Friday, January 26, 2007

About images and symbols

Rafael Henriques started recently a discussion about the origins of rock art, quoting and comenting the Shamanistic Theories, as exposed, on recent texts, by several authors, specially David Lewis-Williams.

These ideas only recently started to have some echoes on portuguese bibliography about rock-art . (page 122) .

In Europe, they have been frequently quoted and applied by important authors, such as Richard Bradley,
Chris Scarre,;
Muiris O'Sullivan
and, above all, Jean Clottes. , who engaged with David Lewis-Williams in a "campaign" for the reinterpretation of European rock art in the light of the also called "entoptic theory".

In paralell, on another blog about megalithic settlements, I have been pushed, almost inconsciously, to the same range of questions.

Now, I would like to align some comments about the aspects of rock art that seem to be out of the concerns of shamanistic theories:

1. Graphic symbols, once created (and eventually "negociated", in social terms), have their own dynamics. They evoque meanings, referents (and not the contrary). For example, there has been a conscient quest around the symbolic possibilities of associating diferent basic designs, so creating new meanings. As an example, I would point the composition made, on some alentajan statue-menhirs, like Portela de Mogos or Vale Maria do Meio, where basic symbols like the crescent moon, the circle (or the crook) and the rectangle, are arranged to suggest a human face.

2. Symbols and rituals are also the outcome of intelectual and observational/experiential quests, and so they are likely to derive from normal states of conscienciousness, as it is the case of the astronomical alignments: they derive fom the human curiosity about the world around and the accumulation and cultural transmission of information.
In the same level we should probably include the technical acquisitions, like the polished axe, which become source of symbols and object of rituals.

3. Another field, rather unexplored by David Lewis-Williams, seems to be the freundian theories about the importance of human experiences in early childhood and even before: here we are somewhere in between the "brain wired" material and the individual experience.
Obviously, the theories about the origins of rock art might include the human agency, historically placed, but with individual invention and creativity.

We will discuss these schematic ideas on future posts...

1 comment:

Rafael Henriques said...

No doubt, and as Dr. Jorge Alarcão mentions in "A Escrita do Tempo e a Sua Verdade", the neolithic is also the interwoven outcome of the cientific and the spiritual explorations of mankind.