Oldest Rock Carving Is of 'Little Horny Man'
Could art be the key to uncovering the mystery of when humans first came to the Americas? The topic, which has been hotly debated, may be easier to understand using art, say researchers.
One piece of art in particular has shed some light on this debate. The “little horny man,” as discoverers have dubbed him, was discovered in a cave called Lapa do Santo in central-eastern Brazil in 2009. The 12-inch petroglyph that has a phallus as long as its left arm could be linked to an ancient fertility ritual, researcher Walter Alves Neves, an archaeologist and biological anthropologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, told LiveScience.
"The figure is probably linked to some kind of fertility ritual," Neves told LiveScience. "There is another site in the same region where you find paintings with men with oversized phalluses, and also pregnant women, and even a parturition (childbirth) scene."
Researchers say the “little horny man” was engraved sometime between 9,000 and 12,000 years ago, making it the oldest rock art in the Americas.
What does this little guy tell us about when humans came to the Americas though? When compared to other artistic findings, such as the contoured hands that dominate at Cueva de las Manos in Argentina, or the geometric motifs at Cueva Epullan Grande, it appears early humans had time to create a diverse array of artwork.
"It shows that about 11,000 years ago, there was already a very diverse manifestation of rock art in South America, so probably man arrived in the Americas much earlier than normally is accepted," Neves told LiveScience.
The study, published February 22 by PLoS ONE, points out that the phallus is relatively oversized -- so while it's as big as its little owner's arm, it's nothing that would impress the 12-foot vagina spotted in Wasilla, Alaska.