Rock art in the light of data

Carton Virto, Eider

Elhuyar Zientzia eta Teknologia aldizkariaren zuzendaria

The Homo sapiens who lived in Europe between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago left a rich mark on Ekain, Santimamiñe, Altamira, Lascaux, etc. They drew horses, rhinos, bulls, bears, hands, in small ensembles or forming complex compositions, superimposed, colored ones, empty silhouettes others, blowing with brushes, fingers.

The tracks have become a fascinating treasure for their descendants (for us) and since the first paintings were discovered in Altamira in 1879, we wanted to discover who made them and what they meant. It is evident that we have researched and interpreted rock art through the knowledge and techniques of the time, permeating the social conceptions of the time. And so do archaeologists Diego Garate and Joseba Ríos. Both are clear that collecting data and analyzing quantifiable characteristics is the best way to know and understand rock art and its creators, limiting interpretation to the territory of interpretation.

According to Garate and Ríos, the paradigm shift that has occurred with dating techniques is one of the clearest indicators of the need to rely on data. Until carbon 14 testing began, a gradualist view of rock art prevailed: the simplest forms of junk paint had to be the oldest; the most complex and realistic, the most modern, as they "evolved" from humans and primitive societies to more sophisticated. However, dating has shown that there has been no such evolution and that older paintings were already complex, that is, that those human beings dominated the technique of rock art from the beginning.

Without dating possibilities, an evolutionist interpretation of this style had all its meaning at a time when Darwinism emerged and colonialism staggered. It is not a question of separating blame, but of becoming aware of risk and avoiding it, of transmitting to our descendants the knowledge to continue investigating the past with the slightest possible weight.

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