Early Human Art

More than 65,000 years ago, a Neanderthal painted in red ochre on the wall of a cave.

Paintings on a section of the La Pasiega cave wall, including a ladder shape composed of red horizontal and vertical lines.
(Photograph: P. Saura/PA)

Modern humans moved into Spain about 40,000 years ago, replacing Neanderthals who were there 120,000 years ago. In Science magazine last week, scientists at Southampton, Durham and Leipzig describe and date calcite crystals that had grown on top of the pictures.


A drawing of the red ladder symbol from the La Pasiega cave. Dating shows it has a minimum age of 64,000 years but it is unclear if the animals and other symbols were painted later.
Graffiti from the La Pasiega cave. Dating shows it has a minimum age of 64,000 years but it is unclear if the animals and other symbols were painted later. (Illustration: Breuil et al)


In a second paper, published in Science Advances, D. Hoffman et al describe dyed and decorated seashells found in a cave in southeast Spain. They were made by Neanderthals 115,000 years ago.

Pier Battle

HPC041.128b-900x625-288x200.jpg       th-41.jpeg

A historic pier in East Sussex was destroyed by fire in 2010. It has won a prestigious architecture award after a multi-million pound redevelopment. Hastings Pier reopened in April 2016 and has just won this year’s Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize as the UK’s best new building. They call it “a masterpiece of regeneration”.


Among Hastings’ residents are 3,000 shareholders who bought £100 stakes in “the people’s pier”.

Ghost Town

Just 75 miles from Las Vegas, in Utah, was the gold-mining town called Gold Butte. Now its few remaining relics are breaking down and some local people are realising that Obama was right to seek legal protection of the delicate site.


Some of the sandstone near Moab, Utah, has petrographs of big-horn sheep caravans.



NV_GoldButte_BLM_MasonCummings_160324_551-Edit-X3_web_0.jpg Also, in the Mojave Desert, are images of goat-like creatures. No-one seems to know their origin but do realise they will soon weather away.




Who were these artists? What were they saying? When were they active? What was their life-style?

Wake up America.

Greek Origins

The first signs of human civilisation in Europe are from Thera, on the Aegean island of Akrotiri, now called Santorini.
Akrotiri-greece-feve.jpg    250px-TheraLateCyccladicIbex06655.jpg
Excavations have revealed early Minoan settlements and a golden ibis, remains from a catastrophic volcanic eruption there, now dated as 1590BC. Some say that Plato’s description of Atlantis was based on this eruption.
The catastrophe led to the beginning of the Mycenaean civilisation of Ancient Greece, lasting from 1590 to 1100BC
220px-Mycenaean_World_en.png  Chariot_Pylos.jpg  Tiryns_chariot_fresco.jpg 220px-Lions-Gate-Mycenae.jpg
In the 1300BC citadel at Mycenae there are frescoes of two chariots typical of these times.
Online, August 2 2017AD, Nature magazine published I. Lazaridis et al’s evidence for the Genetic Origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans. They studied genome data from 19 ancient individuals including Minoans from Crete, Mycenaeans from mainland Greece, and their eastern neighbours from southwestern Anatolia.

The work shows that Minoans and Mycenaeans were genetically similar, having at least three-quarters of their ancestry from the first Neolithic farmers of western Anatolia and the Aegean, and most of the remainder from ancient populations related to those of the Caucasus and Iran. Their abstract continues: The Mycenaeans differed from Minoans in deriving additional ancestry from an ultimate source related to the hunter–gatherers of eastern Europe and Siberia, introduced via a proximal source related to the inhabitants of either the Eurasian steppe or Armenia. Modern Greeks resemble the Mycenaeans, but with some additional dilution of the Early Neolithic ancestry. Lazaridis’s work supports the idea of continuity but not isolation in the history of populations of the Aegean, before and after the time of its earliest civilizations.


Nature, June 22 p 480 reports that C. Ottoni et al have recently found two evolutionary lineages of cats through the Neolithic, 10,000 to 5,000 years ago.

They analysed DNA from more than 200 specimens of cat remains from Asia and Africa, from two separate lineages.


One of these first appeared in sw Asia and had spread into Europe by 4400BC. The other began in Egypt, home of the Bastet goddess culture that spread north into Greece.

170px-Bastet_Istanbul_museum.JPG170px-British_Museum_Egypt_101-black.jpg  220px-Bastet.svg.png

It is unlikely that cats were domesticated in these early stages of cat migration. But they did live in human communities to control vermin and other pests, as they still do in modern Greece.

Old Prickly

Adrian Coles (1930-2017) was fascinated by hedgehogs, like a character from AE Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad.

Hedgehog numbers in that part of England are falling. Pesticides poison them, cars run over them, and fences stop them.

41tNsjQ2F3L._SX375_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg  The_Tale_of_Mrs_Tiggy-Winkle_first_edition_cover.jpg

Hedgehogs featured in Beatrix Potter’s tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, the tiny lady who stole handkerchiefs. Major Coles founded the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. It had 11,00 members, including 700 carers who looked after injured animals. They put out water and food in dry weather and promoted gaps in garden fences. They also lobbied parliament and brewed ale.


The BHPS held its tenth anniversary at the Golden Cross pub in Clee Hill, Shropshire. The pub was renamed The Cross Hedgehog for the occasion and brewed Old Prickly.


Fake Demons

Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable is at the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, Venice, 9 April – 3 December. The show is from the same artist who put a tiger shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde.

Detail from Demon with Bowl
Demon with Bowl D Hirst  (Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst)
Hirst now claims a role of archaeological impresario. In 2008 the wreck of a treasure ship called the Apistos (Unbelievable) was found on the seabed off east Africa. According to the myth, it sank about 2,000 years ago. This is its cargo and Hirst has assembled an underwater grotto in his mind where artefacts and monsters live.

Sphinx by Damien Hirst.

Sphinx by Damien Hirst (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

Calendar Stone by Damien Hirst.

Calendar Stone by Damien Hirst (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)
Detail from Hydra and Kali by Damien Hirst.
Detail from Hydra and Kali by Damien Hirst (Andrea Merola/AP)
Skull of a Cyclops and Skull of a Cyclops Examined by a Diver.
Skull of a Cyclops and Skull of a Cyclops (Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.)

Aspect of Katie Ishtar ¥o-landi.

Aspect of Katie Ishtar ¥o-landi (Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd)