Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Religious beliefs seen as basis of origins of Palaeolithic art

Date:
April 19, 2010
Source:
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Summary:
The idea that palaeolithic art is based in religious beliefs isn't new. But for years, anthropologists, archaeologists and historians of art understood these artistic manifestations as purely aesthetic and decorative motives. A researcher in Spain now reveals the origins of the theory.

A horse was painted on the polychrome ceiling of the cave of Altamira. This is from the Magdalenian era.
Credit: Paleolithic arts in northern Spain: photo VR database 2003.

The idea that palaeolithic art is based in religious beliefs isn't new. But for years, anthropologists, archaeologists and historians of art understood these artistic manifestations as purely aesthetic and decorative motives. Eduardo Palacio-Pιrez, researcher at the University of Cantabria (UC), now reveals the origins of the theory.

Related Articles


"This theory is does not originate with the prehistorians, in other words, those who started to develop the idea that the art of primitive peoples was linked with beliefs of a symbolic-religious nature were the anthropologists," Eduardo Palacio-Pιrez, author of the study and researcher at UC, said.

This idea appeared at the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century. Up until then, Palaeolithic art had been interpreted as a simple aesthetic and decorative expression.

"Initially scientists saw this art as the way that the people of the Palaeolithic spent their free time, sculpting figurines or decorating their tools," Palacio points out. His investigation, published in the last edition of Oxford Journal of Archaeology, reveals the reasons for the move from this recreational-decorative interpretation of Palaeolithic art to different one of a religious and symbolic nature.

The history of the discovery and study of this art is long and complex. Palaeolithic art is composed of so-called mobiliary art -pieces of stone, horn and bone sculpted or engraved- that are included within archaeological deposits. These discoveries, that spread through the scientific community from 1864, are dated to the same period as the rest of the archaeological material and there was "practically no doubt about their Palaeolithic origin."

"The problem came years later with the discovery of the paintings in the cave of Altamira (in 1879), published by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola and spread by the Spanish geologist Vilanova and Piera at a scientific conference held in Lisbon in 1880. This art composed of paintings and engravings on the walls and the ceilings of the caves, was not included within the archaeological deposits and it was unknown if it was so old. The international scientific community ignored its Palaeolithic origin for 20 years," states the researcher.

Palacio explains how these studies went unnoticed: "They were heard, but little attention was paid to them because the format of the paintings was too spectacular and too "perfect" due to their naturalistic nature. It was understood that such complex art could not have been done by primitive man; something that did not occur with mobiliary art."

New times for western art

Between 1880 and 1900 the conception of art changed in western society. Anthropologists, archaeologists and historians of Art started to consider other possibilities. Artistic theory and practice that was being made in Europe changed with postimpressionism, the appearance of Art Nouveau or the generalisation of photography; in addition, with the mass arrival to museums of the metropolis of artistic pieces from non-Greco-Latin cultures and "primitive arts" of the colonies. "All this produced a transformation in the concept of art itself," pointed out the expert.

"At this time, the conception of the origins and the nature of art that the westerners and scientists had at the time was redefined. From then on Palaeolithic art was reinterpreted in a symbolic-religious key, at the time when the age of parietal art was accepted," concludes the researcher.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Eduardo Palacio-Perez. Cave art and the theory of art: the origins of the religious interpretation of Palaeolithic Graphics Expression. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 2010; 29 (1): 1 DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0092.2009.00337.x

Cite This Page:

FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. "Religious beliefs seen as basis of origins of Palaeolithic art." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100326101115.htm>.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. (2010, April 19). Religious beliefs seen as basis of origins of Palaeolithic art. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100326101115.htm
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. "Religious beliefs seen as basis of origins of Palaeolithic art." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100326101115.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can Bitcoin Survive 2015?

Can Bitcoin Survive 2015?

Newsy (Dec. 22, 2014) — Bitcoin's stock has tumbled significantly this year, but more companies now accept it, leading supporters and critics alike to weigh in on its future. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) — As falling oil prices boost Americans' spending power, the U.S. government is also gaining flexibility from savings on oil. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
After Sony Hack, What's Next?

After Sony Hack, What's Next?

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 19, 2014) — The hacking attack on Sony Pictures has U.S. government officials weighing their response to the cyber-attack. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins