Friday, June 8, 2012

The Aurignacians of Tiranë

Sophisticated Religious life of prehistoric man
Tiranë is currently the largest city and capital of Albania. But in spite of it being inhabited by Aurignacians, a tool producing culture of the Paleolithic that thrived 45,000 - 35,000 years ago, the town wasn't all that important until the Ottoman Era. But, we'll focus only on the Paleolithic stuff found there and leave the Ottomans for a later day.

At the base of Mount Dajt, near the capital city in central Albania, there has been recent discoveries of Aurignacian artifacts. This shouldn't be all that surprising because a number of other Balkan sites have produced a trove of Aurignacian treasure. The Aurignacians were master craftsmen that like to work with flint and bone to make tools and weapons. However, we've covered much of this in other posts so I want talk about their anthropomorphic figurines. Which is a bit of a departure from Tiranë, because none of these have been found at this site. However, I haven't posted a single thing on Albania and I want to make sure that they get some coverage as well.

Devolved man.
The Löwenmensch (German for Lion Man/person) is the oldest known anthropomorphic/zoomorphic figurine in the world and dates to about 30,000 years ago. It shows a lion's head on top of a man's body. It's kind of like a Thundercat. Anyway, this sophistication of sculpting shows that the Aurignacians, who happen to be the first fully modern human culture in Europe, had a strong religious life. They believed in some kind of deity and many of these figurines are male and not female ones. Granted, the zoomorphic figurines were used in concert with Venus figurines so it wasn't necessarily a male oriented religion. However, the prevalence of male figurines shoots a bit of a hole in Marija Gimbutas' matriarchal, matrilineal theories you'll hear plenty of tonight on the podcast. Personally, aside from the cool factor that these figurines are 30,000 years old I think they foreshadowed those stupid hipster hats. They aren't nearly as sophisticated as the statues. Man is devolving.

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