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The Roots Of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginnings Of Man's First Art, Symbol And Notation

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Uses artifacts, paintings, and drawings from the hunters of the Ice Age to prove that the origins of thought, the use of symbolic notation, and the development of language occurred much earlier than scientists had previously speculated.


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Uses artifacts, paintings, and drawings from the hunters of the Ice Age to prove that the origins of thought, the use of symbolic notation, and the development of language occurred much earlier than scientists had previously speculated.

30 review for The Roots Of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginnings Of Man's First Art, Symbol And Notation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Forrest

    [Update]: I've re-read the book since I wrote this review. It's as good as I remember it, maybe even a touch better than I've given it credit for. Marshack goes beyond the notion that primitive man kept track of time and had some sense of a cosmology and makes some forays into how archaeological evidence gives insights into the complexity of thought that the production of such artifacts requires. Primitive man was not so primitive, and, after reading this, I suspect that, given despite the mater [Update]: I've re-read the book since I wrote this review. It's as good as I remember it, maybe even a touch better than I've given it credit for. Marshack goes beyond the notion that primitive man kept track of time and had some sense of a cosmology and makes some forays into how archaeological evidence gives insights into the complexity of thought that the production of such artifacts requires. Primitive man was not so primitive, and, after reading this, I suspect that, given despite the materials they had to work with, primitive man and I could probably hold some very interesting conversations. There may not be so much difference between us and them as we had previously imagined. It's been quite some time since I've read Marshack's profound work, The Roots of Civilization. I'll have to get a library copy and read it again soon. When I spotted the title on Goodreads, memories flooded my mind. The Roots of Civilization made a deep impression on me when I first picked it up while browsing through the library in San Jacinto, CA. In fact, this book spurred me to minoring in anthropology when I did my undergraduate work a couple of years later. The general argument of the book is that primitive man observed the sky and used artistic representation to symbolize the phases of the moon, seasons, and so forth. The evidence is compelling. Taken largely from carved bone and antlers, along with some rock art, Marshack presents a microscopic analysis (literally examining the evidence with a microscope so as to allow no room for doubt) of what appear to be moon phases being recorded by prehistoric man on bone fragments. This isn't a gimmicky stretch, like one might expect from a Von Daniken. There are no ancient astronauts here. No, this is an anthropological text about how early man communicated what he was seeing through the use of symbols, not a work straddling the line between science fact and science fiction. The next time I read this, I shall have to follow it with one of my favorite non-fiction reads of all time, Hamlet's Mill, which also takes the longue duree approach to the history of cosmology and man's interpretation of his place among the stars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jacques Coulardeau

    GOOD TO START THINKING IN A GENDERED DIRECTION Alexander Marshack's book was first written in 1968 and published soon after. The present edition I have explored was entirely re-edited and upgraded by the author in 1991. The research, and the fieldwork, for this book, were done essentially after the Second World War at a time when new techniques and technology were emerging in archaeological research. Marshack assumed what was available and used that the best he could, and as such was able to brin GOOD TO START THINKING IN A GENDERED DIRECTION Alexander Marshack's book was first written in 1968 and published soon after. The present edition I have explored was entirely re-edited and upgraded by the author in 1991. The research, and the fieldwork, for this book, were done essentially after the Second World War at a time when new techniques and technology were emerging in archaeological research. Marshack assumed what was available and used that the best he could, and as such was able to bring Ice Age archaeology to a new level of understanding. But we must not measure what he wrote and published with the criteria and parameters we can use today in this field where technology and actual research have been speeding up so fast over the last ten or twenty years that have brought up more than the previous seventy years. Yet we have to assess Marshack’s work within the context of today’s knowledge showing not what he missed, but what he could not know, hence centering our evaluation on what he was able to do and he could have done with what he had at his disposal. What appears clearly today in the field of Paleolithic archaeology is that we need to develop two levels of analysis that were systematically missing before. The first one is linguistic. All these paleolithic paintings, engravings, and sculptures were associated with some language, to be described, to be designated and to be used in what probably was serious rituals. That language was in Europe a set of Turkic dialects that have been saved today by becoming Basque. But the next development needed today is to understand the social, and cultural position of women in this society only guided by the need to survive and the need to expand. Women were the key and center of this urgency. That's what Alexander Marshack saw and was not able to exploit, explore, understand. And that's what this book is all about. […] Chapter EIGHT: Conclusion I will only give a few points of further interest. 1- Homo Sapiens emerged in Black Africa 300,000 years ago from Homo Ergaster that had evolved there, from Homo Erectus that had migrated to the whole of Asia and Europe after migrating to Northern Africa. Homo Erectus evolved to Homo Heidelbergensis in Europe and then this first descendant evolved into Homo Neanderthalensis. We know a lot less about the Denisovans who evolved from Homo Erectus in Central Asia. 2- Homo Sapiens migrated out of Black Africa in three successive migrations that corresponded to the phylogenic evolution of language in Black Africa, each migration corresponding to the completion of the first articulation, then the second and finally the third. These three migrations produced three vast language families that still exist: Semitic, isolating and agglutinative/synthetic-analytical languages 3- Homo Sapiens came into existence when he came out of the forest and had to become a fast-long-distance bipedal runner to hunt and survive in the savanna. This caused the selection of mutations that enabled this emergence, and these mutations provided Homo Sapiens with a respiratory, articulatory and coordinating physiology that made him capable of developing articulated language starting with the rotation of vowels and consonants. 4- This evolution requires a high level of long childcare that required women to take over this responsibility that was crucial for the survival of the species and human communities, and that gave these women a spiritual responsibility too that made them the artists in the caves and outside, those responsible for various rituals, particularly the rituals that supported the Triple Womanhood of impregnation-pregnancy-delivery, and both birth and death. 5- The capital role of childbearing for both the survival and the expansion of the species, and the very narrow window of fertility of women in their menstrual cycles required the communities to observe this cycle and then to ritualized the impregnation of women, probably under the ritual management of some women elite, to guarantee these pregnancies to happen every 16-19 months but also with the necessary interbreeding to avoid any inbreeding, interbreeding with other Homo Sapiens groups, but also with the Neanderthals as long as they were around, or the Denisovans in Asia. 6- This gave rise to not one single goddess but to the Triple Goddess, at times partly or dominantly masculinized after the development of agriculture that shifted these societies from communities with hunting territories to communities attached to the land and with some authority managing the work of everyone and the tilling of the soil. This Triple Goddess should be studied in detail, but some elements of ternary structure can be found in some notations and representations in this book, or beyond. 7- The book contains the proof that the Magdalenians were starting to develop some real writing system with the case of the “P” sign attached to the Basque horse known in Basque a Pottoka. But the numerous notations studied by Marshack may be connected to the Lunar cycle though the only use of this cycle that would be the prediction of eclipses is absent from such readings. They may also correspond to the observation of menstrual cycles, and particularly the follow-up notations of the impregnation and the first months of the pregnancy to make sure it was going to be successful till delivery. This reading is essential to make sure the impregnation is successful and to make sure the first months of the pregnancy are carefully looked after to avoid miscarriages. 8- Altogether this book was important in its time to counterbalance the excessive sexualization and eroticization of Paleolithic societies by Leroi Gourhan for example, but it did not follow the example of Lévi-Strauss he quotes to study the language of these communities. It is difficult to do that when language is purely oral, and we have no trace of it. I believe we could have a lot more traces if we looked for it precisely. The case of the sign ”P” is typical of such possibilities. It is finally interesting to understand the tremendous burden that has to be pushed aside in this field of research and that always intervenes in the name of what we know as if no new knowledge was possible. Things are changing very fast today, but we still have many obstacles on the road to a real understanding of the emergence of Homo Sapiens. Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    I rated and reviewed this book on LibraryThing. You can get the review through my public account: CSRodgers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    GORDON

    Excellent, ground breaking survey of Paleolithic art. Though some of Marshacks's interpretations haven't been verified over time, his understanding that Paleolithic art was intentional, grounded, interpretive and demonstrated a grasp of mathematics has been supported by additional evidence over time. Given the new information coming out on Neandertal and Denisovan art, it may be time for an author to do a deeper overview of the chronology of art in a context broader than that of Homo sapiens. Excellent, ground breaking survey of Paleolithic art. Though some of Marshacks's interpretations haven't been verified over time, his understanding that Paleolithic art was intentional, grounded, interpretive and demonstrated a grasp of mathematics has been supported by additional evidence over time. Given the new information coming out on Neandertal and Denisovan art, it may be time for an author to do a deeper overview of the chronology of art in a context broader than that of Homo sapiens.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk

    This is, in my opinion, an important book. It looks at the origins of Art and Science and presents the argument that both have evolved out of our need to create a worldview that makes sense of our surroundings.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dafni - Gabriele

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ivan

  12. 4 out of 5

    John

  13. 4 out of 5

    TheDarkSide

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard Wise

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pedro Gómez

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kheir

  17. 4 out of 5

    Barbm1020

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kat Hunt

  19. 4 out of 5

    Annette

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joe Laser

  21. 4 out of 5

    Asmith

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nikhilesh Sharma

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  24. 5 out of 5

    LP

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael Zacchea

  26. 4 out of 5

    PLVS OVLTRE

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tom Sjöblom

  28. 5 out of 5

    Trish

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tara

  30. 4 out of 5

    Keith

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