by Denyse O’Leary
A sculpture of a mammoth and figures of other animals, the oldest ivory carvings ever found, dated to 35 000 years ago, shed another ray of light into early human culture. (Most existing artifacts are less than 5000 years old.):
The figure of the woolly mammoth is tiny, measuring just 3.7 cm long and weighing a mere 7.5 grams, and displays skilfully detailed carvings. It is unique in its slim form, pointed tail, powerful legs and dynamically arched trunk. It is decorated with six short incisions, and the soles of the pachyderm’s feet show a crosshatch pattern. The miniature lion is 5.6 cm long, has a extended torso and outstretched neck. It is decorated with approximately 30 finely incised crosses on its spine.
What’s remarkable about these sudden flowerings of art is that they show an astonishing level of sophistication that doesn’t appear to have precursors. See also, for example, the Willendorf Venus and the Lascaux Caves. These finds support a top down view of intelligence (mind comes first) rather than a bottom up one (matter gradually morphs into mind).
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O’Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada’s Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soul (Harper 2007).