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Lecture "The Origins of Art 35,000 Years Ago: What Were They Thinking?"

Is Free: 
Free; no advance reservation or ticket required.
April 5, 2010 - 6:45pm to 9:00pm
Location: Baird Auditorium, NMNH



At least 35,000 years ago, for reasons we still don’t fully understand, early modern humans began creating figurative art and music.

Beautiful, delicate figurines recently excavated in southwestern Germany include depictions of mammoths, horses, mythical beings that are half-man/half-lion, and diving waterfowl carved from mammoth ivory. All of the figurines are highly polished from handling. Last year an extraordinary female figurine and the earliest examples of musical instruments in the form of bone and ivory flutes were unearthed and are causing scholars to rethink when, in the course of human evolution, people became like ourselves.

In illustrated presentations, Dr. Nicholas Conard discusses his excavations in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany at sites including Hohle Fels, Geiβenklosterle, and Vogelherd, all locations where the oldest known figurines and musical instruments have been found. He addresses the question of why figurative art and music began. Was it evidence of shamanism, hunting or fertility magic? Rather than emerging gradually over many millennia, figurative art and music was refined and accomplished from the start. Questions remain.

Conard is an archaeologist at the University of Tuebingen in Germany.

6:45 - 9:00 pm.


Resident Members $30; Senior Members $27; Gen. Admission $40

Presented in collaboration with Smithsonian Resident Associates.