26 September 2012

Tool vs. art is a false dichotomy restricting development of archaeological knowledge

From archaeologist, artist and 40 year investigator of portable rock art Jan van Es, The Netherlands

"Here's my grinning hand-axe of Beegden (M.A.) In the so called technical artefact is clearly a splendid portrait, which is a very symbolical indication. The photo of this axe was published in the Archaeologische Berichten, Elst, NL, no 8 page 106.

We know that many hand-axes show polymorphe portraits, upright standing figures and animals. They are often modeled by flaking and retouching.

A tool fanatic will only see a tool, with again technical names." --Jan van Es.

Tool vs. art is a false dichotomy restricting development of archaeological knowledge. A definition of art I use most when I think of portable rock art is a human modified object which contains an idea other than its utilitarian purpose. (Modification includes manuporting which changes the original naturally occurring location of the stone material.) Thus, art is a category which includes tools, but the category of tools does not include art. What have been interpreted as "tools only" in existing collections may be found to have art meanings if a broader scope of what to consider significant in lithic artifact studies includes looking for visual properties. Also, any rock or stone which upon close examination, and all of them deserve it from a prehistoric cultural site, has possible significant visual properties but no obvious tool purpose must be ruled out as a cultural remnant.

-kbj

1 comment:

  1. Incredible flaking. That is one awesome sculptured tool !!

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