Thursday, 1 March 2012

The First Spirals

Mesolithic Petroglyph from Northern Italy
One of the earliest human abstract symbols is the SPIRAL MAZE.

Something changed in the human mind during the period called the Mesolithic. While rock art painted or engraved continued to depict animals and humans abstract objects and patterns begin to appear.

It was once thought or presumed that these rock engravings were done by bored shepherds but archaeologist snow believe much of this kind of art  dates back to the very beginning on the Neolithic or even earlier to the Mesolithic.

In Europe humans were adjusting to the retreat of the glaciers and the great northern plains reverting from steppe and tundra back to forest or warmer grasslands. The use of bow and arrow and fishing nets and lines showed a change in hunting and domestication was beginning with wolves who tolerated humans hunting or camping with or near them becoming household and village dogs.

What did the spiral maze represent to them? A dance pattern? A calendar?

Any myths and stories we have about mazes come from a much later era.

Myths and folklore about Troy dances and Labyrinths date to the Bronze Age which was 3 or 4 thousand years after the Mesolithic and those stories were recorded at a time when people had half forgotten the remains of the Labyrinth at Knossos were once a palace and the Troy and other maze pattern dances were mere echos of religious rituals.

Time changes meaning.

Mazes became follies in the gardens of aristocrats but the pattern underlying hedges is an ancient  mystery.

This image of an Italian petroglyph shares a pattern and perhaps an origin with them?

Had any of the first designers of mazes stumbled upon petroglyphs?

What do you think?