What does Neurology have to do with a Mammoth Tusk?

I came across this article the other night, and wanted to share it.  I enjoy art (probably like lots of us), and although I possess no talents in the field (possibly also like a lot of us), I always enjoy the chance to go look at it.  I even did a ‘Diploma of Art’ while at uni, in between medical subjects, which although has not added much to my medical career, definitely added something on a personal front.

‘Engraved hexagons on an Ice Age ivory’1 (click here!) analyses art in a way that never was covered in ‘Visual Culture 101’.  Dr Schott looks at the engraved hexagons on a mammoth tusk from a neurological perspective.   What do you need, brain-wise, to be able to come up with the idea to make a pattern?  What motor skills do you need to carve it?   Did Ice Age man, sitting on a freezing cold moor, copy this pattern from nature?  Was it remembered from a migraneous aura?  Was it created in a groggy hallucinogenic induced trance?  Or was it simply created, ‘de novo’?

This piece of mammoth tusk, carved in such a way, speaks volumes about the person who did it.  One of the most fascinating things, I think, is that it truly is a peak into the workings of a ‘modern’ brain, capable of the thoughts and artistic thinking that we have today.

Neurology – there’s no end to the ways it can be applied!

(and I’ll never look at Ice Age art the same…)

1 – Engraved hexagons on an Ice Age ivory: a neurological perspective on an anthropological debate.  Schott, D G.   

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry doi:10.1136/jnnp-2013-307044

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