Early Man Winter 2018

Flint Ca. 500000 to 50000 Tony Berlant.jpg

1. DALLAS, TX.- The Nasher Sculpture Center opened First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone, an exhibition exploring prehistoric tools and collected objects as evidence of the beginnings of artistic intention and craft. The show is on view January 27 - April 29, 2018. The exhibition is the product of a unique curatorial collaboration between Los Angeles-based artist Tony Berlant and anthropologist Dr. Thomas Wynn, Distinguished Professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.
First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone is the first museum exhibition to present ancient handaxes as works of art. Traditionally understood as the longest-used tool in human history, the handaxe is equally fascinating for its non-utilitarian, aesthetic qualities. While handaxes are not rare—millions have been discovered throughout the world—First Sculpture presents a refined and exemplary collection of these objects, which date from 2.5 million to 50,000 years old, as evidence of the earliest forms of artistic intention. The exhibition highlights the aesthetic qualities of each stone and provides crucial historical and scientific information to give the viewer a deeper understanding of human history, as well as an enriched appreciation for humankind’s early ability to sculpt beautiful objects. Whether carved from visually interesting stones using stone flaking techniques, called knapping, or rendered at unusual sizes that would inhibit use of the object as a tool, a case can be made for the handaxe as the first sculpture our prehistoric ancestors conceived.
“We believe imposing these basic ‘good forms’ [on the handaxes] must have been a pleasurable activity—making an artifact that was symmetrical or resembled a sphere gave the stone knapper more pleasure than making an irregular form,” note Berlant and Wynn. “This impulse to impose form became a significant motif in human evolution.”
The exhibition also explores figure stones—naturally occurring stones that carry shapes and patterns that resemble human or animal forms, especially faces, and which were gathered by prehistoric people. The stones, which sometimes show evidence of modification, indicate an inclination to recognize figuration within nature much earlier than has been generally accepted. “The human mind evolved to be sensitive to aesthetic phenomena,” say curators Berlant and Wynn, “and stone artifacts trace some of this evolutionary history.”
“First Sculpture is an unprecedented exhibition, looking to the origin of art-making at its most fundamental levels—the drive to make something beautiful or the inclination to acknowledge beauty within nature itself,” says Nasher Sculpture Center Director Jeremy Strick. “As such, this collection of works casts a new light on the history of art, suggesting that the primal need to create and collect beautiful objects has even deeper roots that we ever imagined.”
The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated, scholarly catalogue published by the Nasher, with a central essay co-written by exhibition curators Berlant and Wynn, as well as a preface by renowned American scientist, Jared Diamond.
http://artdaily.com/news/102054/Exhibition-presents-ancient-tools-and-gathered-objects-as-evidence-of-the-earliest-forms-of-artistic-intention#.WsFiZJch2UkNote: The Nasher Sculpture Garden presently has on vierw a collection of hand axes from contemporary artist, Tony Berlant of Santa Monica, California.

2.. Ancient Stone Weapons, Including One of a Kind Giant Handaxe, Could Tell Story of When Early Humans First Left Africa
By Kastalia Medrano On 12/28/17 at 4:14 PM
Archaeologists in Saudi Arabia have discovered a massive cache of stone artifacts, some of them more than 1.7 million years old. They might reveal when different species of early hominins first migrated out of Africa, according to Live Science.

Saudi Handaxe.jpg

The researchers are part of the DISPERSE project, which studies the diaspora of early humans across Africa and Asia. The artifacts, more than 1,000 of them, were found in a basin of porous rock bordered by volcanic lava flows, just a few miles from the coastline of the Red Sea, according to an update from the DISPERSE project's website.

They include fragments of weapons like handaxes, knives and spear points, along with tools like animal hide-scrapers, hide-piercers and hammer stones. Live Science reported that one hand axe weighs nearly eight pounds, making it notably heavier than the rest. It's the first of its kind discovered in the Arabian Peninsula, according to DISPERSE. A paper on the discovery was published in the scientific journal Antiquity.

“The site and its associated artifacts provide important new evidence for hominin dispersals out of Africa, and give further insight into the giant handaxe phenomenon present within the Acheulean stone tool industry,” the authors wrote in their paper.

"Achaelean" artifacts date to anywhere between 1.76 million years and 100,000 years old. The researchers know that the climate during the time the tools were in use was wetter than the climate is now, but hope further research will reveal a more specific timeline.

"It's far more arid [today] than it was at certain points in time," lead author Frederick Foulds, an archaeology professor at Durham University in England, told Live Science. "It's strange to be walking over hard, dry rocks which were formed by water pooling during a far wetter period. We think it was during these wetter periods that it's likely the site was occupied."

Foulds told Live Science that with additional analysis to narrow the date range in which the tools were created, they hope to be able to extrapolate the exact species of hominin to which they belonged.

“During periods when the ice sheets were at their largest, there was widespread aridity in the Sahara and Arabian deserts, but during periods when the ice sheets shrank, the climate of these regions became a lot wetter," Foulds told Live Science. "What's interesting about the Wadi Dabsa region is that the geography of the region may have created a refuge from these changes.”