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[Orgmode] Re: OT Re: unicorn

From: Ross A. Laird
Subject: [Orgmode] Re: OT Re: unicorn
Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2009 12:56:14 -0800
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.0.90 (gnu/linux)

Carsten Dominik <address@hidden> writes:

> On Feb 28, 2009, at 7:37 PM, Ross A. Laird wrote:
>> Carsten Dominik <address@hidden> writes:
>>> Hi Ross,
>>> great post, thank you very much!
>>> You have made me curious:  What argumentation is used to estimate
>>> the age of Myth at 70000 years.  I can't be the fossile record,
>>> I guess :-)  So I am wondering how something like this is figured
>>> out.
>>> If you feel like putting background stuff about unicorns into the
>>> FAQ, be my guest.
>>> - Carsten
>> Hi Carsten;
>> Thanks for the feedback -- and actually, I was wondering if someone
>> might ask about the 70,000 years. Until recently, the accepted date
>> for
>> the appearance of human culture -- as evidenced by complex tools and
>> apparent symbolic thinking -- was somewhere around thirty or forty
>> thousand years ago (the so-called Willendorf Venus figures, for
>> example). But this threshold has now doubled back -- to at least
>> seventy
>> thousand before the present. Archaeologists working at the Blombos
>> cave
>> in South Africa have found, among other surprises, finely worked
>> weapons
>> decorated with symbolic engravings -- within a strata older than
>> seventy
>> thousand years.
>> So, it seems that humans were thinking in terms of symbols at least
>> 70,000 years ago. And symbols always derive from myths (this is the
>> most
>> basic rule of myth: symbols indicate myths). So, myths are at least
>> 70,000 years old. By the way, this is not the same as the emergence of
>> individuality, which is a related but not identical development.
>> Individuality seems to have taken quite a bit longer: it seems to
>> first
>> appear with the ancient Egyptians around 3000 BCE. A statue of the
>> pharaoh Khafre (the owner of the second-largest pyramid at Giza) is
>> the
>> world's oldest surviving individualized work of art. This statue is
>> now
>> in room 42 of the Cairo Museum. So indeed, the answer to life, the
>> universe, and everything is 42! (I devoted quite a bit of time to
>> Khafre
>> in my book on myth; he was a very interesting character who may be the
>> face on the sphinx; and the sphinx, of course, is of the same
>> mythological family as the unicorn).
> Hi Ross,
> I can see how symbols can be related to Myth.  But I am wondering
> if the definition of individualism is not very restrictive.
> I believe I have read somewhere that decoration or jewelry, personal
> ornaments, are a way to detect individuality, and I surely would have
> thought that this must pre-date work of art that depicts an
> individual - which I think is what you are referring to with Kafre,
> I have seen pictures of his face fragment - beautiful (is that in
> room 42 as well?)

The face fragment that most people have seen (the one that's in the
Metropolitan Museum in New York), is of Queen Tiye
(http://rosslaird.info/queen). I'm not aware of any face fragments of
Khafre -- but they may exist. The room 42 statue is the only one still
intact from a series that once lined the collonade of the Valley temple.
The rest were smashed, and they are still finding fragments from those
(so, perhaps there is a face fragment after all). The room 42 statue
survived because it was tossed into a well (this all happened during a
war, of course).

The Khafre statue is interesting because -- unlike all previous art --
it clearly represents an actual person. All previous art is more
archetypal: a figure of a man represents all men, etc. So, before the
age of Khafre no one seems to have thought to make art that was specific
enough to be identifiable as one individual. They could have done so,
but for some reason did not. All the art is very vague and impersonal.
So, this does not mean that individuality did not exist, but it must
certainly have had a different relationship to art than what we have

It's perhaps the biggest question of archaeo-psychology: when did the
individual mind develop? Somewhere between 2000,000 BCE and 3000 BCE;
that's about as close as we can get. There's a relationship with symbols
involved with this evolution, but no one knows how it works. All very



> Cheers
> - Carsten
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Ross A. Laird, PhD

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