Sunday, November 18, 2012

Slate does a Graeme McMillan with "Were Prehistoric Statues Pornographic?"

If you've never read an article by Spinoff's Grame McMillan ... well ... do yourself the favor of not looking any of them up or clicking on them by accident.  Yes, this is going to be one of those petty, snarky posts where we open with an observation about how annoying a certain writer on comics and films can be. 

Anyway, the article opens with a question whether prehistoric statues were pornographic and the rather short answer is "That would entail modern people reading their own biases back into ancient art." The Venus of Hohle Fels doesn't immediately strike me as looking like a human figure, it strikes me very much as a mock-up for one of the dancing chickens in the video for Peter Gabriel's song Sledgehammer.

A short excerpt of the article, which was republished from New Scientist:

JI: Aren't other interpretations of paleo art just as speculative as calling them pornographic?

Yes, but when we interpret Paleolithic art more broadly, we talk about "hunting magic" or "religion" or "fertility magic." I don't think these interpretations have the same social ramifications as pornography. When respected journals—Nature for example—use terms such as "Prehistoric pin-up" and "35,000-year-old sex object," and a German museum proclaims that a figurine is either an "earth mother or pin-up girl" (as if no other roles for women could have existed in prehistory), they carry weight and authority. This allows journalists and researchers, evolutionary psychologists in particular, to legitimize and naturalize contemporary western values and behaviors by tracing them back to the "mist of prehistory."

If you're not familiar with the flak evolutionary psychologists have gotten in the last ten years for identifying gender as having physiological and prehistorically encoded hard boundaries then, well, you have some catching up to do and this blog wouldn't be the place to do that.  Think, for the moment, about dancing chickens.

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