names of human communities, descriptions of their destinies and relationships. Primitive people had no writing, and at very first – even language. The longest era of the human past is silent. It left that, what can be stored for thousands of years: stones, bones, ashes, and the image on the rocks. Primitiveness does not give us so rich things as less distant past: stories about historical events. Therefore, the primitive era is sometimes called prehistory.

Replacement of a biological, evolutionary development into the historical and social brought rapid change in a relatively short period of time. Result of these changes was that unity of mankind which is called culture. What do we include in culture? Instruments of labor, dwelling and household items, language, morals, religion, art, knowledge of the world. All these components of culture can be noted until the Upper paleolith, whereas in the beginning of the anthropogenes (human origins) we can only talk about some of its elements, in particular the instruments of labor, that culture does not end there.

We are aware of the Upper paleolith by the material on archaeological excavations made ​​in the south of France and partly in the north of Spain. This corner of Europe was rather favorable for human life at all changes of climate and a landscape. Therefore it had the dense population throughout tens of thousands of years. The people who lived here in the valleys of the rivers and on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, left rich traces of their presence, but hid them in caves and grottoes.

The French archeologists have got into these hidden places since the last century. After tireless work they described the entire sequence of cultural development in the Lower Paleolithic, giving it the name of the periods of places where have been made the most important discovery. The Upper paleolith in this area proceeded from 35 to 10 thousand years ago. Let's consider how the culture changes in the upper paleolith on the periods.

1. Perigord (35-20 thousand years). Directly follows a Middle paleolith. Found flint blade with retouched edges, bone awls, spears. In the early périgord there are no images, but cuttings and notches on bones, ornaments, and paints are abundant; perigord bas-reliefs – the contours of animals and people scratched in a stone occur in the late perigord.

2. Aurignacian (30-19 thousand years). Retouched flint plates, scrapers, chisels, bone tips. Numerous lamp fixtures, cups for paint preparation. Jars of red lipstick have been found in the paleolithic caves. People knew 17 colors for make-up, they painted themselves for ritual purposes. Graphic production is presented by art of small forms: carving, small sculpture, engravings on a bone and stone fragments.

Early art experiences of aurignacians are modest: the contours of the hands which have been led round by paint, prints of hands on paint, so-called meanders – the furrows run by fingers over damp cave clay. Slowly but surely, people approached the invention of painting. From meander lines ("spaghetti") are silhouetted outline drawings, first they are applied with fingers, then with some guns. There are small female figurines from a tusk of a mammoth or a soft stone. Images of the person are rare, but many female signs are found. Mass distribution of female figurines is typical for end of aurignacian. These paleolithic Venuses are not very beautiful. Figurines strongly emphasize the signs of a mature woman, the mother; obviously, this is the way of reflecting the generic structure of society and the role of women who is the progenitor of it.

3. Solutrean (18-15 thousand years). Temporary retreat of a glacier slightly changed a way of life of Paleolithic people. There is evidence of the highest flint processing technology in the Paleolithic. Processed in the form of a willow and bay leaf flints served as tips of copies, darts, and also – knifes and daggers. There were silicon scrapers, cutters, pro-splittings, bone tips, needles, staffs, numerous figurines, engravings on a stone and a bone.

4. Madeleine (15-8 thousand years). There comes a glacier, the climate became severe. Madeleines hunted reindeer and mammoth, lived in caves, often roamed, pursuing a herd of deer. High technique of stone disappears. But the instruments made of bone galore: harpoons, spears and javelins, rods, needles, awls. Chisels, awls, scrapers are made of flint. In late Madeleine silicon products start being miniaturized, turning into so-called microlitas. Among images there are a lot of symbols: circle, spiral, meander, swastika. This means that people have learned to generalize, concisely portray their ideas about things.

The peak of  Madeleine (and all of the paleolithic, even the most primitive) art is a cave painting. The most known  cave galleries of that period are Altamira, Lasko, Montespan. Best-known of them, Altamira is called   the Sistine chapel of primitiveness. The cave is in the northern Spain, at the sea, consists of a number of underground halls up to 280 meters long. Walls of the cave are covered with enormous number of animals' images– bisons, boars, horses which were painted with black, red, yellow paints. The cave artist didn't care of a drawing arrangement. He painted animals on sideways and upside down, and on top of one another. But he drew great. Horses, mammoths, bisons recreated cave galleries exactly as though in the details, and in general, with a firm hand, which could instantly draw a powerful contour line.

In graphic activity of the paleolithic person we face rather "photographic" imprinting of images, than esthetic generalization (as in the "real" art). By the end of the Madeleine period cave painting disappears, giving way to the style of a new era: to ornament.

On the Upper paleolith two main centers of a world civilization are formed: Afro-European and Asian. Between these two primary sources of humanity contact is maintained, and inside there are cultural areas with their racial, technical, and economic types. In the Upper paleolithic, the inhabitants of Europe during the glacial features present Caucasians, in the southern Mediterranean - the Negro, and in the eastern Asia-Mongoloid. All mankind in the Upper paleolith keeps considerable unity, and the relationship of all modern people occupying Earth is explained by this. The basis of the language, beliefs, arts, family relations which are the foundation of any human society are put on.

The culture of the Upper paleolith is deeply peculiar. The main occupation of people here - hunting and it has an impact on the social fabric, arts, beliefs, people’s psyche. Hunting communities differ from farming (peasant) and pastoral (nomadic) companies.

The hunter is connected by all the existence with fauna. Eternal pursuer and catcher, with his energy, stamina, courage is superior to people of more leisurely pursuits. He expresses his relationship to the world in magic. In magic (witchcraft, sorcery) a belief of the ability to achieve something supernaturally through spells is connected to the other actions itself. The magic is practical. Its aim is to banish disease, damage enemies, to charm a loved one, to catch prey. The sorcerer counts on his forces. This is the distinction of magic from religion, which calls for help being more powerful than the man-God. The hunting magic rehearses the emergence of production and mastering it. totemism is a cult based on the ancient hunting magic. Totemism is the belief in the ancestors of animals (to a lesser extent in plants and forces of nature). Our knowledge of the lower paleolithic culture, based on archaeological data, as well as ethnography is the science of the modern nations. Indigenous inhabitants of Australia were the closest to the Lower paleolithic inhabitants of Europe at the time of their encounter with Europeans. Australia is a classic example of totemism and magic. However, it should be understood, that the indigenous inhabitants of the continent have moved from the palaeolithic to the mesolithic before the arrival of Europeans. The cult of animals’ ancestors at glacial caves of inhabitants in Europe, most likely, was simpler, than at the Australian natives. Abundance of animals’ images on walls of paleolithic caves speaks about magic blossoming. Magic is divided into two types: contact and partial. Accuracy of the images here is important. Therefore, it is necessary to draw carefully, "truthfully." In the so-called partial magic wizard operates on the principle of "equal to the integer part of the image” is not required, but you must have something of the order is directed at anyone witchcraft (a piece of clothing, hair, saliva, etc.). Ceremonies of simyl magic were practised in glacial caves of Europe. There were created "cave galleries” to do this, where pantomime was played out in masks with magic rattles and other ceremonial attire. In one of Altamira's halls the ceiling was ornamented by figures of half-human half animal, probably, it is sorcerers in masks.

 All the well-known ethnography of primitive people’s ritual is anyway merged with the myth. The myth is a story, the script of the ritual action. However, the Lower paleolithic man was not a storyteller. He had just learned to speak coherently and preferred to act. Ability to creation of plots was still small. Such conclusion can be made, analyzing the images found in cave galleries. Highlight here some kind of composition, with few exceptions, is impossible. The figures are placed randomly; one picture is often applied to the other, regardless of his position in space. The most ancient drawings even didn't pursue a problem of creation a plot, most likely, it was indicated a subject of magic influence in them. The paleolith gave a kind of "blank" for the subsequent periods.

To speak about coherent outlook of the first sapienses, if to mean by that something like a picture with the correct arrangement of parts, it will be precipitate. Black vagrant hunters and collectors of Australia considered that the real world is limited to the fodder territory on which they move. Human reality is called a word that denotes the truth and wakefulness. Anything that does not belong to the current life is the sphere of spirits, aliens, dangerous and wonderful events. The word calling this sphere designates at the same time a dream, time of ancestors and a fiction. Such association of the different phenomena under in one word isn't accidentally. Material for some of their traditions Aborigines take from dreams, and as well as all primitive people, belong seriously. In such ideas of the world there is no accurate spatial configuration. People know the land and hunting routes thoroughly. Each marked item of landscape has its own name and the legend associated with the totem-ancestor. Being outside the fodder territory is represented very vaguely.

 In the late paleolith language and its narrative means actively develop. The sound alarm system of Neanderthal men turns into articulate speech of homosapiens. Existence of ancient people in dark caves demanded improvement of sound communication, mainly specification of signals of an appeal, danger, and motivation. Late Neanderthal men had such set of appeals and signals already. It was replaced by teams’ language of late paleolithic hunters. For the people getting an animal on open space, the accurate sound alarm system was vital. Initially, the nouns and verbs are not dissected. The first names were received, probably, by animals. The appearance of such words are likely to coincide with drawing pictures on cave walls, the names of other objects appear later as regards human symbols, most of all, this stage of the development of language belongs to the following era, Mesolithic, and other civilization-not hunting (in anyway, filthy hunting).

On the average stone age, Mesolithic (8 - 5 thousand years ago in Europe) glacier rolled back to the north, flooding Europe with its waters. In the labyrinths of water flow people can no longer wander. If they do not quite settle, they leave nearby, collecting seaweed, shells, fish, coastal and water, and then invent a boat. Hunter's life, not settled, is dangerous, rich in adventure, is replaced by a more peaceful existence.

Mesolithic settlings аre located in the dunes and moors. It is easy to dig out a temporary shelter in soft soil. The person doesn't try to put the constant dwelling still. The bow and arrow, domesticated dog (it is nailed to the man still in the Paleolithic), domesticated pig were invented.

The pig subsisted near the man. Many of the dwellings of this time represent a congestion of food garbage – kitchen heaps. Sometimes dumps have the sizes to 300 meters in length and to 3 meters in height. The most impressive hills of scraps were found in Denmark. There are bones of wild oxen, deer elk, dogs, fish, but most of all-shells. Shellfish were harvested in the shallow waters by children and women, while the men hunted and fished. By the end of the mesolithic woman invents a useful household crock. On damp clay it is possible to put wavy lines and a stick – hyphens with finger-tips. This was for beauty and to strengthen pottery magic. This was how the ornamental art of the woman arose. Mighty animals were no longer drawn on the rocks-no conditions and need. As the known French archeologist wrote, collectors of edible snails and cockleshells didn't have those impressions which are necessary for the fine arts.

Mature and late primitiveness are presented by a neolith (5 - 4 thousand years ago for the most developed areas of the Mediterranean). It is blossoming of the patrimonial device, of the stone industry. Particularly revealing of the neolithic implements perfectly polished stone axes. With the help of this masterpiece of the Stone Age primitive man could quickly cut down a tree, build a house, hollow out the boat.

In the neolithic the method of managing mankind is divided into two parts. Some people continue to be engaged in collecting, hunting and fishery. It is appropriating economy. In some places it reaches a peak. The example is the Pacific coast of North America before arrival of Europeans. The sea is rich with a salmon which goes on spawning to fresh waters, damming the bed of the rivers there.  Local Indians during successful seasons harvested huge quantity of fish. They hunted on sea otters, seals, even whales. In the coastal woods they traded mountain rams, goats, and deer. From animals they tamed only a dog, didn't know pottery and cooked food in wooden vessels, throwing there the heated stones. Instead they were able to make a good, solid boat, often from the trunk of a cedar.  In the winter the people lived in big wooden houses, without windows, with a smoke opening in a roof.

Woven cloaks, capes and shirts were weaved from the wool of wild sheep and goats. People fought in shells made ​​of wooden plates and wooden helmets in the form of mask. The captives were enslaved (often slaves were collectively owned by the community). Traded with each other, the objects of trade were fish, fish oil, and furs, jewelry made​of stone and bone, slaves. Among Indians of the northwest coast of North America there was a custom, called "potlatch" (in Indian – gift). It was the process when during the holiday the rich handed out their property. So they strengthened the reputation and standing in the community (distributed to partially returned in the form of gifts and response services).

These field men were also extraordinary skillful carvers of bone and tree. Columns from the whole trunks of a cedar, sometimes more than 20 meters high were a picturesque sign of their villages. Poles were covered with rich carvings presenting totemic ancestors and characters of myth. The construction of a carved column was a great event. Construction glorifies his master and perpetuates his memory. Ceremony was accompanied by a potlatch, sometimes human sacrifice.

Carvings of Indians have a clear vertical composition. Here four figured group: in the basis – the whale, on it costs the man, on the head of the man there is a woman, on the head of the woman sits the eagle. The sense of this "sport pyramid" is clear. It symbolizes the world and shows its structure.

Human reunifies all knowledge in a world picture. First complete view of the world gives so-called “world tree”.  It is sometimes really picture of a tree or a pole, and sometimes conventional vertical composition, divided into three parts: the top (crown, sky), the mid (trunk, earth), and the bottom (roots, the underworld). The top is occupied by magic birds, another shone also "the heavenly people"; the bottom belongs to inhabitants of waters, snakes, souls of the dead; in a median kingdom lives the person. This three-part picture of the world also includes the Lower paleolithic "blanks": hoofed animals from the paleolithic paintings become symbols of the middle kingdom, bird-top, fish and snakes lower.

The image of the world tree of Neolithic hunters and anglers was worked out in detail. After all, their religion, especially in the northern tundra and forests, is shamanism. And shaman cannot manage without a world tree. Healer and exorcist, shaman mediates between the spirits and human beings. Bringing himself to ecstasy by singing, dancing, exciting drink, he goes on a dream journey for the soul of the patient, carried away by an evil spirit.

On the way he should enter fights only with one spirits and to conjure others. It means that the shaman climbs on a tree trunk up and falls down on roots. Shaman rituals together with their explanations are attached to vertical division of the world and make some kind of religion of a world tree.

Not only hunter-shamans honored sacred tree. Manufacturing economy appears in the neolith. Its industries are agriculture and animal husbandry. Agriculture appears where fertile soils yield a good harvest at the most primitive treatment. This is, mainly, river valleys. It is enough to throw a handful of seeds in fertile silt and just wait for the harvest. After that it is possible to get over on other place. The first farming - cane-hoe and nomadic, but pretty soon it becomes sedentary. In exclusive conditions of floodplains farmers already at neolithic equipment have big, rich settlements – villages, communities unite in tribes, then states occur. Ancient Egypt is an example of a civilization that was born in the Stone Age. The first millennium of its history passed almost without metal.

But such territories are few in the World, they make up no more than 1% of the human habitat. Digging stick and hoe will not manage with cultivation dense forests and arid steppes. People settle, and then new branches of economy cattle breeding and agriculture appear. Neolithic people were pastoralists and farmers, which meant peasants. Signs of country society: agrarian economy, manual skills, breeding and community-based organization, in beliefs is animism. The animism means a general animation of the world. A man found a soul, not only in animals but also in plants, rocks, and natural elements. All nature is animated and is a community of kindred people.

People practiced as well magic. The agricultural magic differs from the hunting. Wellbeing and life of the peasant depend on fertility of the soil. Earth seems to him the goddess-mother. Spells and ceremonies have to maintain its female fertility. Agricultural usage is impossible without seasonal rituals, opening the field work, marking the harvest. The great mother-goddess – Ishtar, Cybele, Demeter, Ceres - generous and philoprogenitive, but also require a passionate worship. Therefore, there are many erotic moments in their cults.

First humanlike creatures were endowed with a frightening appearance, a fierce temper or anatomical and physiological redundancy. First man of Indian legends Purusha with thousand heads and feet covers the earth and still towers ten fingers over it. His Chinese analogue Pangu fills the distance from the earth to the sky.

When the chaos is bridled, the first body is parsed as a construction material. Pangu is used so comprehensively: from breath – the wind, clouds, from a voice – a thunder, from the left eye – sun, from right one – the moon, from blood – river, from veins – roads, from meat – soil, fields, from vegetation on a body – trees and a grass, from teeth and bones – gold and stone, bone marrow – pearls and jade, from the sweat – rain and dew; parasites of Pangu turned into people.

Primordial of Nordic myths Ymir gave his flesh to the earth, the blood to the sea, bones for the mountains, the skull to the sky, the hair for the forest, and the lash of Ymir built dwelling for people of Midgard. Gradually divine characters became more attractive, beautiful and proportional to the person. Narrations about divine beings were connected into mythological cycles. The word "myth" means the narrative.  At first myths are short stories about acts of ancestors and an origin of things. The individual stories are added to the system of representations of people’s life. Scientists-mythologists divided myths on cosmogony (the origin of the cosmos out of chaos), anthropogenic (the creation of man), the eschatological (end of the world), the etiologic (about the origin of things and events).

Myth replaces art and science for the primitive man, it gives full knowledge about everything, what is demanded to know from adults. Primeval myth dispenses without the help of writing that is why it contains methods of knowledge transmission, based on the words and memory. Primeval memory, like a memory of modern man, sometimes demands very high precision of remembering, but more often these are not very high demands. The collective experience of the primitiveness is stored in memories of the living, therefore it needs to be reproduced and over learned. Myth does not only inform useful and necessary reduction, it also excites, entertains, emotionally adds person into events, which should be memorized. Execution of myth somehow reminds session of hypnotism: word pronunciation is accompanied with improvisation, pantomime and dance. Listeners entirely feel with narrator.

Primeval consciousness creates symbols not in relaxed atmosphere, but in a state of tension. And this is not incidental for magic-mythological consciousness, this is its essence.

Primeval painting of the world presents all natural phenomenons as a result of someone’s actions. Everybody can cause a terrible cataclysm through ignorance or malicious intent. Indeed nature does not consist of causes and consequences; there are characters which are connected with people directly. Even when people are died they do not stop communicating with them. Corpses remain among people and spirits as patrons, vampires, werewolves, and demons.

Mythology is weltanschauung of society of direct intercourse. Where experience is limited of personal contacts, and aim is survival of related collective, there everything is animated and endowed human’s aspiration. Differences between social and natural are accepted weakly, and whole world is a big community of relatives and neighbors.

The psychological meaning of the primitive era is that it concludes the foundations of the human culture. These foundations are social organization, language, kinship relations, rituals, art, scientific knowledge, economy remain with mankind forever. They constitute deep essence of its existence.


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