In this paper I suggest that music and dance of an artful kind could pre-date the emergence of our species by several hundred thousand years. Our progenitor, H. heidelbergensis, had the necessary physiological resources and social capacities. And she inherited older modes of moving and vocalizing that could have laid the foundations for dance and music. Admittedly, for her, these artistic activities would have been more about sharing and expressing emotions than about symbolizing abstract ideas or conveying complex thoughts. But that is something for which song and dance are ideally suited. Accordingly, the common assumption made by many paleoarchaeologists in discussions of the origins of art and of psychological modernity — that art is a distinctively sapiens attribute presupposing the kind of complex mentality that may be unique to our species — is mistaken. As well, there are some philosophical morals about the nature of art to be teased from the facts of its ancient origin.
- Homo heidelbergensis
Stephen Davies, “How Ancient is Art?” Evental Aesthetics 4, no. 2 (2015): 22-45.