We have been Around a Long Time as Artists! / by Jeannine Cook


What a perfect beginning to the New Year! If I ever doubted that, as an artist, I am following a very ancient and venerable tradition, I had fascinating confirmation that I - and every other artist in the world - follow in extraordinarily ancient footsteps.

I read today that a mussel shell, found over a hundred years ago in Java, Indonesia, but recently re-examined, was apparently decorated by our hominid ancestors, Homo erectus, at least 430,000 years ago. No wonder the press was agog in early December, onwards.


Mussel shell with zigzag patterns from Java, dated between 540,000 and 430,000 years old

Yes, 430,000 yeas ago! Someone engraved zigzags like an "M", a couple of parallel lines and a reversed "N" shape on the mussel shell. Another shell found had a deliberately sharpened edge that was polished to serve as a cutting tool. So abstract art and even symbols apparently existed many, many thousands of years before Homo sapiens made his/her appearance and made engravings in South Africa.

430,000 year old mussel shell,  Trinil pseudodon, closeup


Engraved zigzag patterns found on mussel shell, dated to at least 430,000 years ago, from Java

I think this is the perfect inspiration to salute the New Year. We go back a very long way as artists, and that liberates each of us to do what sings in our hearts and impels us to create.

Happy New Year, everyone!