35,000-year-old Twitter logo found in France

In 2003, a salvage excavation in advance of highway construction in the Dordogne region of southwestern France discovered a dense group of prehistoric occupations, 10 sites in an area of less than two square miles. One of them, Cantalouette II, is an open-air site that was used as a flint workshop, as evidenced by the large quantity of flakes and knapping debris. There are seven layers, ranging in date from the Middle Pleistocene to the Holocene. In the Aurignacian layer (35,000 – 31,000 years old), archaeologists found a remarkably naturalistic bird (pdf) engraved on a flint flake. Other engraved flakes were found at the site, but none of them were figurative. In fact, this is the first example of figurative art discovered in an open-air Aurignacian site.

The bird is depicted with its head raised and its wings open, parallel lines representing the feathers. The beak is short, thin and pointed. A single eye is visible with a small line underneath that may represent an undereye feature. A projection on the left side of the bird may be the legs or the tail. It’s a capture of dynamic action, a bird in the moment of drinking, courting or about to take flight. Or express itself it in 140 characters.

Another unique feature of this piece, besides a silhouette so reminiscent of Internet-era iconography, is the style of engraving. Usually artwork from the Upper Paleolithic period is an incised outline. Some of the details may give the impression of relief and in very rare cases actual reliefs have been found, like the friezes of the Roc-de-Sers rock shelter (ca. 17,000 B.C.). The bird of Cantalouette II, however, is the opposite of the Roc-de-Sers animals in that it was made by the removal of the material inside the figure, not by the carving away of material outside of it leaving a high relief behind.

This sunken relief is unique among the Aurignacian artworks. The technique has never been seen before. To better understand the engraving process, researchers recreated it experimentally and found it was completed in six phases. First the outline was incised, then the interior was scraped with stone tool that left a wavy surface. The third step was adding detail to the head and beak with an L-shaped bevel. Another bevel was then engraved to add dimension to the upper left wing area. In phase five, the artist micro-pecked the inside of the head giving it a distinctive rough surface that conveys the different type of feathers birds have on their heads as opposed to their wings. Lastly, the eye and the subciliar line were added.

Also rare is the subject matter. Upper Paleolithic animal figures are more often land-based — horses, bovines, ibex, bison — and while birds have been found before, including the fragment of an outline bird figure at Roc-de-Sers, none of them are so naturalistic and detailed. Roc-de-Sers dates to the Magdalenian period of the Upper Paleolithic, thousands of years after the Cantalouette II bird was carved. Narrowing it down specifically to the Aurignacian period, there are only two other known birds: an ivory water bird from Hohle Fels (ca. 39,000-34,000 years old) and an owl in the Chauvet cave. Neither of them have the same attention to detail as the Cantalouette II bird. Because of those details, experts were able to compare its features to birds found in the fossil record of Upper Paleolithic southwestern France. The likeliest candidates are the passerine, the wryneck or partridge/quail.

After all this trouble, the piece was simply discarded onto the pile of lithic fragments, the detritus of the prehistoric tool-making workshop. It wasn’t meant to be permanent like rock art on walls. It wasn’t even meant to be portable, like something pretty to wear or display. It seems to have been the artistic impulse of a flint knapper who, having completed his oeuvre, threw it away.

This engraving is distinct in the rarity of the animal depicted and the use of innovative techniques. They suggest an absence of rigid artistic traditions and techniques during the Aurignacian. This absence of canons is in fact characteristic of Aurignacian art, despite certain convergences, such as the depiction of dangerous animals in the Swabian Jura, Dordogne, Adèche and northern Italy. At the doline site of Cantalouette II, the artist was thus free to “test” other manners of representing volumes and outlines. The artistic liberty of this artist can be correlated with that of the Aurignacian flint knappers in the Bergeracois region, who surpassed their technical skills by producing unusually large blades. The object itself, discarded in a flint knapping workshop, suggests the existence of an ephemeral form of artistic expression, a behavior previously unknown in the Aurignacian, and which raises questions about the function of the earliest figurative art in Europe.

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13 Comments »

Comment by DavidPakter
2016-03-19 06:18:20

These early works of man made sculptural art ranging in date from the Middle Pleistocene to the Holocene truly take one’s breath away.

When one considers that a Modern work of Art such as Brancusi’s “BIRD IN FLIGHT” might fetch hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars today, at a modern Auction House such as Christie’s, one must give pause and think deeply about the objects discussed here.

The fully finished bird is created/envisioned on such a sophisticated and “modern” level that once again, terms used in Art circles such as “Modern Art”, pall meaningless.

One is reminded of small human figures created during the period of Cycladic Art or the famous “Venus of Willendorf”, which is a 11.1-centimetre high statuette of a female figure estimated to have been made between about 28,000 and 25,000 BCE.

The “Venus of Dolní Věstonice”, another highly exceptional piece is a ceramic sculpture of a woman. It is estimated to be 25,000 to 29,000 years old, and thus falls into the Gravettian.

SEE: http://www.projektvenus.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6&Itemid=8&lang=en

Anyone familiar with so-called “Modern Art” even in the slightest degree will immediately realize by looking at this small 25 thousand year old statue from just where so many famous 20th Century Artists such as Henry Moore, derived much of their inspiration and ideas.

These works of Art prove that in the end, there is really nothing new under the Sun and that tens of thousands of years before the Pyramids were built, human beings were curiously exploring the possibilities of both two and three dimensional forms, rhythms and textures in what we today term the “Visual Arts”.

And equally important these ancient creators realized that from out of simple rocks and small mounds of clay, they could fashion objects containing the highest levels of Spirituality regarding the world of Aesthetics.

Thank you, as always, for posting this poignant reminder of our true place in the Universe as concerns so-called “Modern Man” relative to those who were here so very long before we who are here today.

 
Comment by DavidPakter
2016-03-19 06:41:00

These early works of man made sculptural art ranging in date from the Middle Pleistocene to the Holocene truly take one’s breath away.

When one considers that a Modern work of Art such as Brancusi’s “BIRD IN FLIGHT” might fetch hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars today, at a modern Auction House such as Christie’s, one must give pause and think deeply about the objects discussed here.

The fully finished bird is created/envisioned on such a sophisticated and “modern” level that once again, terms used in Art circles such as “Modern Art”, pall meaningless.

One is reminded of small human figures created during the period of Cycladic Art or the famous “Venus of Willendorf”, which is a 11.1-centimetre high statuette of a female figure estimated to have been made between about 28,000 and 25,000 BCE.
The “Venus of Dolní Věstonice”, another highly exceptional piece is a ceramic sculpture of a woman. It is estimated to be 25,000 to 29,000 years old, and thus falls into the Gravettian.

Anyone familiar with so-called “Modern Art” even in the slightest degree will immediately realize by looking at this small 25 thousand year old statue, from just where so many famous 20th Century Artists such as Henry Moore, derived much of their inspiration and ideas.

These works of Art prove that in the end, there is really nothing new under the Sun and that tens of thousands of years before the Pyramids were built, human beings were curiously exploring the possibilities of both two and three dimensional forms, rhythms and textures in what we today term the “Visual Arts”.

And equally important these ancient creators realized that from out of simple rocks and small mounds of clay, they could fashion objects containing the highest levels of Spirituality regarding the world of Aesthetics.

Thank you, as always, for posting this poignant reminder of our true place in the Universe as concerns so-called “Modern Man” relative to those who were here so very long before we who are here today.

 
Comment by DavidPakter
2016-03-19 06:42:14

Wonderful Post. Thanks

 
Comment by Eric Schruers
2016-03-19 12:43:20

Awesome title, thanks!

 
Comment by Annie Delyth
2016-03-19 13:04:30

When I see something such as this, I feel connected to the person whose hands created it. I think of what one of my anthropology professors said of field work among a so-called “primitive” group of people, who routinely and spontaneously created objects designed to be admired, sometimes useful, sometimes not, out of whatever material was at hand- often perishable matter such as reeds,cord,or wood. We may find the things made in durable materials, such as this lovely bird, and assume a stone based culture in the long-distant past. But how many beautiful and creative things simply passed back into the earth that we cannot know about? I suspect that the only way to reclaim them is to keep on making, using our own hands.

 
Comment by Jeryk
2016-03-19 14:00:05

You do always find cool stuff to post! Thanks:)

If I might…A small clarification with your synopsis- The bird is engraved in the softer cortex on the outside of a chert flake. (Often chalky soft, the linked pdf says limestone.)
I was initially very confused how they could engrave the MUCH harder chert/flint(in other words- they couldn’t have!) AH- they didn’t! NOW it makes sense:)
VERY neat to see the enlarged view. Having worked with/studied considerable piles of chert over years, it is easy to see the repeated stroke of a narrow thin scrape edge, carving the wings. Cleverly done creating that representation.
What always pleases me about a person’s representation- they can SEE that image they create. Me, I don’t have the artistic sight to direct the hand. Same as painting, etc.
Fun to appreciation the skill in others:)

 
Comment by FlintCutter
2016-03-19 19:25:04

Tweets 1 Following 0 Followers 1 Verified account @FlintCutter – Joined January 35023 BC
—-

Once more, it’s me they force to cut the stupid flint – LOL .. Gonna carve dinner instead – Provided we manage to cut those ?%$* arrowheads BEFORE starvation.

What I carve next ? Maybe one of those cool ivory animals from the Vogelherd cave – SHHH*, need to stop ..

 
Comment by bort
2016-03-20 11:09:13

#hashbrown #history #artsocrazy #nothingnewunderthesun #donthurtme

 
Comment by FlintCutter
2016-03-20 17:10:28

Tweets 2 Following 1 Followers 1

:notworthy:

 
Comment by Awesome Aud
2016-03-24 00:01:38

I checked a few other articles online about this artifact, but none of them said how big it is. Is it the size of my fingernail? The size of my hand? As big as my computer screen? A billboard?

:confused:

Comment by livius drusus
2016-03-24 00:27:29

The engraving is 3.45 × 2.9 cm (1.4 x 1.1 inches). I couldn’t find the dimensions of the flint, but to my eye it’s more than double the size of the section with the bird on it.

 
 
Comment by Awesome Aud
2016-03-25 11:57:02

Thank you. So it’s relatively fine work.

:thanks:

Comment by livius drusus
2016-03-28 05:43:40

Oh yes. The depth of the relief ranges from 1 to 3 mm. This artist had a great talent for finesse.

 
 
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