Researching the Origins of Art. Religion, and Mind
Oldowan Art, Religion, Symbols, Mind

(circa 2.6 to 1.6 million years ago)


Home Page

About OriginsNet

Theory and Methods

Overview of Four Eras of Evolution
of Art, Religion, Mind and Psyche


,,,,,Early Paleolithic

,,,,,Middle Paleolithic

.....Upper Paleolithic

Publications and Studies (PDF files)

OriginsNet BLOG - New Discoveries, New Theories

Palaeoart Representation Mode:

Oldowan Palaeoart. While it appears that Australopithecus garhi is associated with the earliest core tools, evidence suggests that Homo rudolfensis/habilis created the first metaphor and sense of self-becoming, the metaphor of core essence as source of sustenance. This is the origin of the concept of primordial essence, source, arche, core, heart, innate form, prima materia and the opus. This was the first metaphor of Self (deep psyche, ontogenesis). It appears to have been represented by the core itself and especially by rhomboids fashioned on cores, and at a later time in this tradition on flakes or laminar stone. Exotic crystals, shells, etc. probably also represented the principle of dynamic form emergent from a core essence or source. Spheroids (hammerstones) and anvils also played a role in this symbol system. Worked stones suggestive of baboon heads, such as that from Olduvai Gorge and later pieces that may also have been used as anvils, also may be seen as part of the system. They would be a further elaboration of the notion of the prima materia and an incipient understanding of human evolution and self-becoming. (See my paper on Oldowan palaeoart and mind: Two Million Years Ago: The Origins of Art and Symbol)

Scavenger Religion. Given a riparian woodland scavenger-gathering subsistence mode of the Oldowan peoples, they--at least by the Developed Oldowan (contemporary with earliest Acheulian--may have had an incipient religious system drawing upon a symbolism of the six most common predator-scavengers. In order of access to carcasses these six are: lion (kills and consumes viscera and flesh, leaves some flesh and skull and bones--marrow sources--thus providing for others); leopard (stores carcasses in trees, a windfall for human scaveners); vulture (penetrates tough hides into depths for inner organs); jackal (strips bone of remaining flesh but leaves marrow); wild hunting dog (strips flesh but leaves marrow bones); hyena (eats all, consumes bones, leaves nothing). Drawing upon the natural history and surviving mythology of these six carnivores, I have derived a reconstruction of the 'First Religion' of human cultural evolution. (Forthcoming)

Signs Representation Mode: Probably some form of mimetic gesture and some form of expanded ability to control vocalization especially as it would have pertained to communicating regard or awe for the symbols and symbolized of Oldowan palaeoart and First Religion. Compare, Donald (1991) who hypothesizes 'modulated vocalization' during the Oldowan.

Mental Model or Template of Mind: 'Mimetic modeling' [after Donald, M. (1991) Origins of the modern mind: Three stages in the evolution of culture and cognition. Cambridge: Harvard University]. Some form of mimetic gesture, mime, dance, group rhythmic and mimetic rituals, elaborating upon, for example, the chimpanzee rain dance and other rituals described by Jane Goodall. Rhythm - L brain; prosody - R brain. Expanded social and foraging intelligence and new technical intelligence modules [Mithen, S. (1996) The prehistory of mind: The cognitive origins of art, religion, and science. London: Thames and Hudson]. Drawing phylogenetic analogy from Piaget theory of child development of intelligence, the Oldowan mind would operate under principles of 'preoperations A' [Wynn, T. (1989). The evolution of spatial competence. Chicago: University of Illinois; Wynn T. (1996) The evolution of tools and symbolic behavior. In A. Lock and C. Peters (eds.), Handbook of human symbolic evolution. Oxford: Clarendon].

Oldowan Sites and Tools | Oldowan Art and Symbol | Oldowan Image Gallery
.... .........
Home | About James Harrod | About the Center | Donations Welcome | Contact Us | Links & Resources