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WiseGuy: The Author's Blog

Kashmir Blues

An exceptional image of a Kashmir sapphire showing the velvety appearance typical of the finest gems from the region. 

By Richa Goyal Sikri. Originally published in GemGeneva Newsletter 5/11/23

When I first started collecting coloured gemstones, I came across an extraordinary book by Richard W. Wise called 'Secrets of the Gem Trade'. While there were many nuggets of knowledge embedded in the book, there were three, in particular, I continue to employ as my guiding principles. The first, 'light equals colour', referring to the variable hues of sunlight and how it impacts coloured gemstones. Mindful of this, I try to view coloured gems between 11.30 am to 2.00 pm when the light is ideally colour balanced.


The second, 'value beauty, over pedigree', meaning, before origin, the beauty of the stone will always drive value appreciation. Qualities like hue, tone, saturation, lustre, cut, crystal quality, will remain the fundamental building blocks against which value is assigned and evaluated, with origin only afterwards becoming a factor.


The third principle, 'while beauty drives demand, it's the rarity factor that drives the price.' How does one define rarity?  READ ON:

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The Dawning: 31,000 BC has been longlisted for The 2023 Chaucer Book Award in Historical Fiction

The Dawning: 31,000 BC has been longlisted for the CHAUCER Book Awards for pre-1750s Historical Fiction | Chanticleer International Book Awards

These titles have moved forward in the judging rounds from all 2023 Chaucer Early Historical Fiction entries to the 2023 Chaucer Book Awards LONG LIST. Entries below are now in competition for the 2023 Chaucer Short List. The Short Listers will compete for the Semi-Finalist positions. All FINALISTS will be selected from the Semi-Finalists. Winners will be announced and recognized at the Chanticleer Authors Conference (CAC24).

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Historical Novel Society reviews: The Dawning: 31,000 BC

The Dawning: 31,000 BC


"A truly fascinating subject, which Mr. Wise handles with evident aplomb."



I recently saw a documentary about the Lagar Vehlo child, a prehistoric skeleton discovered in Portugal twenty or so years ago. What is fascinating about this find is that it is evidently a mix between Neanderthal and Homo sapiens—and that segues rather nicely into Mr. Wise's story set so far into the past the Neanderthals still roamed the world.


Humans have always been wary of strangers, and this rule applies to the past as well, where our very distant ancestors want as little as possible to do with the stocky and fair-skinned people who live such rustic and primitive lives (!). When two young girls are abducted by a party of Neanderthals, their surviving tribesmen vow to rescue them, which proves harder than they thought.


The Neanderthals have a reason for abducting young, potentially fertile, women. Their women rarely conceive, and the Lion Clan has so few children it is evident they have no future unless, somehow, they manage to reverse the trend. Which is why Scar, the leader of the clan, decides to steal away the two girls, knowing full well this may lead to violent retribution. Our young female protagonist, Lada, is to end up torn in two between hate for the man who abducted her but also a growing tenderness for the same man, now that they have a baby together.


Mr. Wise spins a good tale, capably supported by strong descriptive writing and a cast of interesting characters—from the doomed Scar, to Lada and the very young shaman Ejil. And then, of course, there is little Efram, the baby that carries the DNA of both Neanderthal and Homo sapiens—just like that little child discovered in Lagar Vehlo does! A truly fascinating subject, which Mr. Wise handles with evident aplomb.


Click here!

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Short Story: Fall Issue: Social Policy Magazine. Read Free!

Even Peter Piper Picks

The Great South Kingstown Dump Picker's Rebellion


By Richard W. Wise

Copyright: 2023



"Hi, I don't know if you remember me," said the voice on the phone. "My name is Frank Frisella. I'm your mailman." Could there be a problem with the mail at 9:30 on a Friday night? I wondered. The voice continued.


"I was told maybe you could help us. Have you heard that the town council has closed the dump? Well, me and a bunch of other guys, you know, dump pickers—we don't see that the town has any right to stop us from picking at the dump."


I vaguely recalled Frank dressed in his gray postman's uniform, a dark-haired skinny guy with a long nose and a bright smile, but I'd had a tough week. My patience was wearing thin, but my curiosity was aroused. What does this nut want, I asked myself. He soon came to the point.


"I was told you are a community organizer and that you help people fight for their rights. Do you think you could help us organize for our right to pick the dump?"

Sure, I organize people. Groups against slumlords and neighborhood redlining, for constitutional and civil rights, but dump picker's rights? It sounded a little frivolous and totally beyond my experience.  I began to realize that the guy was serious and not wanting to jeopardize my mail delivery, so, I began asking questions. "Just how many dump-pickers are there?"


"Well, The Times published my letter last week. Twenty people called to support the reopening of the dump and a bunch of customers along my route stopped me too. The council is afraid the state and the EPA's gonna come down on them on account of a few dump fires. They passed an emergency ordinance mainly to satisfy the Feds. Seems like they are trying to blame us pickers for starting the fires."

Humm, well, now I was beginning to get excited. The pickers were being slandered. However, the conversation had been going on for a half hour and my wife was beginning to get excited and was giving me the fisheye. "Look, I gotta go. Think you bring along your supporters and be at my house at three-thirty Sunday afternoon," I asked.


"Yes, absolutely," he said and we hung up.


At 2:30 pm Sunday, the pickers began arriving. By 3:00 p.m., the living room of our old Victorian was packed. What a mix! Business people, homemakers, working class, and middle class. Some with long hair, one with short hair, and a few with nothing up there at all.  Everyone wanted to vent. I began by taking in the comments that ricocheted around the room. They were the most unlikely mix I'd ever seen coalesce around an issue, but they shared a common bond; they had been stripped of their right to pick the dump and were damn mad about it.


As I listened, in my mind, the issue began to jell.


"Why," one middle-aged firefighter asked, "would anyone want to ban such a venerable South County tradition?"


"What do they think dump picking causes fires?" A gray-bearded guy in red suspenders asked.


"We are scapegoats," Frank Frisella replied to a general murmur of approval.


"Were any of the pickers responsible," I asked.


Angry denials erupted from all sides.


Social worker, Ted Rickson, made the point succinctly. "Why," he asked, "would anyone picking the dump want to burn the dump? If someone fires the dump, he is an arsonist, not a dump picker. If the town wants to ban arsonists, we will have no objections."


The idea of banning dump picking to stop fires began to sound more ridiculous. The dump was wide open. If you wished to get rid of anything, you drove in, backed up your car, and tossed the stuff out. Who did that hurt? The arguments hit home. The pickers in the right. I was hooked. 

With the help of Ted, and Frank, the mailman, the meeting was brought to order. I began to explain the art of building organization and applying political pressure. I was more than a little curious to know how such a mixed group would take to organizing strategy.  They seemed a bit doubtful, but Ted and Frank were solidly in my corner. Questions and suggestions started coming.  The pickers began to map out a campaign.


"We need press," I told the group. A dump pickers uprising, really?  It sounded like a reporter's wet dream.  Publicity would get the word around and recruit more people. In a small community, people translate into votes and a few votes can move mountains. Two spokesmen, Frank and Ted, would handle the press. A list was drawn up for research. The pickers would need a copy of the emergency ordinance and the state and federal regulations upon which the rule was supposedly based.  With this accomplished, I asked that everyone return in two weeks to evaluate the research and solidify the planning for a big rally.


If I had any lingering doubts about the picker's determination, the next meeting put them securely to rest. I arrived a few minutes late to find my living room, dining room, and hallway stuffed full of dump pickers (about thirty in all). How, I asked myself, were we going to put together an agenda with all these people?


The pickers were attentive. We reviewed the research. They had picked a lawyer—I didn't ask where—who assured the group that the ordinance seemed in order. The town charter allowed for the passage of emergency ordinances to protect the citizens' health and safety. The question was raised, is this an emergency—the pickers didn't consider themselves one—could it go on indefinitely? No, emergency ordinances had a time limit of sixty days. The council had already extended this once and was set to do so again unless the pickers could stop them.


The research revealed another interesting fact. State regulations—the town council had raised as the bogeyman—contained no specific language banning dump picking. We had drawn a trump. The board had been playing the state and the pickers off against each other. Telling the state that the pickers were responsible for the fires and telling the irate pickers that they were following regulations handed down by the state. Result: like Pontius Pilate, the council's hands seemed clean.  


Armed with this new information, the pickers were ready to gear up the campaign. Under the sixty-day rule, the council would have to act to extend the ordinance by February 11th. I suggested the mass meeting be held last week of January.  The Tuesday before was selected to get maximum coverage from the weekly newspaper. With the addition of Kathy Waterman, a liberated picker, Frank and Ted would arrange for the hall and ensure that invitations to the rally were sent to the town manager and all council members. The demands were simple. Ted would talk to reporters from the local weekly and the state-wide daily newspaper. The agenda planning meeting would take place two days before the rally.


The Times coverage prompted a deluge of letters to the editor. It included one from a man who claimed he couldn't heat his house without wood from the dump. As Ted explained to me later, he had made a little deal. Early in the week, he called both papers. The state-wide reporter seemed lukewarm, but the weekly was hot to trot. The Times editor promised a big splash if the pickers would forget the state-wide Journal. Ted rightly figured it was worth it and took the deal.


The council was so upset by the "great public outcry" that they voted to modify the ordinance to allow the removal of wood from the dump at their bi-weekly meeting.  This concession did little to pacify the pickers. We met the following Sunday, proceeded to make up a list of questions for the councilman, and ensured everyone was on board with the single demand. 

"Hey," I said, "I almost forgot, the group needs a name."


Ted stood up, grinning, and handed me a bumper sticker. "We already have, er, picked one. You get this one free as your consulting fee." Black on white, the sticker read:


South Kingstown, R.I. Dump Pickers Assoc., Inc.


Ted was elected president. We added a few hardcore pickers to create a steering committee and selected Frank as VP. I began to feel like a fifth wheel.

I missed the rally. Ted and Frank had things under control, and I was running a crucial anti-redlining project in Boston. The press-clipping my wife shoved in front of me as I walked through the door the following Sunday night left little doubt. The pickers made good choices in Ted and Frank. The newspaper account must have sizzled the local politician's eyebrows. Two of the councilmen had flipped. The pickers were firmly in command and loving it.


It was a great turnout. Between ninety and one hundred people showed up at the rally. People were joining the new association in droves. Aside from the press announcements, the pickers had sent out letters to one hundred fifty interested citizens and followed up each with a personal visit or phone call.  Except for the turnout of politicians—the group had netted only one—the rally was a great success. From where the councilman had been placed at the front of the hall, he looked out at the sea of angry faces and agreed to put the Dump Pickers Association on the agenda at the February meeting.

Victory was in the air, and the organization had picked up the scent. They were optimistic—perhaps too optimistic. Having seen poor follow-up whittle an army down to platoon size on more than one occasion,


I tried to dampen things a bit and insisted on another mailing and a phone tree.


Kathy's diligence unearthed an interesting fact on the Sunday before the council meeting. Aside from banning dump picking, the emergency ordinance was identical to the original regulation written in 1946. The revised law failed even to ban smoking.


"Yeah, right picking doesn't cause fires; smoking does," Ted said.


"What? We need a new flyer to pass out at the council meeting," I said, rubbing my hands together. Oh, this was going to be fun!


Two evenings later, over one hundred fifty angry dump pickers and fellow travelers descended on the town council chambers filling it until it overflowed and burst out into the hallway.

I managed to drive in from Boston in time for the meeting and shoehorn myself into the packed hallway. After running a gauntlet of angry pickers, the council president asked that the discussion be limited to organization spokespeople. He then sat back in his cushioned chair as, one by one, some thirty pickers spent the next two hours berating the council for the slanderous assault on the good name of dump pickers—some bridled at the term and preferred to be called: "treasure hunters."

A discussion of the virtues of dump picking was illustrated with live demonstrations, including a show and tell of valuable items found at the dump, which included a sea chest, an electric razor, a drum, an 1879 medical encyclopedia, and a plastic pouch filled with silver coins. Charles Coates, a self-confessed junk buzzard with a flowing gray beard, serenaded the council with a mandolin he found at the landfill.

After a long jargon-filled explanation by the town manager to justify his recommendation that the dump be closed, the council played its last card. Turning to a state health department official brought in for the purpose, the town manager asked.


"Isn't it a fact that the town is hamstrung by state regulations?"


To give the bureaucrat credit, he tried. "According to state regulations," he began.

The pickers were well prepared. Up jumped Kathy Waterman, who recited the state regulation verbatim in a booming voice, making special note that it did allow smoking and did not ban the removal of items from the dump.


The trap snapped shut. Stripped of his ability to confuse people with his superior grasp of legalistic jargon, the bewildered official sat himself down. It was over. The council had lost its last excuse.

The remainder of the meeting was anti-climactic. Amid repeated demands for repeal and some to impeach individual council members, the emergency ordinance was unanimously shelved to a chorus of cheers.  Drum beating, mandolin playing, the chamber erupted in celebration.



The South Kingstown Dump Pickers had scored a great victory. Community groups organized around a single issue often disappear once the issue is resolved. Not so the Dump Pickers At the height of the controversy, the association boasted two hundred fifty card-carrying members. Frank Frisella kept the group alive.


The pickers got involved in charity work and fundraising for local non-profits. However, by 1976 the organization had, in Frank's words, "gone dormant". Nonetheless, the postman carried on. In the first week in July of that year, Frank Frisella mounted his trusty, rusty steed—a Chevy pickup that had seen better days, and showed the flag at National Dump Week in Kennebunkport, Massachusetts.

The celebration included a Miss Dumpy contest and a parade. Frank did not return empty-handed. He found an entire collection of National Geographic Magazines going back to 1927 at the Kennebunkport dump. The flood of bumper stickers the decorated cars during the 1974 controversy are largely gone now. But, like the phoenix, the dump pickers stand ready to rise from the ashes should their sacred rights be threatened. "Any organization with thirty-seven vice presidents never lacks leadership," Frank said. Just goes to show you can never tell where organizing a community might lead.



The author wishes to thank The Narragansett Times, Wakefield, Rhode Island, for permission to reproduce the press clippings for this story.

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New Perspectives on Settled Life in Prehstoric Europe: Part III

Reconstruction from the skeleton of a 13-year-old skeleton found at Sunghir, Circa 30,000 BP 

By Richard W. Wise

Author: The Dawning: 31,000 BC
The brain's prefrontal cortex houses what are called executive functions, including reasoning, planning, and communicating—a precondition for the creation of images. Thus, thanks in part to cave art, we know that the Homo Sapiens who peopled the late Paleolithic had conceptual skills. In short, they were very much like us. 
Some scholars have attempted to draw an artificial line between history, the period following the advent of writing, and what is termed prehistory. The latter has been portrayed as either a primitive Eden or Hell on earth, depending upon whether one follows the basic assumptions of the 16th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes—remember: nasty, brutal, and short—or the speculations on Natural Man by the 18th-century French philosophe Jean Jacques Rousseau. 
As I stated in Part I, much of the study of history has been devoted to elitist, authoritarian regimes simply because they had the power to centralize wealth and coerce their citizens into constructing monuments that have survived into modern times. They also controlled what entered the written record.

I don't mean to imply that authoritarianism was the single governmental model of prehistory. In a new book, The Dawn of Everything (2021), anthropologist David Graeber and archeologist David Wengrow take a refreshing new look at political prehistory. They suggest that history was not the sole playground of kings, priests, and bloody conquerors which has been the traditional focus of both disciplines. 
Removing the blinders and carefully reevaluating what we have learned from archeology and anthropology suggests that various unusual forms of government evolved some more democratic than the conventional view of written history suggests.
In some cultures, there may have been discussions and meetings to determine the where and when of things, but then a band hunting a cave lion couldn't afford the time to debate. Thus, there were two forms, before and after. Once the hunt was over, the band reverted to a more democratic model. 
It seems perfectly logical to remove the red line and take what we know of human nature as expressed through written history and apply that to prehistory. What, after all, is the basis for the line? Rousseau believed it to be private property. Though he held private property to be a sacred right, he also wrote that it was one of those attributes of civilization that it was the basis for the corruption of the Noble Savage which eventually made a slave of him.
Let's start with leadership. Bring half a dozen boys or girls into a group, and a leader will soon arise. If it's a pickup basketball game, there are likely to be two, one on each team. Conflict? Two tribal parties stalking the same auroch herd encounter each other on the open taiga; conflict is likely. Conflict and war do seem to define us as a species.
What does all this have to do with cave art, and does cave art provide any clues to the question of the development of types of government in prehistoric times? Good question and one I will attempt to answer.


Stay tuned.



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New Perspectives on Settled Life in Prehstoric Europe: Part II

Searching for meaning? This small mammoth ivory sculpture--a man who appears deep in thought---was found at Dolni Vestonice in Romania. Male images are unusual from European sites.


by Richard W. Wise

Author: The Dawning: 31,000 BC

Copyright 2023


Far from just a burial site, Sunghir was a substantial village. By prehistorical standards, the area was "enormous." Active between 20-29,000 BP—later than Chauvet, earlier than Lascaux—two to three thousand people regularly visited the complex. How did it feed such a large population?


It was located along a mammoth migratory route (Lewis-Williams). A single kill supplied hundreds of pounds of meat sufficient to support a large population. (Don Hitchcock, Don's Maps). (Remains of 1613 specimens were identified at Dolni Vestonice (Wilczyński 2016) There is also evidence of specialized crafts and a division of labor.
Discoveries at Sunghir and Dolni Vestonice challenge the standard portrait of human prehistory as consisting of small wandering, leaderless, egalitarian bands of twenty-five to fifty individuals (Klima 2005). This model has now been shown to be true only a certain times and places. Find a renewable source of food, migratory routes, or fish-filled rivers, and people settled down. Were these groups leaderless? Were they egalitarian? And what about conflict? 
The brain's prefrontal cortex houses what are called executive functions, including reasoning, planning and communicating—a precondition for the creation of images. Thus, thanks in part to cave art, we know that the Homo Sapiens who peopled the late Paleolithic were just like us.
Some scholars have attempted to draw an artificial line between history, the period following the advent of writing, and what is termed prehistory. The latter has been portrayed as either a primitive Eden or hell on earth, depending upon whether one follows the writings of the 16th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes—remember: nasty, brutal and short—or the speculations on Natural Man by the 18th-century French philosophe Jean Jacques Rousseau.
As I stated in Part I, much of the study of history has been devoted to elitist, authoritarian regimes simply because they had the power to centralize wealth and coerce their citizens into constructing monuments that have survived into modern times. They also controlled what entered the written record. 


Stay Tuned: Part III Governing in the Upper Paleolithic.  

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The Painted Caves of Southern France, Part XVII: Wealth & Society in the Paleolithic

Artist's conception of the triple burial at the Paleolithic site at Dolni Vestonice (30,000 BP), Romania. No trace of the clothing of the period has survived and though we are unsure of Paleolithic fashion, the beads, as at Sunghir, were found as they would have appeared attached to the clothing. 

by Richard W. Wise

Author: The Dawning: 31`,000 BC

Copyright 2021
As any good Marxist will tell you, history is a long, sad tale of the exploitation of the many by the few. Marx's thesis is difficult to dispute though his solution left a lot to be desired. We study elites and their wars. Why? Because what physically remains are the temples, pyramids, monuments and dwellings of the priests, aristocrats, military leaders and kings and what was written down was at their behest. Of the ordinary people, we know almost nothing. Their lives are not described. They were not buried in monumental graves and their mud, wood and thatch dwellings have mostly deteriorated, leaving little or no trace.
Excavations of a Paleolithic burial at Sunghir, 200 km. east of Moscow, between 1957-77 unearthed the elaborate burial of an elderly male covered in carved beads and red ochre (Sunghir 1). Aged about sixty, the skeleton is dated to the Aurignacian Period, between 24-34,000 BP. (Buzhilova 2004) The grave contains 2,936 mammoth ivory beads, pierced fox teeth and ivory armbands. Two others, one juvenile (Sunghir 2) and one adolescent (Sunghir 3), were buried close by—head-to-head— with 10,000 beads and similar grave goods. The two male children, buried head-to-head, show distinct physical deformities. The three individuals were not closely related (Sikora et al. 2017)
These birth defects would have made it difficult for them—to pull their weight—
to participate fully in the life of the tribe. Yet they were buried with great pomp and circumstance. Similar burials of deformed individuals have been found at Dolni Vestonice in Romania, dated to 28,000 BP. Again, two children were buried head-to-head. These burials—and there are many others—suggest care, empathy, and perhaps, more.
Experiments have shown that allowing one hour per bead would have required 3,000 hours to manufacture the beads found in the male's burial at Sunghir. That's a whole lot of surplus labor. Taking an analogy from the San people, the so-called Pygmies of South Africa, who feed themselves in a desert environment working a three-day week, we know that ancient hunter-gathers had a good deal of leisure time or, rather, sufficient time to create surplus value, also known as wealth. To whose benefit? It is difficult to wish away what these burials are telling us. The Sunghir burials have been referred to as "royal." Where there is wealth, there is also status and social stratification. 


Stay tuned.

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The Painted Caves of Southern France, Part XVI: The Calendar of Creation #4

Nude Descending A Staircase. This painting, executed by Marcel Duchamp in 1912, is meant to portray motion, past and future. A similar technique can be found in the rhinoceros panel at Chauvet Cave, dated to 34,000 BP and at Lascaux 15,000 years later.

Suppose the cave paintings resulted from a drug-induced, ecstatic experience; much prep work was required. Paints had to be mixed, surfaces prepared and scaffolds built. In the Axial Gallery at Lascaux, the remains of post holes can be seen.
At Lascaux, the spacing of the animals in the Hall of the Bulls frieze was carefully laid out, requiring precise measurement. The art is highly stylized. In the Nave, a series of seven Ibex labeled "Futuristic" after the dynamic early 20th-century art movement featured multiple images in time. Artists executed the ibex panel with a similar intent.  
In the first four images in the ibex series, only the neck, head and long horns are depicted; in the last three, only their horns and eyes. Is it meant as a herd or a single animal sweeping forward? There is a distinct sense of forward motion. Similar depictions may be seen in the rhinoceros panel at Chauvet dating back to the Aurignacian, 36,000 years.


Another series, in the same cave, the Frieze of the Stags, depicts the heads of five animals in motion, possibly swimming. The similar ears and glands have led some scholars to interpret them as a single individual in five successive poses into the ibex panel. However, the differing horn configurations suggest a herd was intended rather than a single individual. The artist clearly meant to articulate the difference.
These are artists trained in a tradition that would have required an apprenticeship. It speaks of organization and purpose. What purpose? We do not know.
We do know that these caves were used over a considerable period. Were they temples? Had these simple egalitarian groups an organized priesthood with painterly pretensions?


Stay tuned.



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The Painted Caves of Southern France, Part XV: The Calendar of Creation Part 3

Rhinoceros face-off. Two rhinos head to head. Note the position of the legs. These animals are not floating. The scene has various interpretations. According to an expert on modern African rhinos, what appears to be a confrontation may be the meeting of two animals meeting getting to know one another. 

by Richard W. Wise
Author: The Dawning: 31,000 BC


I find the altered states explanation problematic. If the painting are non-rational projections of our subconscious or the result of our brain's internal structure, why are they not more fantastical? The artists, at least in Europe, created realistic, naturalistic depictions. Lewis-Williams points to the fact that the images are not grounded, not part of a scene. The animals depicted appear to float—their hooves often missing or relaxed. This is particularly evident at Altamira but less so at Lascaux.
While it is true that these paintings do not obey the rules of 19th-century landscape painting, at Chauvet, we see a vignette—a pride of lions—ears swept back—clearly stalking and in a panel just in front of them a group of prey animals. In another series of panels, we see horses, aurochs, and ibex. Though there is no evident ground line, these animals are in motion, in natural poses, with their leg muscles tensed. Two rhinos face off!  These animals, which predate the depictions at Altamira by some twenty thousand years, are engaged. They do not float languorously across the ceiling. Complete pictorial hoove development did not appear before the Magdalenian Period, about 14,000 years BP.
These ancient painters sourced and prepared technically sophisticated coloring media. The list of natural minerals includes a wide variety of iron oxides, ochres, hematite, iron peroxide, black and grey magnetite and silicates, such as: limonite and iron hydroxide. The list goes on. Some of these minerals were sourced twenty-five miles or more from the cave. They then had to be processed, which included grinding, removal of impurities and precisely controlled heat treatment to purify the colors.
The painting of the precisely laid out, fifty-five-foot-long frieze in Lascaux's Hall of the Bulls also required scaffolding as did the paintings in the apse.    
If Mr. Bacon, et al, is correct and the images served a didactic purpose associated with the natural cycle of reproduction, they were rationally conceived, not the hallucinatory result of drug-induced visions. The neurological theory also purports to explain religion, the beginnings of social stratification and, ultimately, why, as Rousseau once said: "Man was born free but is everywhere in chains. Wow! More on this later. 
Stay Tuned

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The Painted Caves of Southern France, Part XIV: The Calendar of Creation Part 2

Female lower extremities, including the vulva. One of the more provocative of the cave images. Note how this Mesolithic artist used just a few lines together with the rock's natural contours to complete the image. (Segognole 3, Fontainebleau Massif)

by Richard W. Wise

Author: The Dawning: 31,000 BC

Copyright: 2023
According to the latest theory, the <Y>, a symbol found on the walls of caves, is associated with sex, specifically birth. Dots correlate with mating. The <Y> was, thus, a verb. Nouns appear to be lacking. The animal image could be described as a pictographic noun with the symbol as a caption. The authors of the study do not go so far as to call this writing; they prefer the term proto-writing.
 The Cambridge study does show a remarkable correlation between the symbols, mating and birth. I found it interesting that the study included fish. In my novel, The Dawning, the Homo Sapien tribe lives in a permanent village. Its location along a river makes this possible. They are able to catch, smoke, and in late Fall, freeze and store fish to supply them through the long winter months.


The <Y> symbol is ubiquitous, with a long and distinguished history. Some scholars interpret it as symbolizing the vulva. (Bahn, 1999). It appears in a number of early writing systems, including Sumerian, Indus Valley, both Linear A and B, right up through the Greek, Roman and English alphabets (Rudgley, 2019).
The ability to understand and project abstract ideas, the cyclical nature of life, for example, does suggest that early Homo Sapiens—by the time they reached Europe—had developed mental facilities and the ability to communicate in a fully syntactical language.   
The Cambridge Study also threatens to throw cold water on the current archeological flavor of the decade. The neurological explanation for the cave paintings—that they are the result of the structure of the human brain. According to this theory, there are three stages of altered consciousness and the cave paintings depict hallucinations resulting from these altered states (Lewis-Williams, 2002).
Altered states are associated with early shamanic religions, which most experts view as the earliest attempts by humans to make sense of their world, they could be induced in a number of ways: ritual dancing, drumming, vision quests, and the ingestion of psychotropic plants such as magic mushrooms, yage, peyote, and other hallucinogenic substances.
The first stage may be experienced by simply pressing the closed eyes and focusing on the abstract shapes generated behind the eyes. Stage one explains the abstract symbols far outnumber the paintings on the walls of Paleolithic caves. In the second stage, the seeker begins to hallucinate. In the third, the acolyte loses their grip on reality, and the visions become a new reality and the non-rational basis for the paintings.


Mr. Bacon's explanation is, however, entirely rational. Stay Tuned.

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