Ideal of artistic beauty and physical evolution of man

The art of the lower Paleolithic, with its ideal of beauty in evolution, meets us from the pages of the last, important work by Pietro Gaietto, the book  Anthropomorphic Paleolithic Sculpture-From Homo habilis to Homo erectus and from Neanderthal man to Modern man ” (, part fourth of Shapes in Evolution series, which includes his most recent books (Phylogenesis of Beauty; Intelligent cells and their inventions; Erotism and religion).

It is a type of beauty very different from our current one, and especially from its deadly homologation. This extraordinary concept of beauty, in order to be understood and consequently appreciated, needs the knowledge of the periodic alternation of stylistic deformations in that very long period of time that goes from Homo habilis to Homo erectus and from Neanderthal Man to Modern Man.

Gaietto reads the deformations of the several representative styles as "fashion" of a population, but do not miss to notice also the individual "ideas" of the artist, as it happens in every post-Paleolithic age.

It is not only this singular beauty to emanate from the Paleolithic lithic sculptures , both from those of small dimensions, apt to be carried and held in the hand palm, and from those audaciously realized on the high and impervious cliffs and on the great megaliths Especially the bicephalic sculptures speak to us about the intense spirituality of our ancestors, expressed with subjects and couplings that will be later taken up by the religions of historical times, within the richness and universality of myths, with the constant presence next to man of the animal, and in particular of specific animals.

The formulation of the book touches then the great problems of the Palethnology that includes totally the spiritual culture (sculpture and religion) and the material one (lithic industries, dwellings etc).

Gaietto has subdivided the art in two fundamental types: the sculpture in three-dimensional art, and the engraving and the painting in two-dimensional art. With a bold but well documented hypothesis he has considered the sculpture as exclusive production of a hypothetical Western Civilization, placing instead the origin of the bidimensional art in a hypothetical Eastern Civilization, that has fast crossed Europe during the Paleolithic.

Finally, but not less important, a mention to the comparison established by Gaietto between sculptures of human heads and finds of skulls which arrived to us. During the whole Paleolithic, the human type evolves continuously, transforming the own skull morphologically, and consequently also the representation in sculpture of it, that constitutes, so to say, a further evidence and confirmation of it. "The skeletal findings in the lower Paleolithic are rare, fragmentary and generally in small pieces, in particular the skulls, in how much the burial was not in use", Gaietto remarks. And cautiously adds: "anthropomorphic sculptures are in number certainly greater, but always few in order to set up a persuasive evolutionary line for a period of time so long ". However, interesting deductions can be made: as example, the fact that in a same bicephalic sculpture are represented different human types let us hypothesize that not always a human type has lived substituting itself to an other previous, that has suddenly disappeared, but that often human types have cohabited together. Besides it is opened an intriguing glimmer on the so many missing links in the history of the morphologic evolution of man: many sculptures represent human types to us unknown, i. e. of which skeletal finds are lacking. Will the research by Gaietto succeed to arouse fruitful suggestions also in this direction for the research in the Paleontology?

Licia Filingeri (Editor)
Genova, february 2012


Copyright©2000-2012 by Paleolithic Art Magazine, all rights reserved.

Copyright©2000-2012 by Paleolithic Art Magazine, all right