PALEOLITHIC ART MAGAZINE

EUROPA



THE SHOUT OF HOMO ERECTUS

Pietro Gaietto

In the Gargano Cape ( Southern Italy) I have had the fortune to find, the past summer, two lithic sculptures of the Lower Paleolithic, representing human heads with the opened wide mouth, and that have been interpreted like characterization of the shout of Homo erectus.

Fig 1 THE SHOUT OF HOMO ERECTUS
The Man of the Romandato
(lateral right view)

The great Gargano Cape(Province of Foggia) was ambient particularly favorable to the human placing, from the more ancient phases of the Lower Paleolithic to the age of the metals.
The richness of the prehistoric gisements of the Province of Foggia is impressive. The neolithic villages individuated by air photographs are approximately a thousand (already 25 years ago); the paleolithic gisements are more, but in great part the finds are in secondary layer. Between these giasements, one of the more important is the mouth of the Romandato Torrent (km. 3 approximately at West of Rodi Garganico). Here there are industries on silex of all the Lower Paleolithic, both on pebble, and on flake.The most ancient implements on pebble are very fluited. There are found also paleolithic sculptures.

Here I have found the larger sculpture that I introduce (Fig. 1). This torrent from beyond 30 years irregularly is object of my researches, and I have always found it dry. During summer the mouth of the Romandato Torrent has become a parking for the cars of the bathing; while, for all the year, it has become road for tractors and motor vehicles of the local farmers. The landscape is beautiful, in how much, beyond to the sea, is great nombre of plants of figues of India, but imagine my suffering in seeing a such patrimony of paleolithic implements treaded on from the cars.
The alluvial gisements of this type, by now from decades, are neglected from the scientific research, in how much they now do not "say" nothing, even if they can give implements of quality, in any case it can be understood in how much they are 200 years that researches of tools in layers of surface are made. It is normal to researh finds " in situ ", that is gisements where, united to tools, can also be found remains of animals of which the man feed, and many other informations; and, when lucky, also human rests.
For the art is different, as the art was not in the home places (generally the layers " in situ " ), but in the places of cult. Therefore, the sculptures, and any other lithic implement, but also normal pebbles, from the cult places (not know), and from the surrounding zones, have been transported in confusion from alluviums in various places, as to the mouth of the Romandato Torrent. For this, the alluvial layers are still important for the finding of sculptures of the Lower Paleolithic.

An other important layer, where I have found the smaller sculpture (Fig. 2) is at Spinacchi, between Vico Garganico and Ischitella. From these mounts the show is equally enrapturing, in how much, beyond to the beauty of mounts, looks at an immense blue sea.
The paleolithic implements found in these altitudes are integral, as have been made, i.e. are not damaged from alluvial tumbling, in how much in the last interglacial the sea is not gone up to that level..

Description of the works
The Man of the Romandato (Fig. 1) is a silex sculpture representing a human head with opened wide mouth . He does not have the neck. Well represented the jaw, with absence of chin. It does not have forehead. Measures: Height cm. 23.5, long. cm. 29, thick cm. 18.5 (these are the maximum measures, in how much there are more tightened parts ). The mouth is wide cm. 17.0 at the inside, and cm. 7 at the outside; it is high cm. 6 on the right, and cm. 2 on the left; it is deep cm. 11. Silex. Weight kg. 11.5. At bottom of the mouth it has incrustations of molluscs, that indicate an ancient permanence in sea. Light fluited by alluvial tumbling, and by marine waves, not defiling to the aims of the destruction of the working traces. Before the curve of the skullcap it has two removals, forming a " V " enlarged, that could have been the representations of the eyes.

Fig 1 THE SHOUT OF HOMO ERECTUS
The Man of the Romandato
(semifrontal anterior view)

Fig 1 THE SHOUT OF HOMO ERECTUS
The man of the Romandato
( lateral left view)

Fig 1 THE SHOUT OF HOMO ERECTUS
The man of the Romandato
(frontal view)

The man of Spinacchi (Fig. 2) is a sculpture in silex that represents a human head with the opened wide mouth . He does not have neck. Well represented the jaw with absence of chin. It does not have forehead. Measures: height cm. 8.5, long cm. 9.0, thick cm. 5.5. Width of the mouth cm. 3.2 max and cm. 1.2 min; depth mouth cm. 3.5, height mouth cm. 2.2. Weight kg. 0.340.

Fig 2 THE SHOUT OF HOMO ERECTUS
The man of Spinacchi
(lateral left view)

Fig 2 THE SHOUT OF HOMO ERECTUS
The Man of Spinacchi
(semifrontal anterior view)

Fig 2 THE SHOUT OF HOMO ERECTUS
The Man of Spinacchi
(semifrontal right view)

An other sculpture of human head with the opened wide mouth, from me collected 25 years ago, constitutes with the previous two a principle of typology. This sculpture is the Man of Mouthiers (Charente, France) (Fig. 3). It is a sculpture in silex representing a human head with the opened wide mouth . It does not have the neck. Well represented the jaw , with absence of chin. It does not have the forehead. It has a sort of pointed hood in the nape in horizontal position. Measures: height cm. 24.0, long cm. 39.0, thick cm. 17.0 in the wider part, and cm. 7.0 in the tightened part . The mouth is proportioned to the head, and measure in width cm. 8.0 and height cm. 4.0, and depth cm. 3.0. This mouth in proportion to the head is smaller of the mouth of the others two sculptures. Weight kg. 26.300. Represented the eye from the left side, but it is a natural cavity of the stone, than however is much effective . (This sculpture of Mouthiers has been published in Presculpture and Prehistorical Sculpture by P.Gaietto, ERGA, Genoa, 1982, and also in the site of the Museum of the Origins of Man).

Fig 3 THE SHOUT OF HOMO ERECTUS
The Man of Mouthiers
(lateral left view)

Fig 3 THE SHOUT OF HOMO ERECTUS
The Man of Mouthiers
(lateral right view)

The working techniques.
These three sculptures (Fig. 1, 2, 3) are flaked with removal of large flakes with great resolution. The working technique is similar to that one used in order to shape tools in the Acheulean.
I add a short explanation for the profane . The lithic industries are the whole of the types of tools. They are uniforms in two types: implements on pebble and implements on chip. In the Gargano there are only small and large pebbles that have been used. For implements on pebble generally we agree those that are gripped, and are pointed (bifaces); while for implements on chip, we agree some thin blades of silex, that were not gripped, but were kept between two or three fingers, in order to cut or for scraping skins, meat, wood, etc, and these thin blades were obtained from pebbles.
The technique of working of the sculptures is divided in two phases. Before it is the outline, that is equivalent in the tools to gaining thin blades from a pebble; the second one is the mold preparation, in order to evidence of the particular, that it is equivalent to the uotlines in the thin blads, or in order to make pointed the tools on pebble.
The differences of working between the fabrication of the tools and the sculptures vary in every phase of the Paleolithic, according to different cultural stages; but remaining in the Acheulean (with bound together Clactonian) the differences generally are three: 1) in the blades the outlines for making these cutting is only from a side; 2) in the tools gripped the removals are from two sides; 3) in the lithich sculptures removals are from every side (high, low, right, left), even if the representations are not never all round.
It is important to hold in consideration that nearly all the lithic sculptures of the Lower and Middle Paleolithico have anthropomorphic and zoomorphic representations that are semifrontal, and that, in great part of these sculptures, the part not interested by the representation has been found made, that is the stone has been employed like naturally was
.In the Man of the Romandato (Fig. 1), in the Man of Spinacchi (Fig. 2) and in the Man of Mouthiers (Fig.3), the opened wide mouth has been obtained from cavities present in the stone (of natural origin), that the man has used, exactly like he has used in other sculptures, or in some tools, some already ready parts.

Cultural attribution
The three sculptures (Fig. 1, 2, 3) have been found in surface stations, that generally are secondary layers. Their cultural attribution is the evolued Acheulean , but it could be the evolued Clactonian ,or also the evolued and jointly Acheulean - Clactonian.But it is well to clear these uncertainties.
I add a short explanation for the profane : the denomination of the cultural periods of the Paleolithic refers to the discoveries of the first tools from which was born the typology. The Acheulean term was created in 1873 by G. de Mortillet, and derives from the discoveries of amigdales (bifaces) at Saint-Acheul in ancient alluviums of the Valley of the Somme (Northern France); while the Clactonian is constituted from tools on flake(without amigdales) discovered in gisements at Clacton-on-Sea, County of Essex (England).
Since the cultural attribution of the sculptures, is based on the cultural attribution of the tools, that have been mainly studied, and with which they have in common the working technique, I begin the description from the Acheulean and the amigdale
The amigdales are pointed stone tools that are gripped, and are multipurpose, that is useful in order to hit an adversary, but also in order to cut or to scrape. The name amigdala (the first discoveries in scientific key go back to the end of the ' 700s) comes from the shape, similar to an almond.
In the second the '900s, half of the amigdales has assumed the name of " bifaces ", as in tip they are cutting from the two sides. The Clactonian, instead, is constituted from an industry on flake. These tools served for domestic uses, and not for the hunting or the war, for which they were used lances of wood, of whichone has been found. The industries on pebble seem have African origin, while the industries on flake seem have Asian origin.
In the Gargano the two typologies (Acheulean and Clactonian) are found together.
The union of two different people, with just a own cultural patrimony, is at the origin of a doubling of cultural patrimony.
Both the Acheulean, and the Clactonian in the Gargano had long duration, since the more ancient implements are fluitated, and the most recent less, and this is due to the action of the waves of the sea in the interglacial periods. For this, the two sculptures (Fig. 1 and 2) can be acheulean, clactonian or acheulean-clactonian. However, my cultural attribution is based also on affinity with others finds of several zones of Europe. That is, these sculptures do not have a cultural attribution for typology, like others known, in how much are two heads with opened wide mouth of type up to now disowned . Their attribution is based on the quality of the working technique, and on the quality of the type of representation, better to that one of the previous periods, but inferior to that one to the successive periods.
The dating is to approximately 350,000 years ago. (This on the base of researches on the industries of the Gargano published in Guida della preistoria italiana , edited by A.M. Radmilli, Sansoni, Florence, 1975).

Interpretation of the physical aspect.
In my opinion the three sculptures (Fig. 1, 2, 3) are representation of the head of Homo erectus with the opened wide mouth, and represent the shout of Homo erectus. Since who is interested of art generally is not interested of paleoanthropology, I add a short description of Homo Erectus. During all the 900s the finds of Homo erectus are constituted from parts of skulls, like jaws, skullcaps, parietals, etc, and no one integral skull; rare are the finds of others parts of the skeleton. These finds have old denominations: Euranthropus, Sinanthropus, Atlanthropus. The complete shape of these skulls is only known from reconstructions made from the paleoanthropologists. However, the reader can be documented on the paleoanthropology books.
To me Homo erectus is still a ghost for science. Its identity can be placed between Homo habilis and the Neanderthalians. It is also true that there are Pre-sapiens and Pre-neanderthalians, but their aspect is already modern. These three sculptures have been attributed as characterizations of Homo erectus for the shape of the jaw with absence of chin, and for the absence of forehead, that correspond to the skeletal remains found of Euranthropus, Sinanthropus, Atlanthropus, but also to all the others components of the working technique, giving a chronological positioning, as happens in the typology of the tools.

Cult of the defunct connected to the only skull.
The remains of Homo erectus are nearly all parts of skulls, as well that, authoritative researchers like A.C.Blanc, S.Sergi, H.V.Vallois and others, in the first half of the ' 900s, have published their studies on a cult of the defunct in the Lower Paleolithic, connected to the conservation of the skull, that perseveres in the ethnography of Homo sapiens sapiens.

In the ethnography, in fact, we find a cult connected to the skull, with or without jaw, and a cult connected to the single jaw of the defunct . These skulls, or parts of skull, the women carry them nearby: the jaw, or more jaws, hung to the neck; the skull hung to the back. These same lithic sculptures that represent heads without neck, re-enter in the ideological dimension of the skull, that is of the value of the head.

Interpretation of the style.
.For how much rough can be the outline of the three sculptures, to which the representation style is not stranger, the content is obvious. Both the Man of the Romandato (Fig. 1), and the Man of Spinacchi (Fig. 2), and the Man of Mouthiers (Fig. 3) totally represent the shout of Homo erectus
.All the sculptures, like every other type of artistic application of the world, and of every time, have a style. That is, a human head can be represented in various, in thousand various ways, according to the style of every people, but it is always understood that it is a human head .
This is the style, that is the language of the art.
These three sculptures, than to the profane can appear hardly work of art , have already a style.
The styles of these three sculptures, the profane could consider them at the origin of the style, instead the style existed already with the more ancient sculptures.
Memory that the term " style " today has many meant, as the term " art " (recently in New York many artists has gathered in order to find a new name to the word " art ", who do not likes more, but they was not able ).
I adopt the word " style ", why still I was not engaged to invent an other name, however, it does not seem to me a so important problem .
The styles of the three sculptures are similar, but different, also why probably they are not contemporary. Admitted that their cultural attribution is databile to 350,000 years ago, with the oscillations that the scientific appraisal allows, it could be, between one and the other, also 10,000 years of difference, that is the three sculptures could have been made in the arc of 30,000 years, if not of more (that, always if the datings of the geologists, that I use, are right).
Making a highly summarized analysis of the styles, that diversify the three sculptures, we find that the mouth of the Man of the Romandato (Fig. 1) is exaggeratedly wide and deformed, and is connected to a style of caricatural- expressionist type, while the others parts of the head are relatively proportionned.
The Man of Spinacchi (fig. 2) is represented in a style realistic for the jaw without chin, but invented for the face, represented laterally.
The Man of Mouthiers (Fig. 3) is represented in a realistic style, with strong expression.

Historical and etnographic parallelisms. Sculptures of human heads with the open mouth are present in the ancient historical civilizations, and generally they are " masks ". Other " masks " with the open mouth are present in the wood sculpture of equatorial planking of Africa. The types more frequent of these " masks " are mixed representations of men and animals, that I have defined " humanized animals ".
These representations, however, are not representations of a true " shout ".

The roar of the lion. .
In the post-paleolithic zoomorphic art (sculpture, bas-reliefs, paintings) is most frequent, between the animals, the lion to having the opened wide mouth. This is found in the antiquity near the Sumerians, the Egiptians, the Greeks, the Romans, etc. .
The opened wide mouth of the lion represents the roar, threatening, and fear for the man. The representation of a roaring lion has always had a strong impact on the observer, as it has still today. The roar of the lion can be made equal to the shout of victory for the man, at least in the artistic representation. This shout frequently looks at in the moovies, and in the photographies of the sport, when the player puts the ball in the net, or gains the race..
However an identification man-lion in the shout and in the roar can be held in account for a study on the rituals of cult of the Acheulean.

The shout of the man.
The men shout in many different circumstances, and various way. One of these is the shout used in battle. .
Is written history, that the Ancient Romans have used mercenaries of the today Liguria in order to go to fight against people of today Switzerland, then constituted from Liguria tribes. To the beginning of the battle, the soldiers from Liguria noticed that the adversaries had the same as they " shout of combat ", and they stopped.

Conclusion. Every shout has his own meaning. The shout of combat must scare the adversary. The shout of victory must join the group. The shout of desperation can be personal or collective, as the two previous shouts.
The representation in the sculpture of the Lower Paleolitico of a human head with opened wide mouth represents a shout; I cannot believe that it can represent a yawn, or a song.

The opened wide mouth is also a movement expression. If we consider the parietal zoomorphic paintings of the caves of the Upper Paleolithic, we find horses, cows, tauruses, bisons, etc, in two different attitudes. One of these attitudes is the movement (animals in race), the other is of animals not in motion, seeming dead , and they are often represented with legs towards the high, as rambling in the space. These representations of alive animals (in motion), and of dead animals , correspond to ages differnt between them, and also to meanings different.
The same parallelism is worth also between the human heads sculptures with the opened wide mouth, and those with the mouth closed (or absent) of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic.
New discoveries of sculptures of this type, and the greater historical and etnographic parallelisms will be able to give ulterior clarifications.
My opinions, and those of persons with which I have analyzed these three sculptures with the opened wide mouth, are agree in seeing the characterization of a shout, that is the shout of the man who has created to them:
THE SHOUT OF HOMO ERECTUS.


To the Index

HOME PAGE

Copyrightę2000-2002 by Paleolithic Art Magazine, all rights reserved.