Saturday, March 26, 2011

30,000 Years

So many people, atheists too, act like human activity in the world began 2011 years ago. That dividing point between BC and AD seems to have an inordinate effect on people's conceptions of history. There's a great coffee-table book entitled 30,000 Years of Art.One work of art is illustrated per page, on pages 4 through 1,003. (Hey, that makes exactly 1,000 illustrations all together, dunnit.) The smaller works of art are reproduced life-size. The works of art are presented chronologically in the order they were made, from ca 28,000 BC to unfinished when the book was published in 2007.

All the artworks are presented chronologically. And we don't get to ca AD 1 until page 311. 89 works of art are dated ca 2000 BC or earlier, 12 are dated earlier than 10,000 BC. From my layman's perspective it seems that non-European works are well-represented. I suppose it will always be a subjective thing, whether or not a given selection of works of art is representative in the way it should be. There are amny good art books and many good coffee-table books. This one just has a nice, consicely mind-blowing quality to it.

And archaeologists keep finding older things. The next edition might need to be entitled 35,000 Years of Art. Or 40,000.

So my point is? That for many of us, our mental frameworks concerning human activity go back only 2011 years in some ways. Or just 5,100 years or so, because we've heard that writing started around 3,100 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia, probably in Mesopotamia first. But that figure isn't current any more either: specimens of writing from before 3,100 BC have recently been unearthed in Mesopotamia. I am aware that there are still older artifacts which are considered writing by some and not by others. I don't know enough about this issue to take a side in it.

I guess my point is that archaeology is wicked cool. Screw Indiana Jones,he's got nothing on the real thing.

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