70,000, Blombos Cave and V Shaped Engravings
Symbols transcend rational analysis, arise from the unconscious, and mediate meaning in human life. (SOG: 233; DOF.)
Blombos Geometric Art.
Currently, the oldest known examples of specifically symbolic practices. (BC: 5.)
The Blombos collection, matched piecemeal elsewhere in Africa, suggests a population engaged in the material symbolic code
Significant Blombos Finds
There are two remarkable Blombos results from this site, including tool industry and rich ocher [ochre] assemblage, much of which is worked, and perhaps most spectacularly two pieces are engraved designs.
Blombos Cave is located on a high cliff in the Blombosfontein Nature Reserve in southern Africa near Still Bay, approximately 100 miles from the Indian Ocean. (EB: 309.) Recent discoveries include deliberately engraved designs on both bone and ochre (or ocher) pieces including the Blombos Ochre Plaque as illustrated below. (EB: 309.) In “An Engraved Bone Fragment from, c. 70,000-Year-Old Middle Stone Age Levels at Blombos Cave South Africa: Implications for the Origin of Symbolism and Language,” Francesco d’Errico, et al. state that the “cut marks are typically V shaped.” (EB: 314.) * They add, “such engraving was a symbolic act with symbolic meaning” and evidence an articulate oral language that was most likely acquired or learned through “linguistic communication rather than by observation or mimicry.” (EB: 309, 317.)
* Further dating considerations are c. 77,000 – 76,000 years old.
In 1989 CE, more than a decade prior to the findings published by d’Errico, Gimbutas addressed the symbolic meaning of the ancient V iconography, stating that the V, as well as the double chevron, and triple V, are associated with the source of life waters and the great mother as Life Giver. (LOG: 1.) In dark mother, Birnbaum adds that ochre and the pubic V were special fertility trademarks of the African dark mother, eventually dispersed to all continents during the African migrations. (DM: 61-62.)
In addition to the pubic V shaped cut marks on the Blombos Ochre Plaque, suggest an additional (Blombos) interpretation is a diamond – shaped lozenge or conjoined triangles at the apexes: vulva iconography that is frequently illustrated and discussed by archaeologists Alexander Marshack, Marija Gimbutas, * and Siegfried Giedion. Another diamond – shaped lozenge or conjoined triangle includes the engravings on a baton ** from Lorthet cave in the Hautes – Pyrénées France. (TROC: 261-262.) Giedion says that this diamond – shaped lozenge is “an extremely widespread fertility symbol, that extends from primeval times into the high civilizations, though this does not necessarily imply an unbroken line of continuity.” (EP: 190, 192, 198-9, 227-8, 338, Fig. 132.) * Further research including examples of lozenges and triangles with a center dot, (COG plus LOG: 143.) ** The Musée des Antiquités Nationales, Saint-Germain-En-Laye, France, just outside of Paris.
The following is an enhanced discussion about the V – Vulva iconography:
The palace of Knossos was itself called labyrinthos, or ‘the palace of the double-axes and both the labyrinth, a universal symbol of the uterine maze, and the double-axe from the word labrys (labia/lip)’ fertile womb of the Great Mother Earth (EW: 65). Cameron adds that from this same ‘root comes the word labia, the elaborate folds of the labia majora and the labia minora of the vulva. The butterfly/double – axe symbol could represent [the] opened labia (SA: 10, n. 7; RGS). (RGS: 30,000, Labyrinths, Spirals, and Meanders).
Campbell’s discussion of the bindu and yantras expands on the vocabulary of V symbology:
Among the best known of those Indian tantric diagrams [of interlocking triangles] known as yantras, designed to inspire and support meditation, that explicit symbol of female energy in its generative role. This triangle is an adaptation of the prominent genital triangle of the typical Neolithic female statuette. The dot is known as the bindu, the ‘drop’ (which, like a drop of oil in water, expands), and the triangle as the yoni (womb, vagina, vulva; place of origin, birth, and rest). As contemplated by the Sakti worshiper, what whole sign is of the Goddess, alone, as maya-sakti-devi, in the sense of those earliest Neolithic figurines, recognized and interpreted by Gimbutas, of the goddess ‘absolute and single in her generative role,’ at once the cause and the substance (like the spider in its web) of this universe and its life (MN: 78).
ENTRY 8 GODDESS SITES AND ARTIFACT IMAGE COLLECTIONS
IMAGE: BLOMBOS OCHRE PLAQUE, BLOMBOSFONTEIN NATURE RESERVE: AFRICA. PHOTO: © GSA. DESCRIPTION: V SHAPED CUT MARKS OR DIAMOND ON THE BLOMBOS OCHRE PLAQUE, BLOMBOSFONTEIN NATURE RESERVE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA NEAR STILL BAY. SLIDE LOCATION , SHEET , ROW , SLEEVE , SLIDE #, 70,000. ON LOCATION: ILLUSTRATION/IMAGE IN PROCESS. NOTE 1: IN ADDITION TO THE PUBIC V SHAPED CUT MARKS ON THE BLOMBOS OCHRE PLAQUE, SUGGEST A FURTHER BLOMBOS INTERPRETATION IS A DIAMOND-SHAPED LOZENGE OR CONJOINED TRIANGLES AT THE APEXES. NOTE 2. BLOMBOS ART. ABSTRACT GEOMETRIC INCISIONS MADE ON ONE SIDE OF A RED OCHRE PIECE AROUND 73,000 YEARS AGO. … THIS AND SIMILAR PIECES FROM THE SAME LOCATION ARE CURRENTLY THE OLDEST KNOWN EXAMPLES OF SPECIFICALLY SYMBOLIC PRACTIES. (BC: 5.)
PHOTO NOTE: GSA ILLUSTRATION
PHOTO NOTE: FOR FURTHER BLOMBOS RESEARCH AND IMAGES: RESOURCE: (MUSEUM ART RESOURCE.) RESOURCE: (BRITISH MUSEUM: LONDON, ENGLAND.) RESOURCE: (ARCHAEOLOGY, ARCHITECTURE & ART.)
IMAGE: ICE AGE HORSE IN THE LASCAUX CAVE: LASCAUX, FRANCE. PHOTO: © GSA. DESCRIPTION: ICE AGE HORSE FROM LASCAUX CAVE, NEAR VILLAGE OF MONTIGNAC IN THE DORDOGNE REGION OF SOUTHERN FRANCE. SLIDE LOCATION NEO. PAL. FRANCE, SHEET 1, ROW 4, SLEEVE 4, SLIDE #44 , C. 15,000-12,000 BCE.
SHOT ON LOCATION: THE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: NEW YORK, NY. NOTE 1: TO–SCALE PROTOTYPE. NOTE 2: FIELDWORK PROJECT 1993.
For images of the Blombos Ochre Plaque see the US museums or websites of the Smithsonian Museum Hall of Human Origins in DC or New York’s The Metropolitan Museum of Art.