This is a week and a half old, but worth looking up if you haven’t seen it: An article on Slate examines what prehistoric art can tell us about the human brain. According to the article, cave paintings and other very early art may represent a kind of visual shorthand and abstraction in which salient features are exaggerated. The dots, squiggles, and other more obviously abstract features may be a representation of what early humans saw in hallucinations or trance visions deep in the caves where they painted, which are essentially visual noise in the brain that becomes amplified when visual input from the outside world is absent. The more haunting question of what exactly these paintings and other art objects meant to their creators and exactly why they created them is harder to answer.
10/31/2012 Human origins and evolution