History of Technology 6: Symbolic Art

Symbolic art was very "#@**@*^^*" What? Too symbolic for you to understand? Check out this video, then.

LanguageEnglish Language
TechnologyHistory of Technology

Transcript

00:18

Not really.

00:19

There was a severe lack of pointless Youtube videos. [Cat video playing on a TV]

00:21

Anyway, some scholars think there's a direct link between the two events, and that seems

00:25

pretty valid!

00:26

Which is good, or those guys would be pretty subpar scholars.

00:30

So what do these smarty pantses see as the connection? [Pants with arms and glasses]

00:33

Well, the basic idea is that along with abstract concepts and language systems came the desire [Amish looking man reading a newspaper]

00:38

to make more permanent symbols than sounds. [Modern women reading a newspaper]

00:41

In a lot of cases, this desire came in the form of little carvings of naked women.

00:46

Which we're glad went out of style.

00:47

That'd make reading a book at the airport pretty awkward. [Boy looks uncomfortable]

00:50

But the oldest carved figurine ever found is a tiny sculpture of a woman's body, with [Hand digging up dirt]

00:56

exaggerated features. [A figurine is pulled out of the hole]

00:58

These days, folks call her the Venus of Hohle Fels.

01:02

She was made in Germany around 40,000 years ago. [Man making figurine]

01:05

Scientists have spent a lot of time wondering who made her, why they made her, and if they [Scientist looking through a microscope]

01:10

had ever actually seen a woman before…which….valid.

01:14

See, the carving isn't really lifelike…

01:17

But we’ll cut the artist some slack…

01:20

Ancient Germany didn’t have a lot of art schools…

01:22

The whole struggle for survival probably stood in the way. [Dog jumping up]

01:25

But what if the figurine’s proportions are meant to be distorted?

01:29

What if she’s meant to represent a supernatural figure?

01:32

Maybe some ancient goddess or spirit of fertility, childbirth, or sex? [A goddess comes and takes the artist away]

01:38

Some have also pointed out how the Venus of Hohle Fels is on the bigger side, which is

01:44

a little rude if you ask us, still fat shaming 40,000 years ago...

01:47

But some say that's meant to be a good thing.

01:49

It’s a wish for a time of plenty in an era where most folks were probably hungry and [Man dreaming of food]

01:54

cold.

01:55

Later versions of these Venuses have been found all over Paleolithic Europe, including [Map showing the locations of the sculptures]

02:02

the 25,000 year old Venus of Willendorf.

02:05

Sorry, Venus of Willendorf…we didn’t mean to tell everybody your age.

02:09

Other than women, early humans were mostly interested in depicting animals.

02:13

It makes sense, because what else were they gonna draw? [Man drawing animals]

02:17

Skyscrapers?

02:18

Nope.

02:19

Celebrities?

02:20

Nah.

02:21

Lots of the earliest cave paintings and carvings depicted animals being hunted.

02:25

One popular theory is that the drawings were magic totems, which would bring success to [Man is knocked over by a herd of animals]

02:29

the hunt.

02:30

Others think the drawings were records of actual animals killed… [Man keeping tally of how many animals have been killed]

02:34

…or memories of animals that were migrating or going extinct during periods of climatic

02:39

change...

02:40

Sometimes they even seem to be drawings that smash together traits that humans admired

02:45

to create depictions of mythical creatures. [Man and bison facing off]

02:48

Y'know…like spirits with human bodies and the heads of bison. [Man with a bison head]

02:52

We’re guessing they admired bison heads for those fighting horns and not their chiseled [Man with bison head, headbutting a tree]

02:57

good looks.

02:58

But what do all these drawings and sculptures mean in terms of communication history?

03:03

Well, they mean that humans have been trying to record their ideas and experiences for [Person drawing graffiti on a wall]

03:08

a super long time…

03:10

…they mean that things like religion, reproduction, and remembering the past are pretty fundamental

03:15

to our identities as humans... [Gravestone at the bottom of the ocean]

03:17

…and they mean that we sometimes secretly wish we had the heads of bison… [Woman on a date with the man with a bison head]

03:22

Take that with a grain of salt.