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Ancient ‘imaginary creatures’ artifacts fascinate

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Author Topic: Ancient ‘imaginary creatures’ artifacts fascinate  (Read 93 times)
the Hundred-Handed
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« on: March 22, 2015, 03:31:34 pm »

They note that in the early 20th century, anthropologists interpreted representations such as the lion man as “more or less realistic representations of masked dancers or sorcerers.” Now, however, anthropologists recognize that non-Western, indigenous societies believe that there is an inter-connectedness between humans and animals and that they “are capable of transformation and adopt different forms in different contexts.”

I long have assumed that the Newark figurine was a straightforward and more or less naturalistic depiction of a medicine man wearing bear regalia, but maybe it’s something else entirely.

It certainly is a powerful representation of the inter-connectedness of bears and humans and appears to show in an almost cinematic fashion a transformation from human-to-bear and bear-to-human.

Palacio-Perez and Ruiz Redondo conclude that such imaginary beings are “the product of a shared collective imagination,” which was “transmitted amongst individuals and groups.” Therefore, even if the meanings of “imaginary creatures” are forever elusive, they still can provide important information related to “shared behavioral patterns, social dynamics and territorial relationships."

I agree, but I think these representations of supernatural beings have more to offer us than that.

In her book Ice Age Art, Cook acknowledges that although “we cannot read the thoughts transcribed” in this imagery, it certainly allows “our imaginations to race and our intellects to wrestle with facts and theories that are part of our own negotiation with our past and our place in the world."

Bradley T. Lepper is curator of archaeology at the Ohio History Connection.
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