Planet Earth

Early Etchings


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The creation of the first artistic images is usually credited to early Europeans, who some 33,000 years ago began carving vulvas and animals on rock and ivory in France and Germany. The discovery of this 54,000-year- old, three-inch-wide engraved flint may change that perception. The flint was excavated near the Syrian town of Quneitra in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights by Naama Goren-Inbar of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. Both Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans lived in the region when this image of four nested arcs was engraved--with another piece of flint. And both were tool users and hunter-gatherers. But archeologist Alexander Marshack of Harvard’s Peabody Museum says it’s most likely the artist was a more modern human, since known Neanderthal artifacts to date, aside from tools, have been limited to things like beads and worked ivory. Marshack doesn’t know what the image represents. When I looked at it for the first time, it looked like a rainbow with rain, but that’s not what I’m saying it is, he says. If I am correct, and this is an early depiction, then you have evidence that art did not begin in Europe. And if it was there in the Middle East, it was probably also in Africa and in Australia and in Asia. Europe is not the beginning of everything.

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