PALEOLITHIC ART MAGAZINE

LIGURIA



THE MUSEUM OF THE ORIGINS OF MAN
GENOVA (ITALY)

Pietro Gaietto



The museums in the world are many, and are in continuous increase.
Museums that regard exclusively the origins of the man do not exist.
The finds exhibited in the museums that regard the origins, that is the Paleolithic, generally are skeletal finds, in the museums of natural science; or skeletal finds, also burials with equipments, lithic tools, and art of Upper Paleolithic in the archaeological museums. Today , in the museums that not have the originals. very often are showed casts of skeletons, tools and paleolithic sculpture

The Museum of the Origins of Man (Genoa, Italy) exhibits exclusively lithica sculpture of the Paleolithic, mostly found in Liguria, but also finds of important paleolithic layers of surface of Italy and western Europe. From May, 2000 ,there is in the web the site of
MUSEUM OF THE ORIGINS OF MAN
The site shows the photographies of a part of the sculptures that are in the museum, attributed to the Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic, and also photographies of finds of other museums and collections, referred not only to the paleolithic, prehistorical , historical and ethnografic art, but also to the funeral equipments, and skeletal finds of the men of every Paleolithic phase . The insertion in the site of this photographic material, not of the Museum of the Origins of Man, found in every part of the world, in connection with the lithic sculptures of Liguria and Europe, is aimed to the INTERPRETATION of the same sculptures, from the origins of the Lower Paleolithic to the end of the Upper Paleolithic, that is from some million years B.C, until approximately 12,000 years B.C.

Before analyzing the necessity of interpretation of the paleolithic art, we analyze desire of the greater part of the visitors of the art museums. The interests of the visitors of the art museums are multiple, and everyone has own codes of reading, that is of appreciation. The museums of contemporary art (with works of Pablo Picasso, Mondrian, of Lucio Fontana, etc), for example, do not interest all. The museums of ancient art, to the contrary, have public much numerous. Nearly the totality of the persons who visit the museums of ancient art are looking for the " beautiful ", that isthey go for having a " pleasure " connexed to the aesthetic . This " pleasure " inmore often connexed to the paintings, that are colored, than to the sculpture. For example, the capitals of the Romanic churches, that have figures carved richest of historical informations, but are not " beautiful ", create very little interest in the greater part of the people.
The lithic sculpture of the Paleolithic is not " beautiful ". The lithic tools of the Paleolithic are not " beautiful ". The skeletal finds of the men of the Paleolithic are not " beautiful ". These finds are " interesting " for the discoverers, the scholars, and the amateurs, in how much they have meaning in the study of the origins and the evolution of the Man Who wants to approach to the art of all the Paleolithic, therefore, does not have to try aesthetic values, but those values that constitute the art work, through parallelisms with works of art of the successive times of which we know the meaning, even if the interpretation do no stop here. The speech on the origins is of difficult solution, as, even if the Paleoanthropologists would made the datation of the Man ten million years ago , no change to the aims of the evolution of the art . For scientific convention is considered Homo the one who has begun to manufacture the first lithic tools, and, I adds, also to produce the first sculpture; and before such activities he was considered " beast " , also if a " noble beast ", as" our anestor". They will be the men of the future to establish from how many million years Homo is truly Homo, however, and in any case, the Lower Paleolithic. according to the current datings, occupies 99.99 % of life of the humanity.

When I have founded the Museum of the Origins of the Man, I have adopted the word " origins ", but I think that the " origins " will not be never found. Today, in my opinon, must be observed exclusively the evolution, in fact, if the datings of the first phases of the Lower Paleolithic are right, we find that, for one, or for several million years, man has produced always the same tools, that is with most insufficient evolution (Pebble culture). Also the sculptures of the same cultural phase are always the same, that is with most insufficient evolution.
In the lithic tools of the Pebble Culture, the evolution from the most ancient types to those most recent ones, is understood only from the scholars specialized in that research and little others, while from people, but also from students of other disciplines, they do not come seen differences, or they seem quite simple pebbles flaked. However, while on the Pebble Culture industries (tools) exist an immensest territorial and intercontinental documentation, on the art (sculptures) of the Pebble Culture, the finds are enough rare, and this, not because they are few, but because it exists a scarcity of researchers, interested in the origins of art.
The interpretation of the tools (in the last two centuries) has been easier than the interpretation of the paleolithic sculpture, for two reasons: 1░) why the tools have been found quantitatively million of times more than the art; 2░) why of the tools it has been possible to prove the function, that is, what type was useful in order to cut the skin and the meats of the killed animals, therefore anticipating metallic knife; the other type was useful for scraping the skins in order to make dresses or tents for living, etc. The interpretation of the art must recur to various methods. 1░) the technique of fabrication of a sculpture is more complex of the technique employed in order to make tools, but this goes in secondary importance, in how much the analysis is on the obtained shape. 2░) Any shape or type of sculpture, and during the Paleolithic they are many, for being interpreted must make reference to parallelisms with post-paleolithic, generally prehistorical, historical and ethnographic sculptures . As example, two-faced paleolithic sculptures of human heads must have parallelisms with two-faced sculptures of human heads, found in the history and the ethnography of all the continents, except perhaps Australia.
Beginning from Europe, we must make parallelisms with the sculptures representing two-faced Janus, who from time to time, near every people and in every time, has been object of different cults, but however generally considered from the scholars of religions a omniscient, all-seeing God . Consequently, the two-faced anthropomorhic sculptures, for deduction, represent a " God ".

The typology of the sculptures is immense, and in increase in the more recent phases of the Paleolithic. Some types are rare and the other most frequent ones. The typology changes in the different ages of the Paleolithic, as from rough shapes shapes more elaborated are reached , also for the invention of new technics of working.
The typology comprises the subjects of cult, that is sculptures of one human head, or of one animal head; heads with bust, both human or of animals; human two-faced and three-faced heads; the union of human heads with heads of animals; humanized animals, etc.
Always connected to the typology are the styles. The style is the language of the art. An "infinite " range of styles exists , where some, but not all, are to the opposite limits one of the other, as an example, they can have a strong realism, and this is opposed in other sculptures (of other periods or other zones) to a lengthening of the head with abolition of the eyes, with a generic orbital zone, etc.
Every style is different in the time and by every population. En effect, if we examine 100 different characterizations of human head, in 100 different primitives populations everywhere in the world, we find that they are almost all one different from the other, i.e. of different style. If we consider the words " human head " in the language spoken about one hundred different populations, we find that they are nearly all one different from the other. Stylistic language is to say the same thing in various way.

An other member of the art, that she re-enters in the typology, is the men represented in sculpture, that they are more numerous than those classified in the reperti skeletal that we know. As an example, a two-faced sculpture of human head, if it represents two arcaici neanderthaliani, is various, and is more ancient than a two-faced sculpture of human head that represents the union of two Homo sapiens sapiens. If then a two-faced sculpture represents joined a head of Homo sapiens neanderthalensis to one of Homo sapiens sapiens, it can be asserted that the two human types lived together.
The anthropomorphic method of dating I have invented 40 years ago, and allows to give a chronological order to the paleolithic anthropomorhic sculptures, making reference to the shape of the skulls of the paleolithic men, found and chronologically ordered by the paleoanthropologists .

Also the " composition " of the sculptures re-enters in the typology. As an example, in the two-faced human heads sculptures , that is two human heads joined for a nape, the heads can be one larger of the other, or oriented with look in more directions, not only with look in opposite direction, but with look up or down, and consequently with different meanings, analyzed in the site of the Museum of the Origins of Man .

Other factor of not secondary importance, in the interpretation of the paleolithic lithic sculptures, is the first approach of the profane with these. A sculpture and some lithic tools exposed in the display window of a museum, and with didascalia, are accepted tacitly like such, and this from people of medium culture. Experiments made with the same objects in occasional encounters (" Watch what I have found !"), show that the tools for the greater part of people are simple stones.
The paleolithic lithic tools, although they have been acquired from the science more than the lithic sculptures, are not still totally understood; however, for being understood, we must understand the use . They go held in hand, turned over in order to appreciate the cutting or scraping parts, and in order to understand how the man of the Paleolithic has made them .
For the paleolithic lithic sculpture it's the same as for the tools, at least for the small sculptures that can stay in the palm of the hand . These sculptures are generally obtained from flakes or pebbles, and are different in every phase of the Paleolithic, and, in the greater part, the image of the head is in semifrontal sight.
When the sculptures are two-faced, one of the two heads can be with various shape, that is not semifrontal, but frontal, that is from the profile of the head, to the face. The observer of the sculpture must try the just point of vision, or, as said today, the just point of " reading ". The point of " reading " of the paleolithic lithic sculpture is similar to the " reading " of the lithic tool, where must be understood the cutting part , and therefore its original use.
The photographies of the sculptures in the site of the Museum of the Origins of Man have been made all in the just point of " reading ". Where there are more points of " reading ", in how much the sculpture has more images, we made more photographies. Who wants to approach himself to the paleolithic sculpture, can usefully follow these concepts .
A sculpture of the Lower or Middle Paleolithic is very different from a historical sculpture (Greek or Roman). The historical sculptures, not in bas-relief, but those in all round, when photographed are similar to the photographed living people; that is, in photography one part is looked at, and the other is imagined. So, in the photography of the historical sculpture all round, a point of " obliged reading " does not exist. To the contrary, in the sculpture of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic, the photography must center the point of " reading ", otherwise the meaning changes , whithout possibility to understanding. Today we can made more, with a videocam the paleolithic sculpture can be captured around , like being forehead to the same sculpture, where it is found immediately the point of " reading ".

The Museum of the Origins of the Man is a virtual museum. The sculptures of the Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic, here introduced, belong to private collections in Genoa, and are visitable for appointement..
All the post-paleolitic material, introduced in the site, has the function to guide the visitor to the interpretation of the paleolithic sculptures with parallelisms. This material is indicative of a surveying method, in how much it is very little thing, regarding how much it can be found in the historical civilizations and the ethnography.
These are the purposes of the museum:
1) Information about the Paleolithic sculpture of the collections of Genova, for the promotion of the study of the origins of the art.
2) Promotion of the study of the anthropomorphic and zoomorphic menhir of the Paleolithic..
3) Promoteion of the study of the rock anthropomorhic sculpture of the Paleolithic.
4) Promotion of the study of different parallels artistic civilizations in the Paleolithic, and in particular in the Upper Paleolithic, where, as an example, when in France or Spain the man painted animals in cave , in Liguria they carved human heads on rock, or in Britain they made antropomorphic menhir.
5) Promotion of the anthropological research also through the anthropomorhic sculptures, that can integrate the skeletal finds scarcity of in some periods of the Paleolithic.
6) Promotion of the study of the religions of the Paleolithic through sculpture.
7) Promotion in anthropology of the study of the spirituality, at par of the study of the physical aspect of the man.

Pietro Gaietto
Director of the Museum of the Origins of Man (Genova, Italy)



To the Index

HOME PAGE

Copyrightę2000-2002 by Paleolithic Art Magazine, all rights reserved