November 29, 2010

Speaking of remote cultural parallels and serendipity

by sparhawk
Categories: Research and notes
Tags: , , ,
Comments: 2 Comments

Oh, I’ve been around, thank you for wondering. Much time spent reading but I also have had little to say here.

I think this little serendipitous find grants the opportunity to say something. I’ve been researching, for quite a while, into sources of pottery and bronze designs in pre-Shang Chinese cultures, as well as Shang and Zhou but also elsewhere in geography and history. The farther we go back in time, the more common and universal basic designs are. There’s a common thread to be noticed. It goes for ancient Middle East and Ancient China and even for some of most ancient extant pottery in the world, The Jomon Culture pottery. I am a believer that ancient pottery designs, as well as some of the engravings in the oldest monuments in the world, like Göbekli Tepe, which is so ancient that even pre-dates pottery, and Çatalhöyük, are some of the earliest expressions of dualism, even if the craftsmen behind them were perhaps unaware of any philosophical implications connected with their designs. The human brain seems to be hard-wired to find symmetry and balance and, where it can’t be found, it tries to recreate it.

I can show lots of examples of found parallels. What I found yesterday, by mere chance, is one parallel I wasn’t expecting to find but, thinking of it, it isn’t that surprising. Some of the Shang ritual bronzes show regular grid patterns, such as this I copied a couple of years ago from ‘Ritual Bronzes of Ancient China by Phillys Ackerman, 1945′.

The patterns are found in two plates, 15 and 22. Pictures below:

Well, as many of you know, the symbol known as a “swastika” is one of the oldest symbols known to man. The unfortunate historical event that relates this ancient symbol to one of the most racist political parties in recent world history doesn’t deny its antiquity or its real meaning. I spent a couple of days plowing through JStor for anything that had “swastika” as a keyword in it (in case anyone is curious about this, as of today, there are 3994 references in JStor under this keyword). Went through all the titles and discarded anything that has to do with WWII or Nazism, searching only for historical and anthropological references. Amazing topic of research, to say the least, that relates to something I’ve been writing related to the Yijing. Don’t be fooled by the easy “Swastika=Nazi Germany” connection, the symbol is so ancient that Hitler/Nazis are but a historical blip, albeit a bloody one. I found a lot of interesting documents that I’m reading as we speak. One of them, however, had a very interesting picture in it, apropos stylistic parallels across cultures. It is an article called ‘The Petroglyphs of Tumamoc Hill’, by Alan Ferg, and published in 1979. Tumamoc Hill is the ancient site of the Hohokam people in what is now Arizona. The arrow in the picture is about 10 cms long, according to the article. For the complexity of the design, the parallel is very suggestive and intriguing, in my opinion.


2 Comments »

  1. This is a very good observation. I suggest reading Carl Schuster and Edmund Carpenter’s book entitled Social Symbolism of Tribal Art. Their book includes many more examples of continuity in tribal art.

  2. I read this with complete fascination-it was actually a sort of “spellbind” experience-if no doubt very little “comprehension” – I am interested to know more about the Hohokam people & will begin with Professor Google. I am not a “scholar” at this point-but follow certain hunches based on what I “think I know” – The research that has been done on the Arctic origin of the most ancient Vedas appeals to my imagination – the “evidence” that has been presented stirs my fancy –
    Anyway, I am glad to re-connect with your consciousness via this post.
    Thank you.
    Wayne

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