How Art Made the World: A Journey to the Origins of Human Creativity
matter most. For Palaeolithic people, the female parts that mattered most were those required for successful reproduction: the breasts and pelvic girdle.The circuit of the Palaeolithic brain, therefore, isolated these parts and amplified them. The neurological principle here is that of ‘peak shift’. It is, as Ramachandran points out, a principle well recognized in patterns of discrimination among other animals. A rat, for instance, can be taught to differentiate between a square and a rectangle.
Altamira’s natural vault was not quite accurate.These were aurochs – a type of bison that had been extinct for thousands of years. Herds of them were depicted – standing, grazing, running, sleeping. And around these aurochs there were other four-legged beasts: horses, ibexes, boar. Gazing up at what his daughter had found, de Sautuola was almost speechless with excitement. He knew instinctively that this art was very old indeed; but it was more than instinct that told him so.The cave was littered
opposing number. Supposedly civilized conquest does something similar – only by symbolic means.Transfer of power is signalled by the ingestion of symbols of power. What was precious to the enemy becomes the victor’s spoils. If Queen Victoria was not conscious of this symbolic process, then she might have looked more closely at the collection of art within her own regal premises. At Hampton Court, a previous British monarch – Charles I (1600–49) – had purchased a series of paintings by an Italian
laying out a ‘heritage trail’ on the Palatine Hill, where Augustus opted to live close to the supposed hut of Rome’s legendary first builder, Romulus, or creating a new Forum of Augustus in the city’s heart, or decorating silver drinking cups with scenes of imperial clemency to barbarians, the Augustan image-makers worked in harmony.They were all, as we should say, ‘singing from the same hymn-sheet’. 83 (top left) The colossal head of Octavian in a courtyard of the Vatican, c.30 BC. 84 (top
‘furniture’ in Egyptian tombs during the Middle Kingdom (2040–1783 BC). Examples of such boats may be seen in many museums around the world (Fig. 121). Some appear to be carrying a small, corpse-like effigy on board; some carry models of foodstuffs and various utensils; most are staffed by an ensemble of wooden or wax manikins known as shabtis or shawabtis.These were not so much the crew of the boat as a company of servants ready to assist with chores in the next world. Some of these shabti