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Materials to the15-minute paper - Slovak Republic, Nitra, May 2004, Conference - “Scientific Methods in Archaeology“ (Text to accompany a digital projection)

Jung`s Persona of the Gravettian and the Mid Upper Palaeolithic in Confrontation with the Sociobiological View of Edward O.Wilson



  Edward O.Wilson

Edward O. Wilson, the psychologist of the Faculty of Art and Sciences of Harvard University and co-founder of sociobiology,  proposed  in his book  On Human Nature a theory that some types of behaviour,  which look like a typical cultural behaviour,  may have their roots much deeper in biology. He supposes that certain genetic basis determines certain human behaviour, including a more complex one. Wilson points out that we should not forget the fact that human culture depends fully on human genotype.  He points out that the American anthropologist George Murdock worked hard to survey all the etnographic information available to find the fields of behaviour, which all ethnic groups of modern humans have in common, already in 1945. As a result, there remained some  65 items in Murdock`s work.

At the moment, the following items are important for us: decorative art, weaving, hairstyles and bodily adornments.

If Wilson`s idea is correct, then it would be possible to work it up and  verify it from another point of view, the point of view of archaeology. If I worked with Schindewolf`s and Gould`s theory of stasis and sudden appearance of species (Petr 1996), then on the basis of genetics I should put the emergence of modern human species to more than 100,000 years ago. If I manage to find any ancient and archaeologically unambiguously enough recorded culture of modern humans which corresponds with the above-mentioned data, then such a culture should  exhibit the same features of behaviour as described by Murdock and supposed  in modern humans (thanks to identical genotype) by Wilson.


The archaeology discovery in Sungir


The Mid Upper Palaeolithic Gravettian Pan-European culture and the Malta-Buret culture of Siberia, dating from 20,000 to 30,000 years before present (with the exception of the Konstenkian dating from 16,000 years BP) are the Palaeolithic cultures which could be taken into consideration thanks to their intelligibility.


Text for publication ,,Persone"



The psychoanalytic Carl Gustav Jung


I worked with the material from this period to prepare a publication that should appear in the web site Antropark – Persona of the Gravettian, dealing with the establishment of Jung´s persona for certain cultures of the Mid Upper Palaeolithic of Europe and Asia. The material is treated in the way Carl Gustav Jung interpreted persona, i.e. as a system of social adaptation (Stevens1994). Each house has its own facade and similarly, each person has his/her own persona, that represents his/her in the form he/she considers acceptable for the others. Persona is our shop-window, where we like to display our best goods. And we find just such goods on display in the archaeological material of the Gravettian.

To reconstruct persona, there are two sources that could be taken into account, namely statuettes and graves. More than ninety statuettes and their fragments and 7 graves have been treated during this work. Several tens of reconstrucional varieties, several reconstructional imitations and more than a hundred pages of  detailed text, which treats the materials and techniques and also explains links and circumstances, have been worked out.


Cubistically venus, reality venus and geometrically venus 


Statuettes with no details, shaped cubistically, were not suitable for the work. The same applies to excessively geometrically shaped statuettes, that were out of touch with reality due to their exaggerated proportions or, more probably, due to a new artistic interpretation. So there remained the statuettes, which were often decorative and, at the same time, descriptive enough and, fortunately, they were also the most numerous. These descriptive statuettes have been re-modelled into realistic visual forms to become intelligible for us.


The hairstyles

Malta in Siberia


Malta in Siberia


Malta in Siberia 


Brasempoy in France


Wilendorf in Austria

The first of the features evident in the Gravettian persona are hairstyles. They are especially striking in the materials from Malta and Buret. There are also materials which can be interpreted as headgears, albeit not so unambiguously. Nevertheless, there are archaeological proofs from the graves of the period in question, that allow us to draw such conclusions. It is evident that all the statuettes of the given type also have their heads arranged.


The caps

Brno in Morava



Sungir in Russia


Arene Candide in Italy

We can also notice headgears of the persona, the apparent ones are made of the material coming from Moravia, Italy and Russia. Sometimes it is possible to interpret them as headdresses, but hairstyles is another possible interpretation. These interpretations have been worked out as solutions within the bounds of possibility.


Decorative belts and stripes

Kostěnki in east Europe



Kostěnki in east Europe


Kostěnki in east Europe


Avdějevo in east Europe

Decorative belts and stripes are also characteristic of the persona. They are mainly segmented. These bodily adorments were usually placed horizontally in the waist and upper part of the chest. They form diagonal decorative elements of the body only exceptionally, and they may be a part of a more sophisticated whole.


The  wears of north 

Bureť in Siberia



Malta in Siberia


Malta in Siberia

The materials from Malta and Buret look very realistic and reliable as for hairstyles. That is why clothing has been interpreted in the similar way by using certain statuettes. Overall clothing also consists of segmented horizontal stripes, and there are also smaller segmented parts of the clothing material.


The Sungir unique man's grave



The Sungir unique child's grave 

Reliablity of the material, as we can see it in the statuettes, is supported by the archaeological material found in graves. It is true for both headgears and horizontally fragmented decorations of garments.



The Pavlovian's textile   (free rekonstruction)


Mezin's textile   (free rekonstruction)

The work assesses the persona of the Gravettian ethnicity as somebody who puts a big accent on showing herself/himself off  by the groomed hair, trimming, hairdos or by imaginative headgears/headdresses. Intimate bodily adornments show that women had the same attitude also in privacy. The same holds true for presentable garments, which are very laborious and strinkingly impressive.  It also makes sense when we consider the occurence of textile imprints.These textiles could decorate leather and fur coats in the form of imaginative patterned appliqués, typical of these northern cultures.


Hairstyles, decorative art, weaving and bodyly adornments


In the archaeological material we can see the persona in hairstyles an bodily adornments -  most often in horizontal stripes – as well as in garments decorated by horizontal elements. We can reliably establish hairstyles, decorative art, weaving and bodily adornments in the ethnic groups of the Gravettien, Malta and Buret . These items are also included in Murdock`s list of typical human behaviour. Just a glance at Murdock`s list tells us that the things which archaeology can prove in modern humans of the Upper Palaeolithic are very few. That is why each proven item is very important. Besides the culture of dwelling, evidence of fireplaces and several other archaeologically reliably proven fields of human behaviour, I would add wihout any doubt the above items supporting Wilson´s ideas.

Besides, when we go through Murdock`s list, we can see strict limitations of our ideas considering the richness of manifestations of the ancient Palaeolithic ethnic groups, if we are limited only to the archaeological material.


The shadow of persona


We must also ascribe hygiene and  cleanliness training to the Gravettian persona. Here we can fully apply animal behaviour as described by etology to the human behaviour in general, which corresponds with Murdock`s list, that anticipates such behaviour. If we know the persona of the Gravettian people, we can easily describe its opposite – the negative. It is what we strive to hide and the way we do not want to impress others. The opposite of hairstyles will be dishevelled hair, the opposite of decorative art will be crude and rough placing of would-be adorments, the opposite of bodily adornments will be emptiness or neglect or rather defacement, the opposite of weaving will be torn furs and the opposite of cleanliness will be dirtiness.



Of course, nowadays it is possible to find other authors in psychology, who further elaborate on Jung`s persona. At the same time, there are a lot of authors who also deal with the opposite side, that comprises mechanisms which prevent us from rational assessment of different or less known ethnic groups. I have found some 40 possible mechanisms that make critical assessment of Palaeolithic ethnicities more difficult. Several of them were mentioned by C.G.Jung himself. The most visible one is just the negative of  persona, called the SHADOW  by Jung  (Stevens 1994).





We evoke the shadow from Freud`s unconscious to project it into our ideas of an enemy or someone distant, incomprehensible or different. Jung`s shadow – the opposite of persona - is easy to reveal, because it is just a simple opposite of persona, and if we are asked whether the pictures of Palaeolithic people in textbooks, museums, encyclodaedias and TV programmes are reliable, the easiest thing would be to charge those who ask with a task to register frequency of Jung`s shadows in these materials.


Murdock`s list of cultural universalities in modern humans:

Athletic sports, bodily adornment, burial ceremonies, calendar, cleanliness training, community organization, cooking, cooperative labour, cosmology, courtship, dancing, decorative art, divination, division of labour, dream interpretation, education, eschatology, ethics, ethnobotany, etiquette, faith healing, family feasting, fire-making, folklore, food taboos, games, gestures, gift-giving, government, greetings, hairstyles, hospitality, housing, hygiene, incest taboos, inheritance rules, joking, kin groups, kinship nomenclature, language, law, luck superstitions, magic, marriage, mealtimes, medicine, obstetrics, penal sanctions, personal names, population policy, postnatal care, pregnancy usages, property rights, propitiation (gain the favour of supernatural beings), puberty customs, religious rituals, residence rules, sexual restrictions, soul concepts, status differentiation, surgery, tool-making, trade, visiting, weather watching and weaving.




Petr Václav: Kritický úvod do teorie přírodního výběru. Perez, Praha, 1996.

Stevens Anthony, Jung, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994 (překlad: Štěpán Kovařík, Jung, Argo, Praha 1996)

Wilson Edward O.: On Human Nature. Harward University Press, Harward 1978,  (překlad:E.Bakalář a Z.Urban, O lidské přirozenosti, Nakladatelství 

    Lidové noviny, Praha 1993).

The rekonstruction unique child's grave of Sungir 

13 years old boy and 9 years old girl  


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Kontakt - Libor Balák: antropark@seznam.cz 

© Antropark 2006, Author and Illustrations © Libor Balák

Updates Antropark 2012, Author and Illustrations © Libor Balák

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