UFO Conjecture(s)

Monday, December 28, 2015

The oldest cave art (and a UFO?)

Smithsonian magazine for January/February 2016 has an article [The Awakening] by Jo Marchant (photography by Justin Mott) about the world’s oldest representational paintings, found in an Indonesian cave on the island of Sulawesi. [Page 80 ff.]

The paintings are of stenciled hands and animals:
Stenciled hands, as I’ve shown previously at this blog, are endemic to cave art from all over the world.

Here are some ascribed to the Neanderthals, found at El Castillo in Spain.
The Smithsonian article presents the Sulawesi art as the oldest made by prehistoric man, about 38,000 B.C. but acknowledged that the very oldest is at Castillo, made about 40,000 B.C.
The hand paintings, made, allegedly, by the “artists” putting ocher in their mouths and blowing it over their hands.
The article also references a “red disk” in the Castillo cave as the first painting made by man.
It’s actually a red dot (or dots) and its significance remains a mystery.

(No, it’s not a representation of a flying disk or UFO, although I had hoped it had some similarity to flying saucers as we know them to be depicted.)

What I find interesting is that the stenciled hands found everywhere in cave art are so delicate, not representing as I would imagine a brutish appendage as one might expect from a Neanderthal or “cave man.”
Were cave artists mostly made up of delicate members of prehistoric tribes or were they women or younger members of the clans?

And how did hands become a signifying aspect of cave art, all over the world, in a time-frame of about 40,000 years to 37,000 years B.C.?

The article posits the migratory travels of primitive mankind, moving from Africa upward to the Middle East and then to Europe or eastward to India, and southward to Australia and, in this case, Indonesia.

The idea than early man moved all over the Eastern hemisphere, leaving notifications of their arrivals and domiciles (in caves) by way of handprints, I find intriguing.

Why not just a symbol or art print of another kind, a particular animal, spear or arrowhead, or food-stuff or something else iconic for early humankind?

Why no faces, or footprints (as easy to stencil, almost, as a hand)?

And do the red dots or “red disks” (as anthropologists have it) represent something more than a blotch of paint, like something seen in the skies? (Alien Astronaut theorists will have a go at that I think.)

Here are some links to material relevant to this posting, for those interested:



  • Neanderthals didn't create cave art. The artists were Homo Sapiens, just like us. Why would their hands look any different than ours? "Brutish" cave men are from bad comics, not modern anthropology.

    By Blogger Scott Hamilton, at Monday, December 28, 2015  

  • Scott...

    Apparently you didn't click on or read the links provided at the end of the post....about Neanderthalian art et cetera.

    Also, you seem unfamiliar with the work of Mircea Eliade and the physiognomy of early man.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, December 28, 2015  

  • 'Were cave artists mostly made up of delicate members of prehistoric tribes or were they women or younger members of the clans?'

    I'm not sure we can discern the ruggedness, or otherwise, of the hands based on the paintings we see. One thing I feel quite sure of is that some cave artists were distinct from more typical roles in the group. This is because the level of skill exhibited in some caves is indicative of masters at work. They manage to capture movement and colours in ways that very few college-level artists can do today.

    Simply acquiring the palette of colours they used would have taken time and repetition. Quite possibly, these skills and nuances would have been taught and handed down. This itself would suggest sequestered individuals whose role in the community was that of 'artist.'Your idea of delicacy might apply to such people. On the other hand, the environment of these people probably made delicacy a fatal trait.

    The frequency of hands might have been the paleo equivalent of Sandra was 'ere. A simple means of recording one's existence in that special place? Who knows?

    I've got a personal belief that the artwork we see actually reflects a shift in consciousness by our ancestors. Their transition from dots and hands to three-dimensional depictions of horses is like that of a child becoming an adult. Children make hand-prints in paint, draw people as misshapen lines and represent blue skies as blue lines right at the top of their pages. As they get more sophisticated in thought, they accept that sky fills the page and that people are tough to draw. There's symbolism in there, but there's also proof of recreation too.

    Incidentally, the 'spots' in that image could be an abstract depiction of an animal looking to the left of picture. I'm thinking of pareidolia. The rock formation has the suggestion of a four-legged critter with the spots being the markings upon its back and hind quarters. Who's to say some artistic fellow didn't see some potency or symbolism in the pareidolia and sought to confirm it with the spots?

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • Kandinsky...

    I hope you can access the article (online?).

    It deals with some of the items you mention.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • Hiya Rich, yes I've just started reading it. Give me a moment to get through it.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • It's a fascinating piece, K....

    Opens inquiry of many kinds, almost asks as many questions as it answers.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • It's a great article and, yes, I agree it prompts a lot of ideas. With the account of the Rhino Caves in Botswana, I'm reminded of the work of Jack Hunter and his Paranthropology Journal. For people to face the unknown with so little knowledge and in such dark locations must have been a visceral and profound experience. Yet these are the foundations of all of our belief systems - hardened into our genetics and oral histories since we could express them.

    Have you seen the weird images from Gilf Kebir? They painted these creatures that I suspect are depictions from their mythology. I believe they are some of the earliest renditions of liminal monsters. Very interesting!

    It's good to see Benjamin Smith recognising the utility of art for measuring levels of consciousness. For a few years, I thought I'd had an original idea. Alas, no!

    Whilst we're discussing interesting articles; there was a similarly intriguing (unrelated) one in SciAm from June that discusses how dogs came about. Not quite what we'd expect.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • A link to an image from the Gilf Kebir caves. Halfway down the page of a blog I bookmarked: https://rehabsaadblog.wordpress.com/tag/serabit-el-khadem/

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • I saw the dog piece in Science, K, but didn't follow through.

    The Gilf Kebir paintings (and hands again too) intrigue, more than most, and I can see AA theorists latching on to some to make their point(s).

    The idea that consciousness took a leap forward, almost simultaneously among primitive mankind is a matter open to discussion; it resonates with other mental leaps by mankind at various times: 8000 B.C., 400 B.C. The Renaissance, the late 1800s et cetera.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • I wouldn't argue for the 'leap forward' rather than just noting the difference in minds between the Chauvet art and the hands. Not necessarily exclusive, just indicative of an elevated level of awareness. It's a hot topic for the anthros. Still, I do hold the opinion that echoes yours and that humanity et al have passed through subtle levels of consciousness. Whether they are *better* or not is for the philosophers to ruminate on.

    Gilf Kebir images are just intensely intriguing. In one of them, they look like they are sacrificing (or paying homage) people to these huge creatures. It, perhaps, is suggestive of their oral traditions being expressed on the cave walls. It may also echo such old stories as Beowulf with monsters being appeased with human bodies. Would that be surprising?

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • Why would an "elevated state of awareness" occur simultaneously all over the world, to tribes of peoples thousands of miles apart, socially, geographically, culturally, et cetera? It's odd and intriguing.

    And why the stories of giants and monsters, from the Greek myths, the Hebrew Bible, and all the other "fictions" through the ages? Aren't there, weren't there other fearful things to cope with, imaginatively or in reality?

    Mankind has been obtuse from the beginning, and not in a sensible, evolutionary way.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • It's not clear that a simultaneous shift in cultural awareness or consciousness occurred around the world. I mean, the Old Kingdom Egyptians were building on monumental scales when North Europeans were still all megalithic. Or we could see early Mayans raising crops whilst people in Mesopotamia were living in the first cities.

    I do take your point though that there seems to be a sort of tidal wave that connects disparate cultures. Under that metaphor, the wave peaks in, say, Uruk and takes some time to move across to the Americas. That idea about the hundredth monkey springs to mind.

    As for the monsters? I share the notion that such things are as much a part of the human experience as our eyes and noses. They may all differ stylistically and yet seem thematically similar from one age and culture to the next. Just like the changes in awareness, our monsters develop and evolve more complexities.

    Are they purely internal projections of our own psyches or outside agents influencing us? It's funny. We have to talk rhetorically and dance on the tightrope between gullible believer and rusted skepticism.

    I agree that Mankind has always been obtuse; at least in the areas that are the most interesting.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • Rich wrote:
    "And how did hands become a signifying aspect of cave art, all over the world, in a time-frame of about 40,000 years to 37,000 years B.C.?"

    Given that red ochre is found all over the world, has been used by humans for a least a million years and made into paint for a at least a hundred thousand years, we may ask why during the last ice age, did the human hand become a symbol on permanent surfaces? As neurologist Dr. Frank Wilson noted in his book, The Hand, our hands, complete with opposable thumbs are both the basic instrument for human arts and symbols of content rich remembrance...
    (and this)
    There are both practical and symbolic values supporting the use of red ochre, especially for handprints. We know that Homo began using red ochre at least a million years ago and its use continues today. Now we may partially answer why. First, it was and is there and is plentiful. Second, it has the property of permanence. Third, it was initially easy to use 'as is' and relatively easy to process and combine with other substances to increase its range of forms and uses. Fourth, it had practical benefits, such as covering the smell of death and stopping bleeding. Sixth, red ochre came to be seen as having physical and metaphoric resonance with blood, so it became a meaningful symbol of relationships between people, the land, and the animals.

    (much more at site):


    And last red is the color of the menstrual moon

    By Blogger edward gehrman, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • All,

    "The important new evidence presented here concerns red ochre (red oxide of iron), also known as haematite, a term derived from the Greek work of blood. Chemically it is Fe2O3, and is frequently a product of the weathering of magnetite, Fe3O4. In other words, when magnetite is exposed to atmosphere at the surface, it turns into haematite. ...

    "Magnetite, as it happens, is highly magnetic. It is the ancient lodestone (i.e. the leading stone). Thanks to a an archaeological discovery in 1967 we now know that the Olmecs of Central America had invented the compass at least one thousand years before the Chinese ... The Olmec method was to make a sliver or bar of polished magnetite (lodestone) and place it on a piece of wood or cork floating in a bowl of water. The bar then veered to point to magnetic north. As further proof, we know that Olmec ceremonial centers were laid out to point a few degrees west of true north – i.e. to magnetic north.

    "Also remarkable in this connection is a large Olmec stone head of a turtle carved in basalt, and rich in naturally magnetized iron. The head is shaped in such a way that the lines of magnetic force run to a point at the snout.

    "Only since 1975 have we in the modern west come to realize that many, and perhaps all, animals and plants sense and respond to the earths magnetic field. The variously navigate by it, tell the time of day by it, and the season by it. They do this by means of magnetite. Strings of magnetite have been found in tiny sea bacteria, and a cluster of magnetite in the head of the homing pigeon. Both of these organisms use the earth’s magnetic field to determine their position. Will we now also find such clusters in the snout of the turtle, one of the great navigators of this planet?"
    The above information is from Stan Gooch; most of you would enjoy reading his fascinating books:

    By Blogger edward gehrman, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

  • Ed..

    I think we're starting to stray from the cave art toward ceremonial artifacts of a later time.

    The posting is about paintings, with ocher as the medium.....the gist of the posting are the paintings not the ocher.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, December 29, 2015  

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