Yesterday archaeologists in Germany reported that they had found a five-hole bone flute that dates back 35,000 years. It’s one of a number of artistic and musical artifacts left for posterity by Homo sapiens.
I find it interesting that, by contrast, the Neanderthals, a close “relative” of Homo sapiens, and perhaps a competitor of our ancient ancestors, apparently left not a single trace of artistic or musical interest.
I don’t want to berate our Neaderthal next of kin; after all, history hasn’t been so kind to our nomadic cousins. Instead, it’s worth pondering the connection between Homo sapiens’ interest in art and music and their ability to flourish. Did this clash of perspectives with their ancient rivals present the classic “left vs right brain” battle for survival?
It’s easy to see why an interest in the arts could help build a sense of community. After all, who wants to sing alone around the campfire? And wouldn’t anyone be flattered to have a fellow meat-eater draw his portrait, even if it were done on the wall of a dark cave?
Such thoughts make me think twice before classifying art or music as “electives” within the “humanities.”