Les cultures acheuléennes et la question de l'émergence de la pensée symbolique chez Homo erectus à partir des données relatives à la forme symétrique et harmonique des bifaces


fr Comptes Rendus Palevol 5 (1-2) - Pages 127-135

Published on 28 February 2006

This article is a part of the thematic issue Climates - Culture - Society in prehistoric times. From the appearance of hominids to the Neolithic.

The Acheulean cultures and the question of the emergence of symbolic thought among Homo erectus from the data related to morphological symmetry and aesthetic of the bifaces

It is usually considered that artistic creativity is a trait of the modern human and that art appears only with Homo sapiens, at the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic. If this fact seems well established, however it looks likely that the emergence of symbolic thought and aesthetic feeling has to be dated back to the Old Palaeolithic. Indeed, the Acheulean biface shows a morphological symmetry and a remarkable aesthetic. Whenever this tool exclusively constitutes the lithic assemblage of a culture, as it is the case in the site of Nadaouiyeh Aïn Askar (central Syria), it can be suggested that it represents a strong symbolic component. The question is, was this harmonic aspect of the form really conceived by the tool maker or does it result from an unconscious phenomenon related to the knapping of the artefact? If it is indeed a conscious and desired symmetry, it is not impossible that the artisan tried to project a part of him into the tool. Through this harmonic component of the bifaces, it seems that Homo erectus was already capable of symbolic behaviour and a kind of artistic creativity. It is not a question of art as traditional conception, but probably of its first steps.


Old Palaeolithic, Acheulean, Homo erectus, biface, art, symbolic thought

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