Wednesday13 Dec 10:21 AM
Naga Worship + Stroboscopic Installation in Humankind's Oldest Artifacts
Archeologists recently discovered a carved stone snake and the oldest artifacts known to humankind —an estimated 70,000 years old— inside a cave nestled deep within the remote hills of the Kalahari Desert of Botswana. Before this scientists had dated humankind's first group rituals at around 40,000 years ago. While this alone is a significant discovery, it's not the most interesting part of this story.
What is? It's the Naga animation—
"You could see the mouth and eyes of the snake. It looked like a real python... The play of sunlight over the indentations gave them the appearance of snake skin. At night, the firelight gave one the feeling that the snake was actually moving."
This means that 70,000 years ago humans on this planet were harnessing stroboscopic flickers emanating from fire to create film-like illusions. Moreover, they were animating the stone in ritualized contexts. This cave deployed a ritual technology that basically would come to define the 20th century —where the Zeotrope exploded into cinema.
This is big. Herewith I have been skeptical of "modern primatives" waving the archaic revival banner and citing as examples the "tribalism" of rave culture and global village technologies —but this discovery trumps my skepticism.
The cave's ritual technology is controlled by a shaman MC & with audio designed to appear to emanate from the python:
"The shaman, who is still a very important person in San culture, could have kept himself hidden in that secret chamber... He would have had a good view of the inside of the cave while remaining hidden himself. When he spoke from his hiding place, it could have seemed as if the voice came from the snake itself. The shaman would have been able to control everything. It was perfect."
In modern raves and movie theatres, however, the cosmological framework and ritual intentions are lost. Or perhaps they are transparently steered by the mechanisms of capitalism to promote it's agenda.
A few 20th century artists, however, stripped representation from the stroboscopic effect and explored it's effects on human consciousness more directly— Tony Conrad's The Flicker and Brion Gysin's Dreammachine come immediately to mind. Who would have thought that prehistory already experimented with and implimented this film-style media technology?
But our prehistoric ancestors did use formal representations: a snake. So all associated resonances apply. The Naga myths of the Indiaspora are especially illuminating, especially the Soma tales. Mistaking a "rope for a snake" —an analogy for mispereception common to many Indian texts— lends some valence and further associates snakes with illusions. Finally, we must ponder —if only for a moment— the legendary and serpentine casting away from the Garden of Eden via the guile of the serpent.
For further ruminations—
Please be nice.