Thursday, February 3, 2011

Proven: Art Defines Civilization

I was catching up on some podcasts the other day, and being a bit of a history nerd (and because I do hold to Theatre East's belief that theatre can teach us about humanity's place in history), I was listening to BBC Radio 4's "A History of the World in 100 Objects." In the series, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, uses a survey of objects spanning human history as a window into what makes us human.

In episode #004, MacGregor examines a carving of two swimming reindeer, made 13,000 years ago by one of the first humans to express their world through art. But why did they do it? According to MacGregor and his guest, archaeologist Professor Steven Mithen, when we evolved into homo sapiens ("thinking man") something dramatic happened in the human brain, allowing for imagination & creativity to emerge. We went from just making tools to shape our world, to making jewelry to adorn our bodies and making representations of the animals that shared our world.

We started making art.

So, there you have it. Modern humans, civilized humans, evolved once we started making art. Art Defines Civilization. QED.

You can find the podcast on the BBC website here and on iTunes by searching
history world 100 objects.