PALEOLITHIC ART MAGAZINE
THE HYBRID AS SYMBOL OF THE TRANSFORMATION
To my father Gioachino
Xenophanes of Kolophon (565-470 B.C)
" Not all the things since the beginnings the gods did not reveal to the men
but with the time trying they go finding the best. "
Metamorphoses, book I
"... the goddess said: " Going via away from the temple ,
veil your head, come undone your vestments
and behind your back throw"the boneses of the great mother ".
Along it was their dismay...
But suddenly the son of Promètheus cheers up his spouse
with these quiet words: " Or I am mistaken or just
is the oracle and it induces not us in sacrilege.
The great mother is the earth; as boneses I think she means
the stones of her body: these we must cast behind".
...obeying, stones behind they launch on their steps.
And the stones (who would believe it if did not attest the ancient time to it?)
began to lose their rigid hardness,
to supply little little into softness and, softened, taking shape.
as if they wAges rough-hewn
in the marble, in all similar to just begun statues.
Then, when they grew and more ductile made theyr nature,
it was possible in these to see human shapes,
still imperfect, as if they wAges sketched
in the marble, in all similar to statues as soon as begun...
And in short time, for wanting of the gods, the stones
which the hand of the man threw assumed the aspect of men,
while from the launch of the woman the woman renewed. "
Hybrid and places of the hybrid
Iconography of the hybrid
The wonderful narrations
The most ancient evidences in sculpture
HYBRID AND PLACES OF THE HYBRID
The topic of the transformation, in the positive and in he negative, crosses all the history of the becoming human.
From a transformation, exactly, creation and re-creation of the man happen, as the passage between the following Ages, as attested by the splendid verses of the Metamorphoses of Ovid, in the episode of Deucalion and Pyrrha, in which it speaks about deluge (the Greeks mentioned three following destructions) and stones, skeleton of the Mother Earth.
Without transformation, it cannot be development.
The history, is also, as Vico said, understood with its repeating itself, is fruit of continuous transformations, which often are materialized in symbols, vehicle of the same transformation.
Often the content of such symbols is dark to those same people that make appeal to them, conveying phylogenetic and ontogenetic contents that have become, or have always been, unconscious.
Symbol derives from the Greek verb sùmbolon, that means to interlace, stirring together, as it happens in meeting of waters, the obvious and the hidden, and the hidden can be caught up only through that it is looked at, therefore the meant and its expression, the symbol, exactly.
Every symbol possesses two or more meant.
It belongs to the mental order, and to the semantic one, even if it is not of pertinence of the rational neither of the language, but rather of the perceptive sensorial sphere, the first present in the human being.
The hybrid (from the Latin hybrida, crossing between races or different social conditions) is an arbitrary juxtaposition of various elements, animate and/or inanimate.
A hybrid marks always a passage, from a given shape, existing in nature, to an other, that " contaminates " the first, leaving from the same imaginary of the man.
The dream is one of the first privileged places of the hybrid.
Meaningfully, near the Egyptians, dream meant to be awake, but also to wake up, that is to approach to another truth.
In the 100 A.D., in the Insinger Papyrus, it is written: " The God has created the dreams in order to indicate the way to which sleeps, the eyes of which are in the dark " (obvious connection with the practical of the incubatio, from the Latin incubare, that means to sleep in a place, tied to the cult of the ctonians gods).
The dream offers contaminations coming directly from the unconscious, masked shapes in which the censorship practices, with which the director of scene of the great theatre of the dream camouflages his personages in order to concur they to come into the limelight.
Substitutions and contaminations are to the service of the condensation, that is one of the first mechanisms of the dream identified one hundred years ago by Sigmund Freud (The Interpretation of the dreams , 1900).
The affect that invests the symbol is removed, and who makes use of the symbol nearly always ignores the more hidden meant of it .
However we can assume that, in origin, the symbol flowed out, just like a spring of water from which flows a source, from the ideas and the deeper, even though unconscious interests, of the man, those regarding himself, above all like corporeity, and own the more straits relatives, the birth, the sexuality and the death.
It is matter of unconscious, in how much the basic emotional movement is, for definition, undifferentiated, without direction, just a movement of an energy that presses in order to exit in thousands, appropriate, free rivulets.
Therefore, protect from the repression, the human mind of our ancestors put in relationship two or more ideas, creating the symbol, expressed in the representative language of the art. We discover today already from the beginnings the same, wherever the Paleolithic man has gone and lived, like then has always happened, also in reference to times, spaces and different cultural families.
Already Freud thought that initially there was a conceptual and linguistic identity with regard to that today is connected symbolically.
Sure, to the beginning, the man must have grasped with simplifying and deprived of superstructures immediacy the " likenesses " between two objects/ideas, moreover useful operation to the aim of a fast assimilation of new experiences, likenesses that then could be interlaced together from the symbol.
ICONOGRAPHY OF THE HYBRID
The iconography of the " wonderful ", of the monstrum like wonder, manifestation of something of extraordinary, often of divine, that can provoke both reverent disay and horror, in particular of the being half man and half animal, finds a fertile land in the imaginary of the man: from the first inhabitants of the caves until the inhabitants of the orbiting stations of our millennium, the world of the movies, video, comic strips, video games and toys swarms of hybrid beings, currently in great part inspired to the iconography of the past times, enriched from cybernetics inventions and from the suggestions of the same scientific experimentation.
Recently, Christopher Chippindale, of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology of Cambridge University, with Paul Tacon of the Australian Museum in Sydney, has remembered the antiquity of such representations in painting, of which the, Chauvet Cave is a rich example in France, dated 30,000 years ago.
On purpose of the meant of these hybrid figures, G.H.Luquet postulated two interpretations, that are not excluded each other: " beings conceived like having a nature in the same time animal and human, that is divinities, or men covered of an animal camouflage correspondent to some ceremonial practices that, as the ethnographic parallelisms say to us, had according to every likelihood a magical-religious character " (Luquet, 1926).
To wear a mask, like as an example in a recording of the Madeleine, pebble with a male figure and on the head a mask very well drawn, to magical scope, according to Luquet, could have contribute to the belief in hybrid divine beings, with supernatural powers like postulated for the shamans.
Really, the representation of the hybrids half man and half animal, most frequent in historical age, has beginning very previously to the Magdalenian representations in cave.
It is probable that the meant one of these contaminations goes led back to the ritual use of the representation, and beginning from such origin then finds in all the times and all the cultures.
Such type of representation, as we will see, initially is well represented from the sculpture in stone of the lower Paleolithc, " bones of the mother Earth ", activated from the human creativity nourished from the energy of the unconscious. Subsequently, recordings and paintings in cave plentifully testify the existence of these contaminations.
A being half man and half animal leads back to an idea of supernatural, wants for the dimensions, wants for the absolutely unusual aspect.
It must however distinguish that, generally, the hybrid with religious character has positive characters, differently from what happens for the frightful myth.
In the classic mythology, the progeny of Echydna, monstrous woman with the lower part of the body like a snake, and Thypheus, constitutes a rich repertoire of monsters, beginning from Sphinx, face of woman or man on lion body, continuing then with the Harpies, the Hydra of Lerna, the Chimera, Ladon and the Nemean Lion.
The mythical guardians of the garden of the Hesperides, the Gorgons, (Fig.1) had on the head snakes, tusks of wild boar going out from the lips, brazen hands and golden wings.
Fig.1 Head of Gorgon, plate in golden bronze of the II century A.D., coming from the traian Dacia (Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa)
The Centaurs, whose tradition we can find again in the center-meridional Europe, beyond that in Africa and the south-west of Asia, were sons of Issione and Nephele. On a horse body the trunk was grafted, the arms and the head were human. They were considered bad for their duplicity, like also the Sirens.
The Satyrs had human face and goat ears, horns, tail and legs: the Sylens, legs and tail of horse.
The Sirens, perhaps sisters of the Muses Terpsichore or Melpomene, greatly present in the Greek mythology, but known in France, Spain, Italy and Northern Africa , had body of rapax bird, human face, feminine breasts (see the detail with the Sirens of Fountain of Neptune of Piazza Navona, Rome.
Equally Triton introduced hybrid figure, with human upper part and that lower of fish (see Fontana del Tritone,1612-13, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, in Piazza Barberini, Rome).
The Cretan Minotaur had Taurus head on body of man.
The hybrids, as said, are well represented also in the painting and recording in cave.
In the Paleolithc, magdalenian culture, numerous zooanthropomorphic figures are been found in cave, like the so-called Sorcerer at Les Trois Frères and the man -as-ox of Gabillou (Fig.2)
Fig.2 Cave of Gabillou (Dordogne, France) Man -as-ox. Beginning of the Magdalenian
or the man with the head of bird at Lascaux, that well represent the close connection, probably on religious grounds, between the man and the animal.
Similarly, in the Bovidian period (ancient pastoral phase of the rock art of the Sahara, at the age with humid climate and adapted to sheep-rearing, 4000-3000 B.C), the rock paintings in the caves of the Tassili offers many exemplars of man-animals, recorded and painted (Fig.3),
Fig.3 Hunter with axe (rock painting, Sahara, Tassili, Timenzouzine, Bovidian period, Neolithic, 4000-3000 B.C)
although less numerous than those of the immediately previous period (the Bubalian, or of the Hunters, 6000-4000 B.C.), in which anthropozoomorphic images and scenes of coupling man-animal are frequent.
Making a great leap in ahead in the time, we cannot keep silent about the strange creatures who are in the Gryllos (zooanthropomorphic composite recordings or with vegetable elements, taking their name from a text of Plinius the Old, telling about a caricature of someone called Gryllos, made by an Egyptian artist).
We remember a scythe Gryllo (Fig.4)
Fig.4 Scythe Gryllo made from more heads joined together of the V century B.C
and an Iranian Gryllo of the IV century B.C (Fig 5)
Fig.5 Iranian Gryllo, union of human and animals heads
from which sure drew inspiration the miniaturists, that painted monsters in the sacred books and the medieval psalteriums, like those of the Heures di Thérouanne, end of XIII century, or the fantastic beings of the Psalterium of Ormesby (beginnings XIV century), or of the Breviaria of the XV century .
Many capitals of the Romanesque period , sure resuming part of such iconography, represent hybrid and fabulous beings (Fig.6)
Fig.6 Capital with sirenes of the french Cathedral of Sainte Eulalie d'Elne, XI century
In the gothic period, gutters and capitals that enrich the elaborated facades of the cathedrals, often represent monstrous or zooanthropomorphic beings (Fig.7 and Fig.8)
Fig.7 Gutter of the Belgian Cathedral of Saint-Michel. Brussels, XV century
Fig.8 Gutter with man-bird of the Belgian church of St Pierre di Louvain (1425)
Sure of direct derivation from this ancient iconographic tradition, we find in painting, during the flemish Renaissance, beside that one of the Hay and the other of the Temptations, the very famous Triptic of the Delights by Jeronimus Bosch, richest of hybrid and fanciful beings.
We could continue until the ours days...
We come back now to the hybrids with religious character.
They had positive character generally.
Between the gods of the mythology, Pan, son of Hermes and the Driope nymph, had horns and the feet of goat.
Eros was represented like jung man winged (Fig.9)
Fig.9 Eros, hellenistic statuine of the III century B.C
The little Cupids of Greek mythology, (Fig.10)
Fig.10 Cupid, mosaic of the room of Arion, in the Room of the Emperor, Piazza Armerina, Sicily, Italy (IV century A.D.)
cortege of Venus, iconographic precursors of the Angels, (Fig.11)
Fig.11 Raphael Archangel, gilded branch, Dome of Parma (Italy) XIII century
men with bird wings, are a pregnant example of it. The wings allude to the invisibile and spiritual nature.
In Egypt, very many were the gods hybrids man-animal: Horus, God of the sun, was represented with wings (Fig.12)
Fig.12 The God Horus, like hawk, next to the head of the statue of Chefren, Egypt, Ancient Reign
Also in the pictorial and plastic representation, beginning from the classic age, many the examples, between which a interesting winged Assyrian supernatural figure,eagle-headed, or a Lamassu, man-bird,from Iraq.
In the art of ancient Mexico, we find often divinities with effigy mixed man - animal. (Fig.13)
Fig.13 Mask in jade and shells of the God Bat, Monte Alban, Zapotec Culture ( approximately 200 B.C/200 A.D)
Near the Iberian people of the neolithic age, are present sculpted hybrid figures, of which some, as the winged feminine Sphinx of Haches (Albacete) (Fig.14)
Fig.14 Particular of winged Sphinx in tender whitish sandstone, Haches, Albacete, Spain, 550 or 450 B.C
or the monster of Balazote (Fig.15),
Fig.15 Particular of the so-called Monster of Balazote, statue with bearded human head on squatted body of ox-family V or IV century B.C, Iberian art, province of Albacete
reveal oriental influences.
In painting, we remember the winged Goddess of Elche, that in her turn resumes a hellenic tradition (Fig.16)
Fig.16 Winged Goddess, while offers to a knight a winged horse, painting on ceramics fragment, Elche de la Sierra, Iberian art, II century B.C
In the Indiana religion, most numerous the hybrid man-animal divinities. The God hindu Ganesha, or Ganapati, with the head of elephant, lord of the ranks, incarnates wisdom and fortune (Fig.17)
Fig.17 Ganesha, hindu divinity with elephant head, God of the wisdom and the fortune, India, bronze of the period Chola XII century A.D.
In the art of Russia, there are also beautiful exemplars of zooanthropomorphic figures (Fig.18)
Fig.18 Man-bird, plate in bronze of the region of Perm, VI-IX century
In the mythology of the Northern Europe, to the God Odin were associated, beyond to the aigle and the crows, also the wolves. Identified with him, it was told about warriors (Berseker, identified with a totemic animal) that during the combat changed themselves into wolves ( men-wolf, armed as Odin of launch and axe) or ferocious bears (Fig.19) )
Fig.19 Decoration of helmet, VI century A.D., representing the transformation of a warrior in wolf during the battle, with reference to the God Odin, God of the wisdom and the war of Nordic mythology, with which the wolves were associated.
In fact, between the numerous names of Odin, is Grim, " The one who is masked ", in this case takes to the features of an animal for acquire the spirit and characteristics of it (this probably is one of the basic characteristics of the shaman).
Between " the wonderful " animals, we should remember also the lycanthropus, monstrous man-wolf, that collects in himself several traditions of men mixed to wild and ferocious animals, especially to the wolf, that from always has ignited the fantasy of the man: this legendary figure, that still populates the fairy tales of infancy, has found fortune until the our days, inspiring cinematographic actors and directors.
THE WONDERFUL NARRATIONS
The ancient peoples, beginning from the Egyptians, but also from the people of the middle and Far East, believed in the existence of wonderful, hybrid beings man-animal, testified, beyond that from mythologies of the several peoples, also from fabulous tales of travelers in far lands, generally orientals (see Hermaphrodithe: the invisible bifrontisme of the divinity)
Directed filiation of this tradition, in the epic poems of the Greek and Latin literature we find narrations concerning " wonderful " beings : the Greek Homer (presumably XII-VI century B.C, Odyssey, I, 68-73), speaks about the Cyclops Polyphemus; similarly, later, the Latin poet Virgil (70-19 B.C, Aeneid, III, 1031-1041).
Also Herodotus (484-428 B.C) reports about wonderful beings, and, maneuvering between sphinx of male and feminine sex , coins the term of Androsphinx, distinguishing the Sphinx of Egyptians monuments, with head of man, symbol of the passage to the world ultramundane, from the greek Sphinx, perverse and feminine, daughter of Echydne, arousing, from the beginnings of the life, the impulse to know (see Melanie Klein and Wilfred Bion): both, however, symbol of the frustrating and in the same time vivifying separation from the already known, in order to go in the lands of the unknown.
After Herodotus, also Aristotle (or Pseudo-Aristotle) (Mirabilia); Paul of Tarsus (5 B.C-67 A.D.); Plinius (77 A.D.Naturalis Historia); Origen (185 ca. - 253); Solinus (half III century A.D.), Collectanea rerum memorabilium); Ambrose (339-397); Isidore of Seville (VI-VII century) and Helianus(170 - 235 A.D., De natura animalium) handed on similar stories.
Great part of all this knowledge sure was in the immense culture that gravitated round the Library of Alexandria of Egypt.
About monstrous Indian giants with the tail had narrated the personal doctor of Artaxerxes, Ctesias of Cnide (V-IV century B.C., News about the Persia, 23 books, of which remain little fragments and a summary in the Bibliotheca, 891, by Fozio, author also of epitome of the novel Wonders beyond Thule of Antonius Diogenes), who also cites the Manticora, creature composite with human head, lion body and tail of scorpion, the
Cynocephalians, dog-headed men, barking instead of talking , and Panotius, being with longest ears.
Cynocephalic men, who bark, were then described, as already mentioned, by Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.), in the Naturalis Historia (in which he accepts also histories of " wonderful " animals), iconography that is found in the Egyptian divinity Anubis, having jackal head and, in Christian age, in some representations of Holy Christopher, the giant saint (byzantine fresco ).
The Sciapodi, always cited by Plinius, were Indian beings with a single leg and an enormous foot (v.Liber chronicarum of Hartmann Schedel , 1493)
We should here remember the Metamorphoses, or The Golden Ass by the platonic philosopher Lucius Apuleius (Madaura, Algeria, 125 - 200 A.D. approximately), initiated to the mystery cults of the goddess Isis, the only Latin novel arrived to us, complex work on transformations, magic and mystery rites, revalued in 1400, in the prevailing Renaissance neoplatonism avid for new knowledge and interested in the wonderful.
Between mythology and fairy tale, Lucian of Samosata (125-192 A.D.), of which is said that in a dream (Dream) appeared to him the Statuary and the Wisdom that, holding out the arms, invited him to put himself in their arms, promising to him in exchange immortality, pushed from desire and from the curiosity of new things, travelled in Ionian, Asia Minor, Greece, Macedonian, Gallia and Italy; then, staying towards the 165 at Athens, narrated in the novel in two books in autobiographic manner: True History (177) , about unknown lands , beyond the columns of Hercules, lived from wonderful beings like the largest Hyppogriphs, Lachanopteri, birds with the body covered of herbs and the wings of leaf of lettuce, the Minotaurs, the Cenchroboli, launchers of grains of mile, the Cynobalani, men with dog face, the Nefelo-Centaurs, clouds-Centaurs, the Fleas-Sagittairs large like twelve elephants, and other personages half men and half beasts (asserting herself that nothing of true was in those narrations, like also in those of Herodotus, Antonius Diogenes, Iambulus and Homer.
Other source of the wonderful relating to the animal world, was, like remembered, Caius Julius Solinus, Latin writer of geography, lived between the III and IV the century A.D., with his Collectanea rerum memorabilium (De mirabilibus mundi), epitome of the Naturalis Historia of Plinius, in its turn opened, as said, to the narrations of the wonderful, legends, phantastic animals and so on, coming from far countries.
Remarkable also the Liber monstrorum de diversis generibus, of Unknown, probably Anglo-Saxon, written presumably in the second half of the VII century, containing a description of the monsters of greco-roman mythology and the hidden. Between the dealt arguments, De hyppocentaurs; De barbosis hominibus et mulieribus; De pigmeis; De belua quae habuit bina capita; De tauris ignem flantibus.
The several medieval Bestiaries, with their histories about fabulous or exotic animals, draw inspiration from the Phisiologus, richest Greek protochristian bestiare of the II century A.D. composed probably atAlexandria of Egypt, rich of splendid painted in miniature illustrations, formed from all the previous tradition which we have remembered, enriched of legends on the animals in a Christian way interpreted like allegories, in compliance with the thought in the world like " forest of symbols ".
Therefore the animals always were " meaningful ", constituting signs that sent back to truth " others " (see, in times nearer to us, the treaty of heraldry or the alchemic and exoteric books in kind, in which the animal symbology expresses truth of philosophical or moral order).
Outside of the Treaties, for how much it concerns to the Literature, we will remember alone, in the Divine Comedy, Inferno, IX, Dante Alighieri, with his deep fourteenth-century erudition, nourished also of these ancient novelistic and fantastic traditions, describes the Erinni (" ...three infernal Furies stained with blood
had suddenly uprisen all at once,
having the members and the mien of women,
and girt with water-snakes of brightest green;
for hair they had small serpents and horned snakes,
wherewith their frightful temples were entwined". vv.39-42), and in the XII chant, the Centaurs; moreover, appear the Cerberus dog, in the chant VI, the Harpies in the XIII, Gerion in the XVII, some Giants, chant XXXI, and the same Lucifer in chant XXXIV, vv.1-67.
Also the fairy tales are in tightened relationship with the rituals of primitive societies.
Freud considered them, like the dreams, vehicles of not sexual symbols also.
Jung instead, connecting them to the folk,, with departure from the collective unconscious, saw to them like manifestations of the archetypes, eternal preservation of a same idea.
Between the more frequently rituals recalled from the fairy tales, not casually we find that one of the initiation ( see fairy tales) and the representations of the death.
The topic of the transformation of the man in animal re-enters in this cycle of the transformations, and is often present in fables, certainly with roots far back in time.
We can quickly recall some of the many examples, from various sources.
One of the first collections of fairy tales comes from far away: it is the " Pancatantra " (India, 570 B.C.).
In the West, Marie de France in the 1300's writes the novel of " Mélusine ", in which the wonderful personage of the sirene appears, which will be copiously reproduced on many Romanesque and Gothic capitals.
Medieval is also the ancient topic of Colapesce (Fish Nicolau), the man - fish, present in very many cultural traditions and that goes back to ancient myths.
In the 1600's, in France, Madame Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont writes " Beauty and the Beast ", and, in the century end, were published the fairy tales of Perrault.
In the eighteenth century, still in France, Mme d'Aulnoy writes many fairy tales; oriental fairy tales are divulged, including "The Firebird", a Russian popular fairy tale that two centuries later will inspire the ballet of the same name with music by Igor' Fëdorovič Stravinskij At the same time, the opening to the orientalist tradition, with the disclosure of the collection of the "Thousand and One Nights", which the great Arab scholar Antoine Galland collects in part and translates first in French.
In the 1800's, beyond the Fairy tales wonderful collected by the Siblings Grimm in Germany, the Novels of the Danish Andersen, in which was resumed an ancient myth with " The little Sirene ".
In the 1900's, the fairy tale goes preferably in music and in the cortoons, in which is exalted the topic of the transformation
Still today, the ethnographic studies bring to light, near the people who have maintained intact their traditions in the course of the time, the figurative presence of masks and representations, in painting and sculpture, hybrid, always tied to cult facts. Some example between the many.
About the American continent, in Alaska, in which is strongly the nearness man-animal, does not lack hybrid masks (Fig.20)
Fig.20 Eskimo Mask of the end of the 1800's
Near the Pueblo Indians of the South America, the spirits or the invisible forces of the life is incarnated from the Kachinas, beings half man and half animal, or thing, or bug, or phenomenon of the nature, that mediate the relationship with the gods, especially in particularly important moments for the survival of the people, tied for the most to the natural cycles, with reference to agriculture.
In the central America, near the Aztecs, the representations with contaminations man-animal were much frequent(Fig.21)
Fig.21 Man turtle, between the many sculptures of hybrids man-animal of the azteca culture
In Africa, the ethnography shows many mixed representations man-animal (see Fig. 22)
bamba.jpgFig.22 Bambara Mask (Mali), interpreted both like antelope and like representation of a mythical civilizing being that taught agriculture bamba)
As an example, in the Tanganika and the Ciad is diffused in some sects, from the little known rituals, the belief in the men lion; on the rivers of the Congo, it is spoken about men crocodile; along the equatorial band, about men cayman; in Sierra Leon, Lybia and in the forest of the Congo, it is spoken about men having the faculty of transform themselfs in panther, given to the cannibalism; in the Gabon, it is believed in men gorilla; the men leopard of the Kenia seem have given origin to the sect of the mau mau.
In Indonesia, between the masks stand out Hanuman, the God monkey of Hindu mythology, symbol of pure love and devotion, and Baronga, mythical creature between the lion and the dragon..
In Italy, the Mamutzones of Sardinian, in their originality of pertaining to Carnival ancient mask, probably is tied to the myth of Dyonisius, God of the vegetation, than was manifested under the features of he-goat, and that, like the vegetation, every year dies and re-births.
In the zoomorphic mask de " s' urtzu ", it comes dressed an entire skin of he-goat, with the head, while the face is covered from a cork mask fortified of horns. The dance remembers the dyonisiac ecstasy, and the wrapped sticks of ivy, the Thyrsus. The presence of rattles holds to stay far the spirits of the evil, therefore with apotropaic meant.
THE MOST ANCIENT EVIDENCES IN SCULPTURE
The representative use of the zooanthropomorphic is much ancient , and goes back to the sculpture in stone of the Paleolithc. Perhaps the stone name " lightning stones" given in the past centuries to the first findings of worked silex (" ceraunie ", that is stones of the lightning, in how much was believed formed during the thunderstorms with thunders and lightnings, especially when it was be a matter of meteorites, also assimilated to the tip of the flash), is a archetipic trace of the spiritual and generational sacred symbolic valence attributed from always to the stone,so that the stone begun the privileged material of the working, not only for the fabrication of the tools, but also for the first artistic representations.
The sculpture in stone of the lower Paleolithc is marked from representative constants of content/stylistic type.
One of these is exactly the contamination man-animal (anthropo-zoomorphic representations), that can happen at level of the face and/or the body.
Remarkable testimony of that, in the middle Paleolithc, is the sculpture of the man-feline of El-Juyo (Santander, Spain).
Still, we should cite the man-lion, ivory statuine with human features, surmonted from a head of lion (Aurignacian, between 30000 and 26000 years), coming from the site of the Southern Germany of Hohlenstein-Stadel (Ulmer Museum), with parallel recordings along the arms, probably of symbolic character.
Still previous evidences exist, like that constitued from a sculpture in stone coming from the Northern Germany, discovered by Walter Matthes before 1969 (Fig.23)
Fig.23 Zooanthropomorphic sculpture in stone coming from the Germany of North , discovered by Walter Matthes
It is a small lithic zooanthropomorphic sculpture, height 8 cm.
" It represents, according to Matthes, a " grotesque head ", while in the typology it is an artistic hybrid of man and feracious animal. The jaw is human; the proportion of the height of the head is human; the snout is of the animal; the mouth is opened wide. Technique of working: it is chipped from every side, like is looked at in photography. The mouth open is obtained from a recess of the original shape of the nodule of silex, and desunes from color more light in mouth, that is the rind that wraps the nodules of silex, that in the inside are of dark color.
Origin: Wittenbergen (Germany of the North)
Cultural Attribution: according to Matthes, it is the lower Paleolithc; but according to the interpretation of the typology and the technique of working, we can be preciser attributing to the final Acheulean. " (Pietro Gaietto, Short history of the discoveries of the art of the lower Paleolithc, and hypothesis on the future of the search).
The topic of the man-lion has evidently not gotten lost in the course of the time.
Sure the myths of the III and II century, the works of Homer and Hesiod make as subterranean woof for these sculptures.
We can approach to this sculpture a particular of the Gigantomachy of the frieze of Pergamon. In the fight, the animality of the Giant is stirred to the human shape, head and claws become of fair, but the snout of the lion, in the shape of the nose, still reveals the substanding human feature (Fig.24)
Fig.24 Great altar of Pergamon, III century, frieze south: fight between Ether and a Giant.
Going further towards East, XII-XIII century A.D., Narashima (Nara = Man; Simha = Lion), the giant God-lion, fourthy incarnation of Vishnu, is represented with head of lion having partially human featureson body of man (Fig.25)
Fig.25 Bas-relief representing the god-lion Narashima, with face having features mixed man-animal , Changu Narayan, Nepal, XII-XIII century A.D.
Still, the lion of Corbridge (Fig.26) (England, Northumberland) , Roman age, has human eyes and nose, and the opened wide mouth, like its Paleolithc ancestor.
Fig.26 Lion in stone of Corbridge, England, sculpture all round of Roman age
Finally, I want remember the lion with the face strong humanized of Alalah (Fig.27)
Fig.27 Lion of Alalah, mesopotamic art, period of Uruk, XV century B.C
Therefore, there is no doubt that the representation of hybrid creatures, in particular of that mixed of man and animal, is to connect to the ritual, and then to the myth, to the legends and to the fairy tales, in any case to a idea of supernatural and of transcendence, in which also the animal shapes make part of cosmic whole, in a cycle continue of return of the matter, therefore of deaths and re-births.
In this meaning, it does not seem correct to speak about a specific geographic origin,but rather of a culture, or better of a cultural phase, having also present that the migrations exist from when the man exists, as the most recent anthropological studies are bringing to light more and more wide, and that therefore a same ritual can be quickly diffused, following the tracks of the migrant man, in several parts of the earth.
Returning to the representation of the animal beside that one of the man, Giedion, who however denies the concept of transcendence in the prehistory, asserts that " the animal, that must be killed because the man can living, is at the same time a part of the cosmic community. Every action must therefore be completed that will facilitate his re-enter in the life " (Giedion, p.499).
Mircea Eliade writes:" The primitive hunters consider the animals similar to the men, but equipped with supernatural powers; they believe that the man can transform himself in animal and viceversa; that the spirits of the dead men can penetrate in the animals; that they exist, finally, mysterious relations between a person and a single animal " (Eliade, p 18) Therefore, the community of the man with the animal brother, more evidently immediate at the dawn of the humanity, comes to constitute sudden, for the man maker of tools and of art, a privileged topic both of the mind and in the artistic representation, through the medium of the rituality.
That implies in the man the existence of a mind, and, as observed by a contemporary philosopher, " the belongings to the class of objects endowed of mind supply a most important guarantee - the guarantee of a sure moral importance. Only the beings endowed of mind can have at heart something; only they preoccupy themselves of whom happens" (Dennet, p 14). It is sure matter of an imaginific mind.
Notice that, until little time ago, it was believed to an essentially linguistic nature of the thought; today, also from the cognitivists, is assumed an origin of the knowledge essentially pictorial-visual , with multistratified symbols. As already supported by Bruner and Piaget, the images are symbols in the mind, with autonomy both cognitive and representative (see. also Benedetti, and Filingeri in a review to Benedetti).
About the " sensorialization of the experience " of which speaks Gaetano Benedetti, has to be emphasized the function to reveal, beyond that to hide, of the symbol, in which all appears under shape of visual images, concept correlated to that unavoidable of " emotional " (Fritz Morgenthaler ), which carries back to the Es and to the drive emotional movements, beyond the symbol.
Just for this ensemble of considerations, I think that the zooanthropomorphic sculpture of the lower Paleolithic could be a powerful medium for penetrate the same roots of the emotionality of the man at his beginnings.
BENEDETTI, G.(1999), Il pensiero figurativo: il sogno, l'immaginario e il simbolico, Psicoterapia e Scienze Umane, 2, 1999, pp.53-74
DENNET,A.D. (1996), La mente e le menti, BUR, Milano, 2000
ELIADE, M.(1975), Storia delle credenze e delle idee religiose, Sansoni, Firenze, 1979
FILINGERI, L. (1999), recensione a Il pensiero figurativo: il sogno, l'immaginario e il simbolico, di G.Benedetti, cit., in Psychomedia, Rivista telematica, Recensioni 1999
GIEDION, S. (1965), L'eterno presente:le origini dell'Arte, Feltrinelli, Milano
LUQUET, G.H. (1926), Il culto del bello, in L'art et la réligion de l'homme fossile, Masson, Paris, pp 207-229 passim , in Miti e riti della Preistoria, Jaca Book, Milano, 1989, pp 45-54
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