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'Oldest Sculpture' Found In Morocco (400K Years Old)
BBC ^ | 5-23-2003 | Paul Rincon

Posted on 05/23/2003 5:52:37 AM PDT by blam

'Oldest sculpture' found in Morocco

By Paul Rincon
BBC Science

A 400,000-year-old stone object unearthed in Morocco could be the world's oldest attempt at sculpture.

The figurine was found 15 metres below ground

That is the claim of a prehistoric art specialist who says the ancient rock bears clear signs of modification by humans.

The object, which is around six centimetres in length, is shaped like a human figure, with grooves that suggest a neck, arms and legs. On its surface are flakes of a red substance that could be remnants of paint.

The object was found 15 metres below the eroded surface of a terrace on the north bank of the river Draa near the town of Tan-Tan. It was reportedly lying just a few centimetres away from stone handaxes in ground layers dating to the Middle Acheulian period, which lasted from 500,000 to 300,000 years ago.

Cultural controversy

The find is likely to further fuel a vociferous debate over the timing of humanity's discovery of symbolism. Hominids such as Homo heidelbergensis and Homo erectus, that were alive during the Acheulian period, are not thought to have been capable of the symbolic thought needed to create art.

Writing in the journal Current Anthropology, Robert Bednarik, president of the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO), suggests that the overall shape of the Tan-Tan object was fashioned by natural processes.

But he argues that conspicuous grooves on the surface of the stone, which appear to emphasise its humanlike appearance, are partially man-made. Mr Bednarik claims that some of these grooves were made by repeated battering with a stone tool to connect up natural depressions in the rock.

Stone handaxes like these were found close to the figurine

"What we've got is a piece of stone that is largely naturally shaped.

"It has some modifications, but they are more than modifications," Mr Bednarik told BBC News Online.

Mr Bednarik tried to replicate the markings on a similar piece of rock by hitting a stone flake with a "hammerstone" in the manner of a punch. He then compared the microscopic structure of the fractures with those of the Tan-Tan object.

Sceptic's view

However, Professor Stanley Ambrose of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign said he saw no evidence for tool marks and that, although the figure was evocative, it was most likely the result of "fortuitous natural weathering".

"He [Mr Bednarik] has effectively presented all the information necessary to show this is a naturally weathered rock," Professor Ambrose told BBC News Online.

Professor Ambrose points to Mr Bednarik's observation that some rocks in the vicinity of the figure were weathered and even rounded from transport by water. Professor Ambrose believes that rocks and artifacts found at the site could have been disturbed by flowing water in the past.

Mr Bednarik also observes that flecks of a greasy substance containing iron and manganese on the surface of the stone could be red ochre, a substance used as paint by later humans.

"They [the specks] do not resemble corroded natural iron deposits, nor has any trace of this pigment been detected on any of the other objects I have examined from Tan-Tan," writes Mr Bednarik in the paper.

A 200,000-300,000-year-old stone object found at Berekhat Ram in Israel in 1986 has also been the subject of claims that it is a figurine. However, several other researchers later presented evidence that it was shaped by geological processes.

The Tan-Tan object was discovered in 1999, during a dig directed by Lutz Fiedler, the state archaeologist of Hesse in Germany.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: antiquities; godsgravesglyphs; longliverock; morocco; oldest; robertbednarik; sculpture; stanleyambrose
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1 posted on 05/23/2003 5:52:37 AM PDT by blam
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To: blam
Wow, 396,000 years before the universe was created.
2 posted on 05/23/2003 5:54:47 AM PDT by biblewonk (Spose to be a Chrissssstian)
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To: biblewonk
Oops, 394,000
3 posted on 05/23/2003 5:54:59 AM PDT by biblewonk (Spose to be a Chrissssstian)
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To: blam
I'd have thought Hillary's ankles would have been bred out of the race by now.
4 posted on 05/23/2003 5:56:53 AM PDT by Tijeras_Slim (WWJCD? What would Jeff Cooper do?)
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To: biblewonk
I have a sculpture that is two years older than this one.
5 posted on 05/23/2003 5:58:05 AM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (If you're looking for a friend, get a dog.)
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To: Flurry
I hope the sculptor didn't quit his day job.

:-D

6 posted on 05/23/2003 5:59:27 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . there is nothing new under the sun.)
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To: blam
I'm confused. I didn't think that Homo Sapiens were in existence 400,000 years ago (according to scientists). Maybe Neanderthal's were. But they are not part of our evolutionary tree (according to scientists). So, what sort of life-form was here 400,000 years ago? Something a bit more chimp like?
7 posted on 05/23/2003 6:00:39 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy
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To: biblewonk
Looks more like a cow teet than a person.
8 posted on 05/23/2003 6:01:13 AM PDT by Clean_Sweep
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To: AnAmericanMother
How do you age a rock? Depth in the soil could be the result of many factors. Strata aging is so suspect.
9 posted on 05/23/2003 6:02:29 AM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (If you're looking for a friend, get a dog.)
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To: Clean_Sweep
I thought it looked like a combination phallus naked woman. What an unusual mixture.
10 posted on 05/23/2003 6:02:56 AM PDT by biblewonk (Spose to be a Chrissssstian)
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To: blam
First thing I thought when I saw the photo was "Venus figure".
11 posted on 05/23/2003 6:07:57 AM PDT by Free Trapper
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To: Flurry
Strata aging is about all we've got for that time period.

If the soil was undisturbed, and other contemporaneous objects were found with it, it might be valid. Where strata aging can be validated against other dating techniques (pottery styles, tree rings, etc.) it has proved fairly accurate - so long as proper protocols were observed in excavation. I don't know the State Archaeologist of Hesse, but the Germans are generally meticulous excavators.

But what worries me is the custom in Morocco (I think it's Morocco) of digging those underground channels for water, with occasional manholes. Recipe for strata disturbance.

12 posted on 05/23/2003 6:09:21 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . there is nothing new under the sun.)
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To: AnAmericanMother
Well I still have a sculpture that is two years older so to heck with the Germs. Thanks
13 posted on 05/23/2003 6:11:41 AM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (If you're looking for a friend, get a dog.)
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To: Free Trapper
first thing i thought of was...


14 posted on 05/23/2003 6:12:30 AM PDT by new cruelty
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To: ClearCase_guy
"Maybe Neanderthal's were."

This is before Neanderthals too. They go back about 250,000 years.

15 posted on 05/23/2003 6:13:51 AM PDT by blam
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To: new cruelty
That's out of this world. :O)
16 posted on 05/23/2003 6:14:54 AM PDT by Free Trapper
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To: blam
This creature is obviously wearing a spacesuit. Can't you see the helmet? Must be one of those ancient astronauts.
17 posted on 05/23/2003 6:15:18 AM PDT by Hegemony Cricket (Problems that go away on their own, can come back on their own.)
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To: biblewonk
Sorry, I don't mean to be dense, I'm just curious about what you meant by saying '394,000 years before the universe was created'? Are you saying the universe was created 6,000 years ago.
18 posted on 05/23/2003 6:18:43 AM PDT by new cruelty
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To: blam
"You know, if I were a single man, I might ask that sculpture out. That's a good-looking sculpture!"
--Bill Clinton
19 posted on 05/23/2003 6:19:26 AM PDT by Charles Henrickson (Clinton gets stoned.)
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To: blam
Global catastrophism. Things don't always take a long time to happen, the earth may have been in upheaval, misplaced this relic in the older strata.
20 posted on 05/23/2003 6:21:21 AM PDT by HankReardon
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To: Flurry
"400,000 B.C." was chiseled in the lower right corner.
21 posted on 05/23/2003 6:21:27 AM PDT by almcbean
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To: Flurry
OK, I'll bite . . .

How do you know?

<< g >>

22 posted on 05/23/2003 6:23:28 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . there is nothing new under the sun.)
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To: almcbean
Oh! Well I guess it's valid then.
23 posted on 05/23/2003 6:23:50 AM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (If you're looking for a friend, get a dog.)
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To: new cruelty
Maybe 15,000 yrs, not much older if at all.
24 posted on 05/23/2003 6:24:31 AM PDT by HankReardon
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To: HankReardon
what? the universe? hmph. go figure.
25 posted on 05/23/2003 6:25:57 AM PDT by new cruelty
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To: new cruelty
In what is called young earth creationism the earth is less than 10,000 years old.
26 posted on 05/23/2003 6:27:31 AM PDT by activationproducts (I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.)
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To: AnAmericanMother
It has a little sticker on the bottom that includes a date.
27 posted on 05/23/2003 6:27:41 AM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (If you're looking for a friend, get a dog.)
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Comment #28 Removed by Moderator

To: new cruelty
Seriously, I have not come to a belief, I find it a very interesting subject to try to keep an open mind about.
29 posted on 05/23/2003 6:28:43 AM PDT by HankReardon
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To: Clean_Sweep
"Looks more like a cow teet than a person."

So does Hillary Clinton. Plus, her intellectual capacity is on par with this piece of stone.


30 posted on 05/23/2003 6:30:28 AM PDT by Modernman
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To: HankReardon; activationproducts
I believe you are serious and I also find it interesting.
31 posted on 05/23/2003 6:32:57 AM PDT by new cruelty
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To: blam
Helen Thomas.
32 posted on 05/23/2003 6:37:03 AM PDT by lawdude (Liberalism: A failure every time it is tried.)
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To: blam
Writing found nearby deciphered: "Holy mackerel dig the a*ss on that broad!"
33 posted on 05/23/2003 6:37:08 AM PDT by evets (Nephilim - Genesis 6:4)
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To: blam
One time, Cliff Claven found a potato that looked like Abe Lincoln !
34 posted on 05/23/2003 6:39:44 AM PDT by error99
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To: new cruelty
I am very serious, I'm not going to say, "This is how I believe and that's it!" I find it easier to consider something like the earth is only 15,000 years than to believe in evolution, humans are not animals, no matter what they tell our kids in the government schools.
35 posted on 05/23/2003 6:40:24 AM PDT by HankReardon
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To: new cruelty
Are you saying the universe was created 6,000 years ago.

Yes, all of us "fundies" say that. Well, most of us do.

36 posted on 05/23/2003 6:40:54 AM PDT by biblewonk (Spose to be a Chrissssstian)
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To: biblewonk
>Wow, 396,000 years before the universe was created.

Hah! You're reading my mind.

I'd have to see this supposed "Venus Figurine" before I coulld attempt a call here but it looks good. Many explainations are possible though. If it was dated via stratigraphic association, ground disturbances coould have misplaced it in the depositions. On the surface, I'd say it's too old. Something's worng.

37 posted on 05/23/2003 6:41:10 AM PDT by Celantro
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To: AnAmericanMother
For some reason, don't ask how my mind works, I remember a tv sitcom, "Family Affair" maybe.

The kids were playing with clay and somehow, one of their creations gets recognized as "Pre-Columbian" art.

38 posted on 05/23/2003 6:43:05 AM PDT by Calvin Locke
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To: biblewonk; HankReardon; activationproducts
Very interesting, so where can I read more about this topic?
39 posted on 05/23/2003 6:48:28 AM PDT by new cruelty
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To: new cruelty
www.rae.org
40 posted on 05/23/2003 6:52:30 AM PDT by HankReardon
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To: evets
Ease up! Almost wet myself. ROTFLMAO
41 posted on 05/23/2003 6:56:37 AM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (If you're looking for a friend, get a dog.)
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To: blam
Some guy named Achmed made the statuette about 2 years ago using some 400,000-year-old clay he found under a rock.
42 posted on 05/23/2003 6:57:29 AM PDT by Consort
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To: error99
"One time, Cliff Claven found a potato that looked like Abe Lincoln ! "

I remember that. This is series.
43 posted on 05/23/2003 6:58:36 AM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (If you're looking for a friend, get a dog.)
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To: Flurry
"little sticker ... includes a date"

Yeah, it also says "Made in China"!
44 posted on 05/23/2003 7:05:34 AM PDT by Hegemony Cricket (Problems that go away on their own, can come back on their own.)
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To: new cruelty
http://www.icr.org/

This is one of many many places you can read on this topic. It was quite a paradigm shift for me after 22 years of believing in evolution, to get saved and learn that there was a large piece of the population that believed that the universe was only 6000 years old. Many of those people are engineers and scientists and doctors. When I first became a Christian I just thought God could have made the universe when and however He wanted. Then, after learning about the bible and it's divine inspiriation and trustworthness I realized, through some Christian discipleship, that the bible is very clear on the subject.

45 posted on 05/23/2003 7:12:20 AM PDT by biblewonk (Spose to be a Chrissssstian)
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To: new cruelty
check out www.drdino.com

(sorry it's not a hotlink - I gotta tear myself away from the forum long enough to figure out the html stuff)
46 posted on 05/23/2003 7:13:42 AM PDT by Hegemony Cricket (Problems that go away on their own, can come back on their own.)
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To: ClearCase_guy
Considering that the fore-runners of chimps split from the line of man some 6 or 7 million years ago, I would not expect a tool-maker from +- 400,000 years ago to be much more chimp like.

The statue maker could have been H. Neandarthal, could have been H. Erectus. Could have even been a type of hominid yet to be described. But it wasn't a chimp, anymore than you are a chimp.
47 posted on 05/23/2003 7:15:50 AM PDT by The Shootist
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To: new cruelty
Try putting "6000 years" in the search window on the main page.
48 posted on 05/23/2003 7:16:50 AM PDT by biblewonk (Spose to be a Chrissssstian)
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To: blam
YEC skeptical read later
49 posted on 05/23/2003 7:17:08 AM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: Hegemony Cricket
No! It says, "Made in New York City by Sculptor's Local 103225. 400,002 BC". Who could doubt the authenticity? It's a flint Statue of Liberty. It is my prized possession.
50 posted on 05/23/2003 7:19:45 AM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (If you're looking for a friend, get a dog.)
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