Sunday, November 27, 2011

Idea Garage Sale: The Cave Art Kids

For those of you who missed it, individual children making art can be tracked in Dordogne Cave, especially a particular 5-year-old girl.

This makes me very happy.

For one thing, it illustrates my main thesis, that creativity is a normal human activity, not something special set aside only for the elite.

For another, the individuals who can be identified and glimpsed at Dordogne - and other ancient sites - are natural solid reference points around which we - and by we I mean all of us storytellers, whether we're scientific archeological storytellers or artistic fiction-writing storytellers - can build a story. First we collect the traces of the individual; then we interpret them according to what we know in our selves about people and what we know from the evidence about their environment, and extrapolate a reasonable story about who this person was, why she was there, who was there with her, and what challenges she faced.

Obviously, a cave art picturebook is long overdue.

A novel would require more conflict than is implied by the harmonious and happy picture created by this research; but one can always start with that harmonious, happy picture and work either away from it - happy art-making in caves has to come to an end, the youthful artists have to grow up and face adult challenges - or toward it, with the families of the youthful artists overcoming various hardships to arrive at the happy art-making.

And for the scientist, the image of the happy art-making makes an excellent centerpiece for the reconstruction of Pleistocene culture, a cohesive, relateable context that enables the scientist to put all the disparate and fragmentary bits of evidence together in a meaningful way.

I don't see any way to go about any of these project that don't involve researching till blood comes out your ears; but I can tell you from experience, the reward is worth the work.

Okay, maybe not the monetary reward. 11,000 Years Lost hasn't made that much money. TheEarth's Children series has. This sort of thing is always a crapshoot and there's nothing to be done about that. But the emotional and intellectual rewards of doing the research and writing the story - those are hard to overstate.

Plus, research for any of these projects would involve visiting Pleistocene art sites. Which would be a good in itself.

We cannot have too many books about the Pleistocene. We just can't.

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