I took some time to visit the small but extraordinary exhibit, Masters of Fire, uptown. The image above is of a clay ossuary, dating, as do all the items in the show, from 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. Once again, I find myself thinking that there has been no progress in aesthetics since the dawn of human time. Right from the get-go, humans were making incredibly beautiful art as soon as they had the time. (See R. Crumb’s Cave Wimp, or Calvino’s “Impossible Interview” with a Neanderthal Man for the complete story.)
If the bone-box seems too “primitive” to rave about, consider these perfectly formed shapes, cast from copper They are exquisite.
Amazing to think of these objects in the context of their contemporary culture, when anything smooth and precisely formed was a rarity. Scholars are still trying to understand what the production of these copper items tells us about the technical and social organization of the time; are they markers of a newly developed class hierarchy; or were the items simply marks of special distinction for the chief of the tribe?
I took this photo just as a guard told me snapshots were prohibited. The three anthropomorphic heads on the “fenestrated candelabra” on the left look like something from Max Ernst to me.
The cave where these items were found preserved organic materials as well because of its sheltered location and the dry climate. Ancient textile fragments, here is one of linen, as well as woven baskets were found. A major find was a pair of sandals, something that almost no one wore in those days.