Mark of the Ancient Me


The origins of anatomically modern people (Homo sapiens) almost certainly lie in Africa at about 300,000 - 150,000 years ago and genetic evidence shows that all living people are related to these African ancestors. Evidence emerging from a few recently excavated African sites is beginning to change the picture, for example Sibudu Cave, the Diepkloof cave site and Klasies River. Blombos Cave, located in the southern Cape, South Africa, contains excellently preserved Middle Stone Age (MSA) deposits that date to older than 70,000 years.

The site was found by Christopher Henshilwood in 1991. Excavations at this site between1991– 2005 have yielded remarkable, yet anomalous finds that are directly relevant to the 'modern' human behaviour debate. Finds from the M1 phase in the MSA levels dated at 75 000 years include more than forty Nassarius kraussianus perforated shell beads, two engraved ochre plaques and a further seven under study, finely crafted bifacial stone points and an engraved bone fragment.

Engraved ochre and its scientific interpretation

The Blombos Cave people engraved pieces of ochre[5] are regarded as the oldest known artwork[6] but very much simpler than the cave paintings and figurines found in Europe after 40,000 BP.[7]The date of engraved ochre is now firmly established. The use of abstract symbolism on the engraved pieces of ochre and the presence of a complex tool kit suggests Middle Stone Age people were behaving in a cognitively modern way and had the advantages of syntactical language at least 80,000 years ago.


There is a story they say and it came from Afar, it began in Africa... 

Upon finding this engraving and seeing the link with my own mark of independent discovery, I felt completely overwhelmed to research the discovery and potential implications of such a mark. It has resonated in my primal memory, this spark of creation embodied in a few strokes. 

I wish to make this primal mark-making live again in the contemporary world so it may stir our deepest being and we may begin to remember. I visited the region of these caves for inspiration... 

I climbed down carefully and there it was! In three dimensions right there, in the most useful image of a scaffhold made for an archeological dig. I had brought some paper and found some charcoal to represent this form.

After this incredible experience, I have a new found fascination with these dynamic marks, its implications and the spirit of the hand that made them... I went bezerk and made 33 right there.


Charcoal on Archive Paper, 400mm x 250mm, 3 of 33, 2011

Charcoal on Archive Paper, 400mm x 250mm, 11 of 33, 2011

Charcoal on Archive Paper, 400mm x 250mm, 24 of 33, 2011


Bringing this mark into the digital age also occurred to me as an important endeavour, it has a strong graphic edge to it...

Vector Trace of Ochre engraving from Blombos Cave, 400mm x 250mm, 2011

Vector Trace of Ochre engraving from Blombos Cave, 400mm x 250mm, 2011


Engraved ochre and a geometrical connection ?

In the ancient world certain numbers had symbolic meaning, aside from their ordinary use for counting or calculating ... plane figures, the polygons, triangles, squares, hexagons, and so forth, were related to the numbers (three and the triangle, for example), were thought of in a similar way, and in fact, carried even more emotional baggage than the numbers themselves, because they were visual. 

The study of sacred geometry has its roots in the study of nature, and the mathematical principles at work therein[3]. Many forms observed in nature can be related to geometry, for example, the chambered nautilus grows at a constant rate and so its shell forms a logarithmic spiral to accommodate that growth without changing shape. Also, honeybees construct hexagonal cells to hold their honey. These and other correspondences are seen by believers in sacred geometry to be further proof of the cosmic significance of geometric forms.


Digital Collage of hexagonal growth in nature, 700mm x 700mm, 2011

Inspired, I wrote this piece to combine these forms:

Mark of 3...

One, two, many
the tip of the flint, it bleeds
Creation sparks
triskelion roars
as the dawn of awareness is set free
Given the sacred rose
a keeper of daemons three,
ashen snowflakes fall in chaotic symmetry.
The prism is broken,
times wheel void,
origins forgotten
as the veil scarred rock tesselation
revels an obtuse reality.
Man strides onward
with the wind in his heart
along with his guide,
the ancient honeybee.