PALEOLITHIC ART MAGAZINE
A HUMAN PORTRAIT CARVED 200,000 YEARS AGO DESCRIBED BY MEANS OF THE DIDACTICS OF THE ARCHEOARTOLOGY
Director of the website of the Museum of the Origins of Man
Genova, Italy, November, 24 2002
- Two accidental discoveries.
- The concept of portrait.
- The anthropomorphic sculpture and the paleoanthropology.
- Description of the sculpture of Borzonasca.
- The photographies of the sculpture of Borzonasca.
- The characteristics of the authenticity.
- The spiritual life.
The sculpture here introduced is particularly beloved by me, not only why it is the sculpted portrait more ancient that I know, but also why it has been discovered two times; before by me, and the second time by my wife Licia, some months ago, when she photographed it and discovered the portrait.
SCULPTURE OF THE LOWER PALEOLITHIC OF BORZONASCA
Beardless human head
TWO ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERIES
Borzonasca, Province of Genova (Italy), is a town known for the "megalithic Face of Borzone", a rock sculpture.
I was going to the Rocche di Borzone, like I make annually, directed to the "megalithic Face", when I saw, in a open space at the edges of the road, a truck unloading a gravel cargo withdrawn from the below Penna Torrent . These stones were transported there for buildings works.
Like my habit in 45 years of search, I stopped myself in order to control if in the little mountain of stones there were "traces of prehistory", what makes, or that would have to make, every archaeologist, in how generally these inspections of material coming from archaeological areas, also through fragments, could indicate the presence of archaeological layers in zone.
The stones, mostly of small size, were eroded by rolling, therefore every eventual tool had gone destroyed, becoming a litle pebble; in fact the type of stone of the zone, where the silex is absent , is easy perishable. Between these stones, a more large stone, exactly that one that I introduce here, immediately seemed to me, even if still filled with earth, a two-faced anthropomorphic sculpture; having never made searches in zone, I have taken it like testimony in order to return subsequently, without no more watching it carefully, being a enough common type.
In the prehistoric mountain places, every artefact, generally, is transported from alluviums to the valley, where it is easier to find the rests of it in the small torrents.
By typology I have attributed this sculpture to the final phase of the lower Paleolithic, interpreting it, while I collected it, only for the lateral views (Fig. 4 and 7).
If I did not have collected it, it would be ended in the concrete for the construction of a wall.
The second discovery, accidental too, is due, as said, to my wife Licia: hearing their exclaimation: "Exceptional!", and not understanding well, I suddenly reached them; she explained to me to have view the human beardless head frontally (Fig. 3). A great emotion for me, in how much, between the paleolithic sculptures, this is the "intentional" carved larger portrait that I know and also the most ancient.
THE CONCEPT OF PORTRAIT.
In the art of all the times, the representation of the head can be or not to be a portrait, like in the case of a head represented in geometric style.
The portrait can be "intentional" or "physiognomic". The "intentional" portrait is diffused in the art of all the times and everywhere in the world; as an example, near the Aegyptians, the portrait always has been "intentional".
The portrait "physiognomic", allowing to recognize individually the portrayed person, from the prehistory to our days, is extremely rare. portrait "physiognomic" we only find it near the Greeks, where it was rare; near the Romans, where, for short time, it has been beloved; in the Middle Age in Europe it is present, not in the religious art, but in the funeral sculpture, and finally, with the Renaissance, in Europe, it begins to being frequent.
The portrait of the sculpture of Borzonasca is an "intentional" portrait very important, in how much of competence of the paleoanthropology, even if for the paleoantropologists it could not be of interest.
THE ANTHROPOMORPHIC SCULPTURE AND THE PALEOANTHROPOLOGY
The findings of human skulls, dating from 400.000 to 150.000 years, are all constituted from fragments. Until today, a skull complete has not been found . These fragments, at first attributed to Homo erectus, now, in part, are attributed to archaic Homo sapiens.
Of these men, in great part, still is not know who had an acheulean material culture (industry with bi-faced), and who a clactonian material culture (industry on chip).
The anthropomorphic sculptures of the lower Paleolithic, of every type, but in particular those like this of Borzonasca, that are "intentional"portraits , would have to be object of study by the paleoanthropologists, in how much the data that can be found are numerous. In fact, on a side there are skull pieces and their reconstructions, while on the other side, with the sculptures of human heads, there are images made by the prehistoric man, equivalent to photographies, that, even if vaguely deformed, supply always indications on the anatomical features. The investigation, in every discipline, must be made with accuracy in all the possible fronts.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BORZONASCA SCULPTURE
The sculpture represents two human heads joined for the nape (Fig. 4 lateral A and B, Fig. 7 lateral B and A), one beardless (Fig. 1, 2, 3, side A) and the other bearded ( Fig.6 side B).
The beardless head has absence of forehead, chin, and jaw re-entering towards the top; has the two eyes, the mouth and the wide nose; and can be considered "intentional" portrait.
The bearded head has only partially represented the features of the face; it has forehead absence, i.e. escaping forehead, and a very wide beard (see the description of an other bearded head in this magazine: "A two-faced anthropomorphic lithic sculpture of the lower Paleolithic of Denmark", P.Gaietto). The eye of the bearded head is constituted by a linear recording in the wide and white vein of the stone ( Fig. 7, side B ), from which leaves the escaping forehead, that finishes pointed with the junction of the nape with the head beardless.
Size: 29 cm. lenght, 21 cm. eight, max 14 cm. wide, socket under jaws max 3,5 cm. height.
This sculpture belongs to the Harroyan paleolithic artistic-religious Civilization, in how much is a two-faced anthropomorphic sculpture.
The attribution to the material culture is the final lower Paleolithic, but not still established if final Acheulean or final Clactonian, in how much associated industries have not been found.
The relative dating, inferred from the attribution of the material culture, is comprised between 400,000 and 200,000 years. The beardless head could be a female head, while the bearded is a male.
THE PHOTOGRAPHIES OF THE BORZONASCA SCULPTURE
The sculpture is photographed in eight consecutive exposures from left towards right.
Fig. 1) Sculpture of the lower Paleolithic of Borzonasca
Human head beardless
frontal view side A
Fig. 2) Sculpture of the lower Paleolithic of Borzonasca
Human head beardless
Semifrontal right view side A
Fig. 3) Sculpture of the lower Paleolithic of Borzonasca
Human head beardless
Left side view side A
and on the back share of the head side B
Fig. 4) Sculpture of the lower Paleolithic of Borzonasca
Two human heads joined for the nape, lateral view A and B, human head beardless side A,
human head bearded side B
Fig. 5) Sculpture of the lower Paleolithic of Borzonasca
Human head bearded,
semifrontal view right side B
and on the back share of the head beardless side A
Fig. 6) Sculpture of the lower Paleolithic of Borzonasca
Human head bearded,
frontal view side B
and on the back on the left share of the head beardless side A
Fig. 7) Sculpture of the lower Paleolithic of Borzonasca
Two human heads joined for the nape,
on the left bearded head side B
on the right beardless head side A
Fig. 8) Sculpture of the lower Paleolithic of Borzonasca
on the right semifrontal view of the beardless head side A
on the back share of the bearded head side B
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AUTHENTICITY
In the mails to the website of the Museum of the Origins of Man, which publishes mostly the sculpture of the lower and middle Paleolithic, I periodically receive mails by people asking themselves on the ways in order to determine the authenticity of these lithic sculptures, and they could make it also for this of Borzonasca. To the question I answer pointing out that, until the archeoartology will not be operating, with new scholars who make own searches, and discusses also the existing findings, with the contribution of new opinions, this state of uncertainty and of generalized doubt will continue to exist.
I must never remember that, until today, the palethnology has turned its searches mostly to the material culture, and not to the sculpture of the lower and middle Paleolithic. Moreover, the little discoveries of sculptures of the lower Paleolithic, found in sites in which the absolute dating has been possible, even if with accuracy studied by important paleoanthropologists and palethnologists, have not given impulse to the research, in how much recepted by the scientific world with indifference. Therefore, these important studies are been buried in oblivion, and for others, we hope an other destiny.
The sculpture of Borzonasca is the typical two-faced anthropomorphic sculpture of the final phase of the lower Paleolithic, that is the final Acheulean or perhaps the final Clactonian, called also evolued. It is a typology that has been found plentifully in smaller sculptures in silex, with techniques of working and patina, in all similar to tools in silex, with have been found associated together, and of which the dating by typology is possible .
In this sculpture of Borzonasca the working is deduced from the shaping, and, although the light damaging from thumbling, traces of removal of the material are visible in photography in bearded face (fig. 6 , right side); these traces are vertical recordings from blows.
The color white of the striation marks of the stone does not influence the representation.
THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
The function of the sculpture is in the cult rituals, relatively to which also the hypotheses are little, and of which I have dealt more times in mine written, and therefore for this sculpture it is worth what said for other sculptures of this cultural phase.
The bearded head (Fig. 6 left side) has under the forehead a triangle carved in relief of 2 cm. of side, placed in the orbital zone, like if it were an eye. The triangle is perfect. I noticed it now, describing it. Amazing . I will continue the study and report the conclusions, if there will be. I was not prepared to find a symbol in a so ancient age. The only thought of mine, in this moment, is that this triangle is a symbol, but, at the moment, I do not have the minimal idea of which symbol can be be a matter.
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