PALEOLITHIC ART MAGAZINE
PREHISTORY OR PALEOHISTORY?
The Prehistory begins with the fabrication of the tools, approximately 5,000,000 years ago, as conventionally it is considered as the threshold of Homo the moment of the fabrication of the extrabody tool. The Prehistory is subdivided in Paleolithic, Neolithic and Mesolithic.
The Protohistory, that follows the Prehistory, conventionally embraces the age of the metals, until the invention of the writing, (as a function of the zones), between 3000 and 1500 BC, namely until the historical times, that is of the "written history".
It is characterized, in Europe, by the presence of complex social systems, but still substantially prehistoric, in parallel with the first Mediterranean civilizations.
In Italy, the study of this phase is called Palethnology. More specifically, Palethnology studies the interactions between biological and "cultural" characters of human communities that have succeeded one another in time.
I think that the word Prehistory (from the Latin prefix prae, that means anteriority), intended as temporal subdivision of the History (that conventionally begins with the writing), is to consider obsolete, in how much it means, according to old classifications, "antecedent to the history".
The reconstruction of prehistoric events, since there is no written documentation, is made on the basis of a series of deductions developed from the study of the artifacts found so far (fossils, tools, remains of dwellings and places of worship, art, and so on).
I think therefore more appropriate the term Paleohistory, until now used with reference to the history of the man beginning from the age of the metals, subdivision also this however artificial, like the greater part of the subdivisions, even if useful to the aims of a more rapid orientation in the time.
Poincaré had already suggested the hypothesis that, in scientific field, often the choice between different points of view is made only on the basis of utility, and this determines the value of science.
Therefore, it is not a question of defending a criterion of absolute truth: even scientific truth must be thought of in terms of probability: science also moves in a phenomenological field, therefore there are no absolute truths.
All that concerns man (therefore culture in the broadest sense, differentiating itself from nature) is object of history, and no one today will no longer doubt that, since its origins, man has been a creator of culture.
The misunderstanding in my opinion originates from the fact that the meaning of the word history is ambiguous, as it connotes both the totality of the facts and their knowledge, and therefore their narration. So even the Paleolithic is part of History.
If we want to individuate better which period of history it deals with, we can say that it connotes the Paleohistory of the Man.
The term Prehistory has been introduced with decision in the use in the second half of 800, when was born the discipline that studies precisely the first events of humanity, but previously, already Leonardo da Vinci had wondered about the organic origin of fossils, until the voices in that sense had become more frequent.
After the audacious observations held in a series of conferences from 1575 to 1584, by one who has been nicknamed the French Leonardo da Vinci Bernard Palissy(1580
Discours admirables des eaux et des fontaines), which procured him the accusation of heresy, already at the end of the 600s,
from many places was spoken about the age of the Deluge, trying some to put in agreement the stories of the Genesis with the first, incontrovertible scientific discoveries in the field of natural sciences, and more precisely of geology (Thomas Burnet,1681, Telluris Sacred Theoria), while
others moved in the scientific field with greater inner freedom:
Robert Hooke in England; and the Danish
Niels Steensen , the father of
modern paleonthology (with his De solido intra solidum naturaliter contento dissertationis prodromus, 1669).
In the 700s studies continued, by James Hutton,
considered the father of geology (1795, Theory of the Earth with Proofs and Illustrations), then by
William Smith, then by
Cuvier , at the beginning of the 800s, with
extraordinary Recherches sur les ossements fossiles des quadrupèdes, that led to the use of the word Diluvium
to designate superficial lands of the tertiary Era.
In this atmosphere of great research and great debates (like those that saw lined up on opposite fields Cuvier and Lamarck and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire), it inserts the voice of who will be then universally recognized like the father of the prehistory: the French Jacques Boucher de Perthes,
who fought to the Academy of Paris in order to be accepted the idea of an antediluvian man (1839, De la Création), of which already it was spoken, even if making the most improbable hypothesis, like that one of
J.-J.Scheuchzer, which in 1725 spoked about the Homo diluvii testis; in reality, it was the skeleton of a giant salamander, but it will discovered only in 1848s, at
Forbes ‘ Quarry (Gibraltar).
Then came the discovery of flint cut by antediluvian man, reported by several sources, but whose affirmation is due to the passionate work of Boucher de Perthes that culminated with the publication, starting in 1847, of the three ponderous volumes of the Antiquités celtiques et antédiluviennes (Fig.1)
Fig.1 Instruments en pierre.Haches celtiques
Early industries designed by
Boucher de Perthes.
Antiquités celtiques et antédiluviennes
While that of history to me seems undoubtedly a concept, as "concrete concept", would say Benedetto Croce, the very essence of reality, that of prehistory seems to me a pseudo-concept, which is used for the purpose of convenience, to indicate with a conventionally accepted word a set of universal contents extremely rich and complex that, in to the last analysis, are also part of History.
History is the science of Man, the study of a temporal reality, a continuous flow even if marked by past, present and future, of which we are the product, even if this reality is now temporally very remote. But our consciousness, the consciousness of being human, since the beginning, somehow gives us a mastery over this history, over history. When direct testimonies are scarce, or are not clearly intelligible (remains of the past, or even "dead" languages of which the key has not yet been discovered), a process of identification in that distant living is necessary in order to be able to infer and understand events that, being human, cannot be alien or incomprehensible to us.
It is also necessary to make an effort of imagination to understand the incomprehensible, that is, to have the freedom to formulate hypotheses even of an affective type, beyond individual specializations, which today no longer circumscribe even the "exact sciences": to understand.BR> However, the historian also has a great responsibility: that of organizing knowledge and events, which implies a choice, and choosing also means dismissing, or to feign not to see, for many reasons: in this way, it is possible that the historian, in his reconstruction, is not objective, especially when he already has in mind "what he wants to narrate, the conclusions he wants to reach".Then it is no longer a matter of research and knowledge, but of validating data already fixed at the beginning.
When we talk about the origins of Man, my impression is that it is partly so. It is uncomfortable to put back many things, by now given for acquired and untouchable, in discussion. The same history of the Science, to which we have just made reference, shows us with abundance.
The historian, in my opinion, should limit himself to observe and collect clues, without, as would say Bion , " memory and desire ", first discovering causal links in the succession of events, which certainly do not follow one another linearly, but are given by the intersection of different plans, technical, but also artistic, spiritual (science and technology allow to satisfy needs, but are also product of the mind), and, only after having collected other evidence and having inferred with his humanity, only then could formulate hypotheses reconstructive of the past.
It is therefore not essential to have written documents to reconstruct history.
History, however, is the reconstruction of the remains of the past in the frame of belonging, in which everything takes on meaning and natural, appropriate placement..
In the flow of humanity, progress has always been based on new technical inventions, which are also the work of the human spirit, directed to it, and which become the heritage of subsequent generations, the essential basis for a continuous, uninterrupted progress. Reconstructing the history of technical inventions, applied to the realm of science as well as to the realm of art, we discover, even without the need for written documents, the very precise purposes of behavior, therefore the people capable of autonomy, in a word, the humanity.
Therefore the history begins with the first Man, the genial maker of tools and art, in the Paleolithic.
It is already History, in all respects, who can deny it?
The man, that doesn't have presumably writing (at least, we haven't still identified it nor deciphered it, even if we begin to discover that, for example, existed in the caves, next to the grandiose paintings of hunting, complex lunar maps), preserves every thing in his memory: it cannot be differently, since the memory is born with the man himself, with the reflexion on himself and on his own becoming, beyond that on the external events.
A proof? The first Paleolithic calendars, discovered by Marschack. And it is known that the consciousness of time presupposes memory.
The temporality, like temporalization of thedasein, is the sine qua non of the same notion of history. The history is a construction in function of a project. Therefore, history has always existed.
Undoubtedly, the reconstruction of history, as narration of the past becoming, not archaeological research of objects, must be based on critical objective criteria regarding the"documents " it examines, making use of traditional auxiliary sciences (among which, in our case, archaeology, as well as the various criteria of dating and soil analysis and so on), of comparative sciences, such as ethnography, but also of exquisitely human criteria, related above all to the sense of what it discovers.
Even psychology can therefore make its contribution to a fuller understanding of the becoming of Man, from his beginnings.
In any case, it is opportune to base oneself on clear, distinct and objective evidence, as Plato said, that is universally valid, rather than on adamantine certainties: certainties often block any further progress of thought, and therefore of knowledge, while the evidences allow us to continue on the path of knowledge, formulating new hypotheses.
We know that error itself is the basis of all knowledge, of course, if it becomes a factor of experience: as Bion recalls, it is necessary to learn from experience,
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