Kevin Sharpe and Leslie Van Gelder, Outline for 'Our
Ancestors Touch Us: The Writing of
Chapter One: Severines: What Do They Mean?
This chapter describes severines, initially
We also describe European severines - looking at the history of their discovery and, in research terms, their relative neglect. Representational images are easier for us moderns to understand and so these pictures have eclipsed severines in publications and research - which has lead to their 'sub-status' in European rock art studies.
I. Koonalda: Severines and their challenge
A. History of KS involvement with Koonalda
B. Koonalda's challenge to KS
II. Severines world-wide
A. Their occurrence
a. In relationship with cave 'art'
a. In relationship with rock 'art'
B. History of discovery
C. Relative neglect; why
III. Continuing KS story (weave these into rest of chapter)
A. Other caves
B. Portable artifacts
C. Animal versus human problem
D. Smoothing and rounding of rocks in Koonalda
F. IFRAO papers
Chapter Two: What Severines Don't Mean
European archaeologists such as the Henri
Breuil and André Leroi-Gourhan developed systems for understanding prehistoric
art - which we can now see as rather inadequate. Leroi-Gourhan, for instance,
saw severines as male sexual symbols and Breuil thought of severines as the
most primitive form of expression out of which the drawing and painting of
animals developed. Suggestions as to the meaning of severines abound - as water
symbols, snakes, hunting tallies, for instance - but none of them apply to all
severines. More recent interpretations by
If you think about it, how could we possibly know what severines mean? We can't even decipher our own handwriting at times!
I. What do severines mean?
A. Henri Breuil
B. André Leroi-Gourhan
D. Alexander Gallus
F. David Lewis-Williams
II. Better not to seek meaning yet
A. 'Meaning' hampers research
B. Get data that meaning ideas need to fit
C. Find out about their makers
D. Show some consistency so study is worthwhile
Chapter Three: A Better Approach to Severines
It makes more sense at this stage to drop the
hunt for meaning and to focus on how the lines were made: what does this tell us
about, not only the severines, but the people who made them?
I. Marshack's internal analysis
A. What Marshack did
II. d'Errico's extension
A. Critique of Marshack
B. New work
III. Applying internal analysis to severines
A. Cross sections and intersections
B. Other parameters to look at
IV. Plus experimentation
A. Circles only overhead
B. Range of fluting possible
C. Turning corners
D. Angles of units
E. Measuring hands for widths and relative finger heights
F. Drawing mammoths by left- and right-handers
V. Now to look at severines
A. Involves the giving of names (to avoid interpretations, etc.)
Chapter Four: What We Learn about Severines
In this chapter, we describe the results of
our internal analysis studies of severines found in
I. Finding out about severine makers vs. the meaning of severines to them
II. Applying the theory to Rouffignac
A. Mirian Form
B. Kirian Form
C. Rugolean Form
D. Other flutings
E. These findings are provisional
III. Conclusion: What we can actually say about Rouffignac severine makers
Chapter Five: Severines as Proto-Writing
We then turn to look into studies of human psychology, covering sensory deprivation, the effects of touch (some theories suggest that humans instinctively leave marks in soft surfaces), and other matters that might us understand the reason behind the production of severines. We discuss parallels to finger markings, particularly those in Australian Aboriginal societies - as body decoration, and sand and mud paintings, for instance.
This chapter also covers the beginnings of human abstract behavior, according to the archaeological record. Many examples illustrate this phenomenon, the rudiments of which appear as far back as the Lower Paleolithic. Several theories for the evolution of mind compete for acceptance at present. One proposes that the mind comprises compartments, different compartments maturing and interacting with each other at different stages of human evolution, and thence producing different behaviors and capacities. What might these theories suggest about the nature of representations like the severines?
Many severines, we conclude, are a form of writing, proto-writing if you will, in which the fluters could put down something whose meaning other members of their society could understand.
What this means for us moderns is something else interesting to explore: What implications can we draw for the modern mind?
I. What did severines mean to their fluters?
II. Review and dismiss
other suggestions as in Chapter
III. Suggestion: severines a proto-writing
A. Meaning of 'proto-writing'
B. Background for the suggestion. For example:
a. Brain development
b. Sensory deprivation
c. Effects of touch
d. Humans instinctively leave marks in soft surfaces
e. Pre-writing children make lines to depict a story
a. Body decoration
b. Sand and mud paintings
c. Message sticks
C. The evolution of the mind as a context
a. What it says about severines
b. What they say about severines
IV. Different forms of severines and proto-writing
A. Kirian structures
B. Rugolean: possibly in a participatory sense
C. Mirian: probably not unless danced story
D. Conclusion: only simply-structured forms proto-writing?
V. Relationships between severines as proto-writing and other forms of prehistoric 'art'
E. Engraved lines
VI. Taking the proto-writing suggestion further
A. Testing the suggestion
B. What more can be done with it?
A. Writing emerges from something
B. Respect to be paid to non-modern western peoples
C. The modern versus the Paleolithic mind