Rock Art

The study of religious or heroic legends and tales. One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens amongst the gods or other mythical beings was in one sense or another a reflection of events on earth. Recorded myths and legends, perhaps preserved in literature or folklore, have an immediate interest to archaeology in trying to unravel the nature and meaning of ancient events and traditions.

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Postby Ishtar » Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:18 am

Beagle wrote:Very interesting examples that you have scanned in, Ishtar. I wondered if you would use Newgrange as an example. Most researchers look at those swirls and decide that they are the result of a drug induced state. We had a conversation on that somewhere.



Yes we did. In the conversation, we talked about how some people achieve this state by using psychotropic plants, but that most use other means to reach this state as I described earlier: e.g rhythmic drumming, hand clapping, prolonged darkness etc. So it's well established that they see these patterns while in a 'drug induced' state - just as they do in other in any other kind of way they use to reach the pre-state, a threshold state if you like, to the shamanic journey as shown in my earlier diagram.
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Postby Ishtar » Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:02 am

Before we continue with the phosphene discussion, we should also consider whether or not any Neolithic art was inspired by the shamanic, and to this end, we should mention our friend Alan Day’s site in Ohio.

If you haven't seen them already, click on the link to see examples of the artwork he has found in the rocks at his site which is considered to be pre-Clovis, thus at least 13,000 years old.

http://www.daysknob.com/

A bird facing forward on top of the head, often suggesting shaman headgear.

One or more birds or quasi-human faces emerging from the mouth, an apparent theme of regeneration, like the figure-emerging-egg-like and figure-from-the-belly imagery also shown below. Sometimes there is a succession of figures, each emerging from the one preceding it.

A bird or Bird Spirit emerging from the posterior in the manner of an egg, when the figure appears in full-length bird form.

The head of a bird or Bird Spirit emerging beneath the primary figure (when in full length form), as if from the belly.


These are classic shamanic motifs. Birds are very common ‘power animals’. Power animals appear to the shaman when he first begins to journey, and they become one of their closest spirit guides. As part of the initiation during the journey, the power animal will often swallow the shaman, and the shaman will pass through the body of the animal or bird and then exit through its posterior or belly.

Eggs are also common shamanic motifs – the symbolism being obvious.

To see these pictures, there's plenty on Alan’s site. I’ve also PM-ed him to tell him we’re discussing this, in case he has anything he’d like to add.
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Postby Manystones » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:55 am

Ishtar wrote:So because we know the physiological reason for these patterns, that doesn't mean we know why Palaeo man used these patterns in his art. However, we do know that the focus of his life was the mystical experience. We know this from the fact that he built ornately decorated cult buildings and megaliths before he even built a house for himself.


Ishtar,

We do not know that the focus of Palaeo mans life was a mystical experience. It is far safer and more realistic to assume that these were later developments.

From the taphonomic remnants we cannot assume that decorated cult buildings or megaliths were built before basic houses/homes. In fact, the evidence shows the contrary.

Before man could run he had to walk.

You have him running before he has learnt to walk.

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Postby Ishtar » Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:54 am

Hi Richard

Thanks for sending me Hodgson. I've now read him and I have to say, I feel that I'm reading the words of someone who's trying to measure the amount of water coming over a dam with a ruler.

I think he also is erecting a bit of a straw man with his initial claim, and ongoing assumption throughout his article, that Lewis Williams et al were saying that all paleo art is shamanic. I'm not reading them in that way, and it's certainly not my opinion. My view is that there is some art that is shamanic, and that phosphene art is a prime contender.

There is one amusing bit in Hodgson's work, though, where he mentions one chap, Mr Shanon, who evidence is "compelling". This Mr Shanon, in the interests of science, took a hallucinogenic drug and then completely bypassed stages 1 and 2 and was whizzed straight to stage 3 and fullblown hallucinations. Apart from wondering, "Wow..what was he on," it also gave me a bit of a chuckle. This is why shamanism will never fit into commonly accepted lab techniques to arrive at the truth, because it isn't a case of one size fits all. There are many instances, even though they are more rare, of people bypassing stages 1 and 2 to go straight to 3. Mr Shanon, it turns out was one of them. But has Mr Hodgson not heard the saying, "one swallow does not make a summer"?

Hodgson's view is that Palaeo man drew these patterns because they gave him pleasure, in that regular geometric shapes please a part of the brain in that they are symmetrical and thus beautiful in their symmetery. He's entitled to think that - but it's a point of view with as much (or as little - depending upon how you view it) validity of the argument that phosphene art is inspired by shamanic experience. So I have yet to see why Bednarik dismisses the shamanic hypothesis out of hand.

To be frank, and thanks to Manystones sending me this article and other advice, I'm now becoming aware that I've just stepped into an academic row that's been raging for some time. So I don't want to go there...I'm not qualified to, for one thing. And I'm tired of intellectual rows, for another.

So how about we proceed as follows? My view is that some Palaeo art is inspired by shamanic experiences - certainly they ring a bell with shamanic practitioners. So would others be interested here in seeing some more of this art....or is this subject of no interest and irrelevant?
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Postby Ishtar » Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:02 am

Manystones wrote:
Before man could run he had to walk.

You have him running before he has learnt to walk.

Regards


The evidence of Gebelki Tepe shows that the temple or cult building arrived first, before anything else, almost out of the middle of nowhere. There is no evidence for a township which gradually grew up while man was learning to walk and then run.

Your comment, imo, comes from a view that shamanism is a technically sophisticated system. As I've said before on this forum, it could be considered a natural birthright that we have forgotten, and practising it is as easy as imbibing your mother's milk which no animal has to go to university to learn how to do.
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Civilisation Sequence

Postby Cognito » Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:38 am

The evidence of Gebelki Tepe shows that the temple or cult building arrived first, before anything else, almost out of the middle of nowhere. There is no evidence for a township which gradually grew up while man was learning to walk and then run.

And it appears that settements arrived before the advent of agriculture such as An Mallaha, Mureybat, Jericho, and so on. Some epipaleolithic cities were established prior to the end of the Pleistocene. Another paradigm thwarted. :shock:

If there was a city nearby Gobekli Tepe, nobody has found it. On the contrary, it appears that people were organised into cooperative groups acting in concert prior to the establishment of temples and/or cities. They just weren't desert nomads.
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Postby Ishtar » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:08 pm

Well, here's what the archaeologist excavating Gobekli Tepe thinks about its purpose and origins.

From Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe


Göbekli Tepe can be seen as an archaeological discovery of the greatest possible importance, since it profoundly changes our understanding of a vital point in the development of human societies. Apparently, the erection of monumental cult complexes was within the capacities of hunter-gatherers and not only of sedentary farming communities as had been assumed hitherto. In other words, as Klaus Schmidt put it: "First came the temple, then the city". This revolutionary hypothesis will have to be supported or modified by future research. Schmidt considers Göbekli Tepe as a central place serving a cult of the dead. He suggests that the carved animals are there to protect the dead ....

The excavator, Klaus Schmidt, has engaged in some speculation regarding the belief systems of the groups that created Göbekli Tepe, based on comparisons with other shrines and settlements. He assumes shamanic practices and suggests that the T-shaped pillars may represent mythical creatures, perhaps ancestors, whereas he sees a fully articulated belief in gods only developing later in Mesopotamia, associated with extensive temples and palaces. This corresponds well with the Sumerian tradition of an old belief that agriculture, animal husbandry and weaving had been brought to humankind from the sacred mountain Du-Ku, which was inhabited by Annuna-deities, very ancient gods without individual names. Klaus Schmidt identifies this story as an oriental primeval myth that preserves a partial memory of the Neolithic. It is also apparent that the animal and other images are peaceful in character and give no indications of organised violence.
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Postby Minimalist » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:24 pm

nobody has found it.



Yet.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Postby Manystones » Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:22 pm

Ishtar wrote:I think he <snip> irrelevant?


Just to add a little balance, some select quotes from the same article.

Altered States of Consciousness and Palaeoart:
an Alternative Neurovisual Explanation

Shanon (2003), a cognitive psychologist, has lived with, minutely studied, and partaken in the shamanistic rituals of South American Indians involving the personal experience of psychotropic drugs, such as Ayahuasca, some 140 times.


in contradistinction to Lewis-Williams, culture does not seem to be the dominant factor in deciding what a person will see when experiencing hallucinations. The fact that, as well as animals, a range of scenes and objects figure in hallucinatory episodes suggests that these should also be depicted in palaeoart


In an effort to support his claims Lewis-Williams (1991) alludes to idiosyncratic examples, such as the horses at Pech Merle. In so doing, he chooses to ignore the overwhelming majority of palaeoart (White 2003, 122) that shows none of the traits cited in this one exceptional case. At best, this example is what might be termed a false positive, at worst a complete misreading of the intended significance


The copying of phosphenes, as experienced, through graphic productions will inevitably have entailed a refashioning of their characteristics, which will have been prone to further transformation thanks to the particular cultural milieu in which they were produced. In fact, because Lewis-Williams’s approach is partly based on cultural factors, we would anticipate phosphenes to have been of such a significance that they came to have diverse meanings, and became manifest in a variety of ways, according to particular cultural interpretations. As this does not seem to be the case, this raises the prospect of alternative accounts to altered states for the all-pervasiveness of geometrics in art. In this respect, it has been observed that there is a tradition of geometrics in art amongst people who do not practise shamanism (Dronfield 1996; Bednarik 1988; 1990). Shanon (2002, 326, 327) also states that the connection between hallucinated geometrics and the art of various cultures has been exaggerated by various commentators in order to conform to a western oriented bias.
my emphasis

The preference for geometric forms may be more deeply rooted in our evolutionary past than Lewis Williams’s thesis implies. One has to start from first principles and ask how and why the human visual cortex came to evolve and how this determined its structure. Phosphenes and ASC are regarded as only peripheral to this approach as evidence of how the visual cortex is structured.....


......The mind is hence an instrument with a particular preference for simple geometry that is reflected in the architecture of the visual brain (Bando 2000; Cohen & Stewart 1994; Richards 1971).


and finally to put the Shanon quote in context:

Helvenston & Bahn (2003; 2004) have shown how the way hallucinations are experienced in drug-induced states does not generally involve the three stages to which Lewis-Williams refers. This is further borne out by the first-hand experience of Shanon (2002; 2003, 301, 304, 375). Despite his exhaustive dissection of the phenomenology pertaining under the influence of psychotropic drugs, phosphenes are either not mentioned or are played down (Shanon 2003, 276, 294), while the three stages to which Lewis-Williams refers are viewed as controversial. In fact, quite often the opposite seems to have been the case, in that the hallucinations were experienced as immediate and full-blown. In the case of Kluver’s (1926) study, he states that the subjects undergoing hallucinations said little about simple geometric designs or more complex images as they tended rather to concentrate on the iconic representations.
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Postby Ishtar » Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:40 pm

Minimalist wrote:
nobody has found it.


Yet.


Isn't that the argument Arch always uses? :P
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Postby Manystones » Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:48 pm

Ishtar wrote:....Palaeo man used these patterns in his art. However, we do know that the focus of his life was the mystical experience. We know this from the fact that he built ornately decorated cult buildings and megaliths before he even built a house for himself.


We cannot presume that the focus of Palaeo man's life was the mystical experience.

The statement "we know this from the fact that he built ornately decorated cult buildings and megaliths before he even built a house for himself" does not support the claim made. The evidence from Palaeolithic occupation sites is bereft of anything indicating that the focus of life was mystical. To counter the futile example provided of Gobekli Tepe I put forward the Ukraine mammoth site dated 4,000 years earlier where the only evidence are the houses they built themselves.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mezhirich
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Postby Ishtar » Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:00 pm

Manystones wrote:[ To counter the futile example provided of Gobekli Tepe I put forward the Ukraine mammoth site dated 4,000 years earlier where the only evidence are the houses they built themselves.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mezhirich


Why is Gobekli Tepe 'futile'? Even the guy digging it of the ground believes the temple preceded the city and that the art is shamanic.
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Postby Manystones » Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:27 pm

It is futile in the sense of demonstrating that palaeolithic man built temples before he built houses because he was "mystical".

Besides taphonomic logic makes light work of constructs from the remnant evidence.

Now who was it that said "one swallow does not make a summer"?
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Postby Ishtar » Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:42 pm

Manystones wrote:Just to add a little balance, some select quotes from the same article.

Altered States of Consciousness and Palaeoart:
an Alternative Neurovisual Explanation


Shanon (2003), a cognitive psychologist, has lived with, minutely studied, and partaken in the shamanistic rituals of South American Indians involving the personal experience of psychotropic drugs, such as Ayahuasca, some 140 times.


Sorry, I did him a disservice. As you know, I was having to read a densely typwritten pdf of 13 pages in my lunch hour.

in contradistinction to Lewis-Williams, culture does not seem to be the dominant factor in deciding what a person will see when experiencing hallucinations. The fact that, as well as animals, a range of scenes and objects figure in hallucinatory episodes suggests that these should also be depicted in palaeoart


This is not in contradistinction to Lewis-Williams. A range of scenes and objects are depicted in palaeoart – it’s just that here we are concentrating on the geometric entoptic phenomena at the beginning of the journey.

In an effort to support his claims Lewis-Williams (1991) alludes to idiosyncratic examples, such as the horses at Pech Merle. In so doing, he chooses to ignore the overwhelming majority of palaeoart (White 2003, 122) that shows none of the traits cited in this one exceptional case. At best, this example is what might be termed a false positive, at worst a complete misreading of the intended significance


Again, I believe Hodgson is reading far more into what Lewis-Williams is saying that I gleaned, anyway. Can you show me an example of where LW says that all palaeoart is shamanic? I thought he was just pointing out that which probably is.

The copying of phosphenes, as experienced, through graphic productions will inevitably have entailed a refashioning of their characteristics, which will have been prone to further transformation thanks to the particular cultural milieu in which they were produced.

In fact, because Lewis-Williams’s approach is partly based on cultural factors, we would anticipate phosphenes to have been of such a significance that they came to have diverse meanings, and became manifest in a variety of ways, according to particular cultural interpretations.


Yes, and here’s evidence of how a motif can appear in different ways, and there’s more of these Lewis Williams’ book, Inside the Neolithic Mind:

Grid-like lattice at Catal Hoyuk:

Image

Grid-like lattice at Knowth (Celtic)

Image

... it has been observed that there is a tradition of geometrics in art amongst people who do not practise shamanism (Dronfield 1996; Bednarik 1988; 1990). Shanon (2002, 326, 327) also states that the connection between hallucinated geometrics and the art of various cultures has been exaggerated by various commentators in order to conform to a western oriented bias.


Andy Warhol wasn’t a shaman, and he went in for a lot of geometrics. Neither was Mary Quant. Or Picasso. Is anybody really saying that geometric art is purely the preserve of the shaman? Once again, can you show me where Lewis-Williams is saying this?

The preference for geometric forms may be more deeply rooted in our evolutionary past than Lewis Williams’s thesis implies. One has to start from first principles and ask how and why the human visual cortex came to evolve and how this determined its structure. Phosphenes and ASC are regarded as only peripheral to this approach as evidence of how the visual cortex is structured.....


Imo, this is over complicating a simple thing. These people saw these patterns. These people sometimes put them in their art. How the visual cortex developed is just the mechanical reason for why phosphenes are produced. How can I put this ... you may rely on a mechanic to fix your car but would let you him to tell you where to drive?


and finally to put the Shanon quote in context:

Helvenston & Bahn (2003; 2004) have shown how the way hallucinations are experienced in drug-induced states does not generally involve the three stages to which Lewis-Williams refers.


This is just not true. The ‘tunnel’ or ‘vortex’ (stage 2) is reported by the majority of people who journey in the classic shamanic way. We know what a common feature it is from the fact that it is reported in probably nine out of ten near death experiences (which is the same thing as a journey, except you’re not coming back).

This is further borne out by the first-hand experience of Shanon (2002; 2003, 301, 304, 375). Despite his exhaustive dissection of the phenomenology pertaining under the influence of psychotropic drugs, phosphenes are either not mentioned or are played down (Shanon 2003, 276, 294), while the three stages to which Lewis-Williams refers are viewed as controversial.


The fact is, when you get to stage 3, the effects are so overwhelming that a few jagged lines or spirals just can’t compete. It’s as if you went to see a really good movie. When you come out, you’re discussing the plot and the characters, and remembering the good jokes and the exciting car chases ...you’ve completely forgotten about the popcorn you bought on the way in, even though you enjoyed it.

However, when a shaman is first learning to journey (without drugs, which was and is the most common way), they spend a long time in the first stage – it can go on for over a year before they manage to progress to stages 2 and 3. So when phosphene phenomena are their only experience, it would be perfectly natural for them to want to depict their experience in some way.

I think one of Hodgson’s problems is that all his evidence on which he's basing his conclusions on the three stages of the altered state comes from those who got there by taking drugs. Of all the many ways to reach the altered state, this one (if the doses are not correct) is the most likely to shoot you straight to stage 3. For a more realistic and representative view, he needs to get a wider spread of different methods – as Lewis Williams did.

He used eight people – admittedly not a statistically significant sample – who achieved the altered state in a variety of ways, e.g. hypnagogic (between sleep and waking), classic shamanic drumming, drug induced, light deprived, and so on.

I think if Hodgson had not just gone down the drug route, which worldwide has always been the least common way of journeying, he would have observed more people going through the three stages and thus reached a different conclusion. This very fact alone, notwithstanding his straw men, imo makes his whole thesis flawed.
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Postby Ishtar » Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:54 pm

Manystones wrote:It is futile in the sense of demonstrating that palaeolithic man built temples before he built houses because he was "mystical".

Besides taphonomic logic makes light work of constructs from the remnant evidence.

Now who was it that said "one swallow does not make a summer"?


I think what would be futile would be for us argue this particular aspect back and forth. There's just not enough evidence to prove it conclusively either way. Besides, I cannot understand a word you said in your second sentence! :lol:
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