martes, 28 de agosto de 2007

Ancient lifestyle may link art found in Egypt, Europe

National Geographic News reported last month that an international team of archaeologists had discovered the oldest known art in Egypt. The country is, of course, known for its pyramids and mummies, but the art in question is 10,000 years older than the dawn of Egyptian civilization.

The art consists of petroglyphs, or engravings on stone, estimated to be 15,000 years old. Its style is closer to the art of Paleolithic France than to that of Pharonic Egypt.

The National Geographic report quoted Dirk Huyge, a curator at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, Belgium, as saying, "It is not at all an exaggeration to call it 'Lascaux on the Nile,' " referring to the most famous French cave art site.

Huyge is not suggesting any direct connection between Paleolithic France and Egypt. Instead, he said the similarities in the art likely occurred because the artists shared a common way of life.

"When people are confronted with similar conditions, this will automatically lead to a similar kind of thinking, a similar creativity."

Huyge's point is well-taken and has broad applicability.

For example, Stonehenge and the geometric earthworks of the Hopewell culture both have been found to encode an intricate series of astronomical alignments in their architecture.

They also both used parallel-walled avenues to define sacred pathways, and both seem to have been places of pilgrimage.

Is this evidence for contact between ancient Ohio and Neolithic England, more than 1,000 years before Columbus?

Mary Borgia, a teacher from Newark who has visited Stonehenge on a Fulbright fellowship, offered this explanation in an article published last year in The Advocate of Newark: "There seems to be a common need to harness and understand the heavens, possibly the need to honor the community's gods/goddesses/spirits by displaying celestial knowledge through the construction of grand architectural monuments."

Huyge and Borgia are right. We share a common humanity, so our cultural expressions are bound to share some important elements -- regardless of where, or when, we live.

Bradley T. Lepper is curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society.