Man the innovator, man the artist

I’ve become a bit fascinated by this handaxe, one of the oldest man-made objects in the British Museum (about 1.2 million years old).   In fact, handaxes were pretty much the first man-made objects, crafted originally by ‘cavemen’ in Africa about 1.5 million years ago.  They were still being used as a key tool of life a million years later, by which time their manufacture and use had spread throughout Africa, south Asia, the Middle East and Europe.   No other cultural artefact is known to have been made for such a long time across such a huge geographical range.   The reason I mention all this, and the reason I keep being drawn to this one in the British Museum is because the handaxe represents man’s first foray into art and innovation.   In this example, the maker has carefully struck flakes alternately from both faces around the entire edge, making it thinner at the tip and thicker and heavier at the bottom with a regular edge all round.    But this one would have been too big to hold comfortably in the hand and therefore difficult to use, so why make it so big and inpractical?   The answer, according to experts, is that here we can see the first signs of man’s inherent tendency towards art, beauty and innovation.   Any old handaxe wouldn’t do – it had to be bigger, more ornate, better crafted.  It had to ‘say something’.   As language began to develop along with tool making, was this handaxe made to communicate an idea or a message?   Does the care and craftsmanship with which it was made indicate the beginnings of the artistic sense unique to humans?   If yes, then every single idea and invention in human history started with the caveman and his handaxe.

2 thoughts on “Man the innovator, man the artist

  1. Pingback: Why hard copy is more than a nice touch | Creative Communicator

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