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Heuristically Challenged
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PostPosted: 09-07-2013 17:20    Post subject: Reply with quote

ramonmercado wrote:
Were Paleolithic Cave Painters High on Psychedelic Drugs?

Scientists Propose Ingenious Theory for Why They Might Have Been
Science finds evidence of a biological-hallucinogenic basis for seeing geometric patterns.
July 8, 2013 |

Prehistoric cave paintings across the continents have similar geometric patterns not because early humans were learning to draw like Paleolithic pre-schoolers, but because they were high on drugs, and their brains—like ours—have a biological predisposition to "see" certain patterns, especially during consciousness altering states.

This thesis—that humanity’s earliest artists were not just reeling due to mind-altering activities, but deliberately sought those elevated states and gave greater meaning to those common visions—is the contention of a new paper by an international research team.

Their thesis intriguingly explores the “biologically embodied mind,” which they contend gave rise to similarities in Paleolithic art across the continents dating back 40,000 years, and can also be seen in the body painting patterns dating back even further, according to recent archelogical discoveries.

At its core, this theory challenges the long-held notion that the earliest art and atrists were merely trying to draw the external world. Instead, it sees cave art as a deliberate mix of rituals inducing altered states for participants, coupled with brain chemistry that elicits certain visual patterns for humanity’s early chroniclers.

Put another way, if Jackson Pollock could get drunk and make his splatter paintings while his his head was spinning, primitive men and women could eat pyschedelic plants and commence painting on cave walls—in part, presenting the patterns prompted by brain biochemistry but seen as having super-sensory significance.

“The prevalence of certain geometric patterns in the symbolic material culture of many prehistoric cultures, starting shortly after the emergence of our biological species and continuing in some indigenous cultures until today, is explained in terms of the characteristic contents of biologically determined hallucinatory experience,” the researchers hypothesize.

Of course, you can’t just posit that cave painters were doing prehistoric drugs without raising a few questions, such as why they gravitated—and kept gravitating—to the same kinds of shapes? The scientists start by citing decades-old research exploring drug use in indigenous cultures that suggest some hallucinations are induced by the brain seeing “neural” patterns—literally the cellular structure of brains.

“Researchers also generally claim that the geometric hallucinations experienced by the subject are mental representations of these neural patterns,” they write. “However, while these neural models are capable of reproducing some of the geometric patterns that are found in prehistoric art and non-ordinary visual experiences, their range remains severely limited.”

So brain biology plays a role, but it’s not enough to account for ancient pop art taste and trends! The brain might be generating the same kinds of patterns, but the early artist-shamans went further. Like many consciousness-exploring humans today, apparently they not only liked what they saw and created rituals to inspire their art, but they also believed that what they saw was more special than than the grind of their daily lives.

“We speculate that the self-sustaining dynamics may account for why these geometric hallucinations were experienced as more significant than other phenomena, and that at the same time their underlying neural dynamics may have served to mediate and facilitate a form of imaginary sense-making that is not bound to immediate surroundings,” the scientists say.

Translated, that knotty sentence comes down to this: The cave painters had rituals that involved taking drugs (undoubtedly plants) that they consumed in a frenzy to get to this creative state. This behavior and the same results were noted by 1960s-era academics studying the effects of peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus found in North America.

“The non-ordinary visual experiences were often characterized by similar kinds of abstract geometric patterns, which he classified into four categories of form constants: (1) gratings, lattices, fretworks, filigrees, honeycombs, and checkerboards; (2) cobwebs; (3) tunnels and funnels, alleys, cones, vessels; and (4) spirals,” they write, citing peyote research. “Intriguingly, these form constants turned out to resemble many of the abstract motifs that are often associated with prehistoric art from around the world, including Paleolithic cave art in Europe.”

But why would people across continents and cultures be drawn to record the same shapes?

“Of course, it still remains to be explained why these particular motifs were highly regarded by the artists and how these people became artists capable of symbolic expression in the first place,” they write. “It makes sense to investigate whether the biological mechanisms underlying the production of these visual phenomena is amenable to an analysis in terms of Turing instabilities [a scientific name for biochemical reaction in the brain that ties it to a propensity for certain patterns].”

The paper gets very technical, but the images that are said to be generated by specific neural centers tied to images do resemble the templates for lots of 1960s poster artists, such as Peter Max and San Francisco’s psychedelic rock scene.

Why did they gravitate to these patterns? Because the imagery was seen or sensed while having a super-sensory experience and therefore seemed to be imbued with cosmic significance. Put another way, people who are high as kites tend to find magic in simple details.

“When these visual patterns are seen during altered states of consciousness they are directly experienced as highly charged with significance,” they posit. “In other words, the patterns are directly perceived as somehow meaningful and thereby offer themselves as salient motifs for use in rituals.”

The scientists admit that straighter-laced science is not quite ready for this explanation.

“Clearly, neurophenomenology is currently not advanced enough to explain the particular content of these experiences, but it does successfully explain why the experiences are characterized by such an intensely felt significance,” they write.

The paper is fascinating. For one, if it’s true—and why not?—one can posit that humanity has evolved. All one needs to do is open a book on the art from the ongoing Burning Man festivals in the Nevada desert. Much of the expression there seems to be a consequence of a deliberate process of consciousness-expanding ritual and subsequent creartivity. And compared to cave walls, it’s a bit more diverse and rarified.

Steven Rosenfeld covers democracy issues for AlterNet and is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

I'm surprised that it's taken these 'scientists' so long to cotton on. Laughing
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PostPosted: 26-09-2013 05:08    Post subject: Reply with quote

The idea is quite an old one, and I remember it being around back in the 70's - the 'altered states' theory, one might call it, although whether psychomimetic drugs were more important than the effects of starving themselves and other ordeals I wouldn't like to say.
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PostPosted: 26-09-2013 11:31    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's a very good book on the subject: The Mind in the Cave, by David Lewis-Williams.
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PostPosted: 09-10-2013 23:11    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 9, 2013 11:38 am
Ancient Women Artists May Be Responsible for Most Cave Ar

Photo: Xipe Totec39

Since cave art often depicts game species, a subject near and dear to hunters, most researchers have assumed that the people behind this mysterious artwork must have been male. But new research suggests that’s not right: when scientists looked closely at a sample of hand stencils, a common motif in cave art, they concluded that about three-quarters were actually drawn by women.

What they looked at, specifically, was the lengths of fingers in drawings from eight caves in France and Spain, National Geographic writes. Biologists established rules of thumb for general differences between men and women’s hand structure about a decade ago.

Women tend to have ring and index fingers of about the same length, whereas men’s ring fingers tend to be longer than their index fingers.

[Archeologist Dean] Snow ran the numbers through an algorithm that he had created based on a reference set of hands from people of European descent who lived near his university. Using several measurements—such as the length of the fingers, the length of the hand, the ratio of ring to index finger, and the ratio of index finger to little finger—the algorithm could predict whether a given handprint was male or female. Because there is a lot of overlap between men and women, however, the algorithm wasn’t especially precise: It predicted the sex of Snow’s modern sample with about 60 percent accuracy.

The 32 hand prints he found in the caves, however, were more pronounced in their differences than those of the modern men and women he sampled. Based upon the model and measurements, he found that 75 percent of the hands belonged to women.

National Geographic points out that the mystery is far from definitively solved. While some hail the new study as a “landmark contribution,” others are more skeptical. Another researcher recently studied the palm-to-thumb ratio of the hand prints and concluded they mostly belonged to teenage boys, who, he told NatGeo, often drew their two favorite topics: big powerful animals and naked ladies.

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PostPosted: 10-10-2013 06:45    Post subject: Reply with quote

Women tend to have ring and index fingers of about the same length, whereas men’s ring fingers tend to be longer than their index fingers.

Strange for me that this should crop up today - I had a fragment of a dream last night where the ring finger of my left hand was abnormally long, even longer than the middle finger!

I went to bed before this article was posted. But I wasn't sleeping well, so I put the radio on several times. Perhaps this cave art theory was mentioned on the radio, and my dozing brain turned it into a dream...?
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PostPosted: 23-04-2014 12:28    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scumbags destroying our ancient heritage.

How to steal a cave painting: Thieves damage 5,000-yo rock in Spain

A damaged rock painting in Los Escolares Cave (image by @puertanatura)

A 5,000 year old rock painting in the cave defined as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in southern Spanish Andalusia, has been “irreparably” damaged by thieves who tried to steal an artwork by cutting it out of a rock.

The painting located in Los Escolares Cave in Jaen province is now “irreparable,” said local mayor Juan Caminero, Spanish daily La Vanguardia reported.

Caminero condemned the act, calling it “heartless,” adding that local residents are outraged over the accident as the historic site was untouched by man for at least 5,000 years.

The damage was noticed Saturday morning by a group of visitors in Despenaperros National Park of municipality Santa Elena where the cave is located.

The visitors saw rock fragments and fine dust while the painting itself looked like if someone was trying to cut out the artwork with a pick-ax.

Meanwhile, Spanish Civil Guard has already started investigating the case.

Los Escolares Cave was discovered 41 years ago on March 3, 1973, by a group of scholars. The cave is a small hole in the rock, about 1.5 meters wide and 1.5 meters deep.

It is a part of a huge caves ensemble of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The series of late prehistoric paintings in these caves provide an exceptional picture of human life in a seminal period of human cultural evolution, according to UNESCO.

The images, depicting hunting activities, combats and executions, were mostly painted in red, black and white in the caves.

Jaen province has at least 42 UNESCO World Heritage sites and along with Cordoba, Almeria, Granada, Malaga and Cadiz, is considered one of the most important areas of prehistoric archaeology.

However, according to the Speleology Federation of Andalusia (FAE), a great majority of the prehistoric caves of Andalucía are not protected and their conservation is in danger.

"A lot of these places are abandoned and need greater supervision," FAE president José Antonio Berrocal told The Local. "Although there is legislation protecting these sites in theory, there is a lack of political will."

The region needs “a system of continuous monitoring with officers coming around periodically to monitor the situation,” he said. "In some cases, closing off those caves may be the only option to protect world heritage paintings.”
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