Ideal of artistic beauty and physical evolution of man

The art of the lower Paleolithic, with its ideal of beauty in evolution, comes to us from the pages of the last, important book by Pietro Gaietto, the book Paleolithic anthropomorphic sculpture” (, 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 kind of beauty very different from that of today, and especially from its mortiferous homologation. This extraordinary concept of beauty, to be understood and consequently appreciated, requires the knowledge of the periodic alternation of stylistic deformation in that long period of time ranging from Homo habilis to Homo erectus and from Neanderthal to Modern Man

Gaietto reads the deformations associated with the different representative styles as "fashion" of a population, but does not fail to detect even the individual "ideas"of the artist, as happens in every post-Paleolithic era.

A singular beauty emanates from the stone sculptures of the Paleolithic, both small ones, apt to be carried and held in the palm of a hand, and those boldly made on the lofty and most inaccessible cliffs and on large megaliths. Especially two-faced sculptures say about the intense spirituality of our ancestors, which is expressed by subjects and combinations which will then be resumed by the religions of the historical times, within the richness and universality of the myth, with the constant presence of the animal, and in particular of certain animals, beside the man.

The setting of the book touches then the great problems of Palaeoethnology which includes totally spiritual culture (sculpture and religion) and material culture (lithic industries, housing etc.).

Gaietto has divided art into two basic types: the sculpture in three-dimensional art, and the engraving and the painting in two-dimensional art. With an audacious but well-documented hypothesis he considered the sculpture as the exclusive production of a hypothetical Western civilization, instead placing the origin of bidimensional art in a hypothetical two-dimensional Eastern Civilization, that glanced fast Europe in the Paleolithic..

Last but not least, a nod to the comparison set up by Gaietto among sculptures of human heads and finds of skulls arrived to us. During the whole Paleolithic, the human type is continually evolving, transforming the morphology of his skull, and consequently also its representation in sculpture. This representation constitutes, so to speak, further proof and confirmation. "The skeletal remains from the Lower Paleolithic are rare, and generally fragmented into small pieces, especially the skulls, as the burial was not in use " notes Gaietto. And cautiously adds: "The anthropomorphic sculptures are certainly greater in number, but always few to set up a convincing evolutionary line for a period of time so long.". However we can make interesting inferences: for example the fact that in the same two-faced sculpture are depicted different types of human beings makes us hypothesize that a human type not always is lived substituting another precedent, which is suddenly gone, but that often human types have coexisted together. It also opens an intriguing glimpse about the many missing links in the history of the morphological evolution of man: there are many sculptures depicting human types unknown to us, that lack in skeletal remains. Will the research by Gaietto arouse fruitful suggestions in this direction in the research of paleontologists?

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