Neanderthal man. Painting by Mauro Cutrona. Courtesy by Marco Peresani, Ferrara University.
International Conference “NeanderArt2018”
Turin, Italy, 22-26 August 2018
The international conference “NeanderArt2018” ended on August 26th with a visit to the “Carlo Conti” Museum in Borgosesia and to the nearby cave of Ciota Ciara. This karstic cave, situated 700 meters above the Monfenera hill overlooking the beautiful town, have been excavated for over 70 years. The remains of Homo neandertalensis found in the archaeological strata are known since 1930. Currently, the excavations are cured by the Archaeological Superintendence of Piedmont and the University of Ferrara, under the direction of Prof. Marta Arzarello.
The Municipality (12.000 inhabitants) manages the Museum, open to the public and for educational visits three days a week, thanks to a contract with a person who acts as director and as scientific curator. I emphasize these aspects to highlight the diligence of this small town towards its territorial and museum reality.
The previous day, Saturday 25, the congressmen had visited Fumane, a town of 4.000 inhabitants in the province of Verona (Veneto) and one of the main European sites for the presence of Neanderthals. The excavations of this site, initiated over half a century ago, are currently conducted by the University of Ferrara, thanks to Prof. Marco Peresani who directs them. In addition to the excavations and the annexed documentation center, the participants could visit the beautiful museum of the territory built in the small town of Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo, with the Neanderthal collections from the Fumane excavations.
This museum too exists thanks to the will of the consortium of the municipalities of Valpolicella, that manages it. These two days of “field trips” followed the three days dedicated to the presentation of scientific reports and their discussion. The NeanderArt 2018 congress took place in the Luigi Einaudi University Campus of Turin, a complex designed by Lord Norman Foster, one of the great protagonists of contemporary architecture, built in few years in replacement of the old gas meters that supplied the Turin gas network. For this event, a hundred of scientists arrived in Turin coming from very different research institutes and universities scattered across the five continents
This event has been organized by CeSMAP (Center of Studies and Museum of Prehistoric Art of Pinerolo, Turin) in collaboration with UISPP (International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences), IFRAO (International Federation of Rock Art Organizations) and UNESCO. The focus of the problematic has been the following question: “Did Neanderthals produced ‘art’?”.
For decades, this kind of questioning has been considered of marginal interest in archaeology. Nevertheless, in recent years new discoveries have pushed the academic world to take these questions seriously. Since decades we know that, in Europe and elsewhere, Neanderthals were using red ochre possibly for symbolic purposes, burying their dead, and making ornaments transforming hard animal material such as teeth or ivory. In 1995, a perforated bear femur was found in a Neanderthal layer at the Divje Babe cave (Slovenia) and interpreted as a flute, thus suggesting a possible musical behavior in this species. In 2016, in the Bruniquel cave (France), archaeologists discovered a circle of stalagmites that had been carefully and purposefully broken some 175.000 years ago, a period in which solely Neanderthals populated Europe. This non-utilitarian behavior, taking place in the dark of a cave, let us think that Neanderthals were celebrating some kind of very ancient ceremony, thus demonstrating a very old symbolic behavior.
Then, in February 2018, an astonishing article appeared on Nature, suggesting something completely new: some European cave paintings have been dated to a minimum age of 65.000 years before today, a period in which Europe was populated only by Neanderthals (Homo sapiens arrived in this continent only 20.000 years later). If confirmed, this finding would be the first proof of a specific artistic behavior operated by Neanderthals, thus requiring a revision of large part of our beliefs concerning the development of human symbolic behavior. These findings might also demand a revision of some terms commonly used in archaeology, as “symbol”, “art”, “non-utilitarian behavior”.
The organizational task, started in 2015, has taken a lot of energy from CeSMAP, engaging its staff with great effort in a work as tiring as it has been exhilarating. Equally enthusiastic have been all the personalities linked to the Conference: the President, the international dean of archaeologists Prof. Henry de Lumley, Director of the Institute of Human Palaeontology in Paris and great specialist in this field, with his 84 years beautifully worn; the vice presidents: Prof. Robert Bednarik, Australian, General Secretary of IFRAO; Prof. Luiz Oosterbeek, General Secretary of the UISPP; Prof. Giacomo Giacobini of the University of Turin and Director of the Museum of Human Anatomy of Turin, great scholar of the Neanderthal Man; Prof. Hipolito Collado, President of IFRAO and Superintendent of Extremadura, where numerous caves have revealed the presence of Homo neanderthalensis.
The proof of the appreciation of the great scientific and organizational effort of CeSMAP (whose President is the lawyer Piero Ricchiardi) came at the beginning of August, when the President of the Italian Republic, Prof. Sergio Mattarella, awarded a Medal of Honor to the Pinerolo Study Center, a very high and rare recognition, as a significant tribute to the activity of CeSMAP in the field of scientific research and cultural production.
Focal points of the Congress NeanderART2018 were the symbolic activities put in place by Neanderthals, this old “cousin” of ours, even more and more “brother” if we think that the meeting of this ancient inhabitant of Eurasia with our species arriving in Europe from Africa, about 40 thousand years ago, has allowed fertile hybridization (mixed marriages!), to the point of leaving a Neanderthal trace of about 3% in our current DNA.
A special event was made possible thanks to the collaboration of Andrew Howley who created the streaming-skype connection of the congress with the National Geographic of Washington DC. Howley has also collected a series of audio interviews that are now downloadable from the official site of the conference (www.homoneanderthalensis.org). Similarly, the phases of the NeanderART2018 have been the subject of filming of RAI-TV thanks to the direction of the scientific journalist Maurizio Menicucci.
Scholars have now returned to their usual laboratories in Australia, Africa, Asia, America and Europe; but all are richer because of the opportunity given by NeanderArt congress to compare their points of view with colleagues: we know that human interaction and the acquisition of new perspectives is the base for any future research.
It looks as if we had returned to the mythical times of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), great-grandson of Voltaire, a Jesuit, French philosopher and palaeontologist. At NeanderArt conference too there was a Jesuit theologian who is interested in human evolution and symbolic thought at his University in Boston, Massachusetts.
For now, the one in Turin, held at the University Campus “Einaudi”, is the most important congress on Homo neanderthalensis and CeSMAP will soon publish the proceedings in collaboration with the “Silvio Pellico” Center. A great accomplishment of this conference has also been its contribution in questioning the ancient paradigms depicting Neanderthals as rude brutes: the archaeological evidence goes openly against this interpretation. After the closing plenary meeting, admirably summarized by Prof. Henry de Lumley, many congressmen asked CeSMAP to periodically organize NeanderART congress in Turin. Obviously, the future is in the God’s womb. And who knows, maybe even in Pinerolo we will finally have a worthy Museum of Prehistory at Palazzo Vittone to be presented worldwide.
Dario Seglie, Director of CeSMAP, Pinerolo, Italy
Matteo Scardovelli, Member of the NeanderART Referee
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
We are particularly pleased and proud to announce that the President of the Italian Republic, Prof. Sergio Mattarella, has granted his high recognition by conferring to CeSMAP the President’s Medal of Honour for the NeanderART2018 event. The prestigious award is extended to all those who have worked, internationally, to make this Conference possible.
Piero Ricchiardi, President – Dario Seglie, Director
CeSMAP, Pinerolo, Italy
the CeSMAP – Centro Studi e Museo d’Arte Preistorica of Pinerolo, is pleased to announce that the NeanderART 2018 – International Conference will be held in Turin, Italy from August, 22 to August 26, 2018.
This International Conference will continue and expand a debate to be organised by CeSMAP at the XVIII° UISPP mondial Congress in Paris from June 3 to June 9, 2018.
As you can see from the list of the International Conference Committee, the response has been excellent and we anticipate a truly exciting meeting with participants from many different countries. The NeandertART 2018 Conference will offer a unique opportunity to meet colleagues and to combine the exchange of scientific knowledge with the wonderful experience of visiting Italy.
The Field Trips planned for the Conference participants will offer the rare opportunity to inspect two very important Neandertal sites in Europe and discuss their interpretation with the specialists involved in their study.
We look forward to seeing you in Turin, Italy
Prof. Dario Seglie and Dr. Piero Ricchiardi
CeSMAP – IFRAO-UNESCO Liaison Office
“NeanderART2018” – International Conference under the aegis of UISPP (The International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences) and the auspices of IFRAO (The International Federation of Rock Art Organisations);
President of the Scientific Committee: Henry de Lumley, Director of the Institute of Human Palaeontology in Paris.
The Vice Presidents are: Luiz Oosterbeek, Secretary General of the UISPP (The International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences); Giacomo Giacobini, Director of the Human Anatomy Museum, Turin University; Robert Bednarik, Secretary General of the IFRAO (The International Federation of Rock Art Organizations).
Scientific Committee: Juan Luis Arsuaga, Director of the Museum of Human Evolution, Burgos, University of Madrid; Marta Arzarello, University of Ferrara; Hipolito Collado, Director of the Extremadura Archaeological Superintendency; Enrico Comba, University of Turin; Annie Echassoux, Laboratory of Prehistory – Lazaret-Nice; Clive Finlayson, Museum of Gibraltar Director; David Frayer, Kansas University; Jean-Marie Le Tensorer, University of Basel; Daniele Ormezzano, Museum of Natural Science, Turin; Marcel Otte, University of Liege; Marco Peresani, University of Ferrara; Dario Seglie, CeSMAP Director, IFRAO-UNESCO Liaison Officer; Andrea Serafino, DIGSPES – Piemonte Orientale University; Mike Singleton, Louvain University.
Media: Andrew Howley, National Geographic, Washington DC; Maurizio Menicucci, Rai-Tv, Turin.
“Dreaming: Neanderthal” – gravure, 1968, by Tere Grindatto; courtesy of the Author
This conference is organized by Centro Studi e Museo d’Arte Preistorica (CeSMAP), Pinerolo:
“Is there palaeoart before modern humans ?
Did Neandertals or other early humans create ‘art’ ?”
International Conference to be held at the University of Turin, Campus “Luigi Einaudi”, Italy
From 22 to 26 August 2018
Academic sessions will be from 22 to 24 August 2018,
followed by field trips to Neandertal sites on 25 and 26 August (Fumane Cave, Verona, Italy and Ciota Ciara Cave, Borgosesia, Italy).
The three sessions:
1. Changes in environment and human adaptations.
2. Changes in the utilitarian and non-utilitarian productions in two million years of human history.
3. The dawn of art-like productions and behaviours.
Announcement: CALL FOR SUBMISSION OF PROPOSALS.
Interested researchers are encouraged to submit proposals by e-mail to:
Further information and Registration, please visit the official Website:
The Turin University
The Turin University is an university in the city of Turin in the Piedmont region of North-Western Italy. It is one of the oldest universities in Europe, was founded in 1404, and continues to play an important role in research and training.
The Campus Luigi Einaudi is located along the banks of the Dora River not far from the famous Mole Antonelliana, symbol of the city.
Designed by Norman Foster, one of the most important contemporary architects, it has been included among the 10 most spectacular university buildings in the world. The CLE – Campus Luigi Einaudi houses the headquarters of the Schools of Laws, Politics and Economics and related departments.
The campus has modern classrooms, computer and language labs, study rooms and reading rooms, a cafeteria and spacious common areas, an university residence and a canteen in the immediate vicinity. The Campus is home for conferences, exhibitions and national and international meetings; it is made up of seven buildings -surrounded by greenery- that overlook a large internal circular square, and has been designed with particular attention to energy savings issues.
UISPP – The International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences
The International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences (Union Internationale des Sciences Préhistoriques et Protohistoriques – UISPP) was founded on May 28th, 1931, in Berne, and integrates all sciences related to prehistoric and protohistoric development: archaeology, anthropology, palaeontology, geology, zoology, botany, environment, physics, chemistry, geography, history, numismatics, epigraphy, mathematics and other.
Research on adaptation mechanisms and human societies’ behaviour dynamics are at the centre of the scientific interest of UISPP. For this aim, UISPP periodically organises a world congress of prehistoric and protohistoric sciences, on which occasion the progress of knowledge is presented and common research goals are set. For these, UISPP creates scientific commissions devoted to specialised research themes.
UISPP is a member of the Unesco associate International Council of Philosophy and Human Sciences, since September 29th, 1955. As an international association of scholars, its aim is the collaboration of scholars from all countries through initiatives that may contribute for the advancement of prehistoric and protohistoric sciences, based on full academic freedom and refusing any sort of discrimination based on race, philosophical or ideological judgement, ethnic or geographic affiliation, nationality, sex, language or other, since discrimination is, by definition, the negation of the scientific approach. It also rejects any attempts of fictional rewriting of the past or of negationism, and it doesn’t exclude any bona fide scholar from its scientific activities.
Secretary General UISPP
International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO)
IFRAO was formed in Darwin, Australia, on 3 September 1988, during the first major international academic conference dedicated entirely to the study of palaeoart. Nine rock art organisations decided to form an international federation of independent national or regional bodies. At the founding meeting it was decided that IFRAO should be a common forum and initiator of policies, projecting or representing the common interests of member organisations without interfering in their autonomy. It would operate as a democratic advisory body in which each member organisation would hold one vote, exercised by an official representative. International meetings would be held by nominating suitable rock art conferences as official IFRAO congresses at regular intervals.
Since then the number of affiliate members has increased more than sixfold to fifty-eight and the current members of IFRAO cover most of the world. The combined memberships of these organisations include practically all such specialists in the world.
One of IFRAO’s initial principal concerns is the standardisation of those aspects of the discipline that are essential for effective communication and collaboration: methodology, terminology, ethics and the technical standards used in analysis and recording. These subjects were addressed through extensive consultation of specialists and, where appropriate, the deliberations of appointed sub-committees. The IFRAO members produce about twenty specialist periodicals, whose flagship is Rock Art Research, the official organ of the federation. IFRAO has been particularly effective in the area of rock art protection and preservation, achieving sometimes spectacular successes, such as the electoral defeat of recalcitrant governments. The federation has become the principal international body pursuing the conservation of rock art effectively.
Robert G. Bednarik
Convener of IFRAO
CeSMAP – Study Centre and Museum of Prehistoric Art, Pinerolo, Italy
CeSMAP, the Study Centre and Museum of Prehistoric Art, was established in 1964 in Pinerolo, Italy, and it is one of the field’s most important institutions in Europe and in the world.
Research led by CeSMAP has considered two different fields: the pre-historic spiritual sphere throughout the millennia, as expressed in rock art, and the evolution of pre- and proto-historic culture in the archaeological, climatic and environmental context of the European Western Alps, as a result of surveys and excavations, from the Upper Palaeolithic Age to the Historic Time.
The rock art Missions of the CeSMAP cover all the continents and the international rock art collections of the Museum of Prehistoric Art of Pinerolo, Italy, are unique in the world in representing this phenomenon.
The specialized library of the CeSMAP, open for scholars and students and on line, owns over 15,000 volumes.
The CeSMAP also organizes temporary exhibitions and cultural events realized in the seventeenth-century Church of St. Augustine and in the medieval Palace of the Senate in Pinerolo. At the Rock Art tridimensional casts are added the archaeological collections of the territory, a paleoanthropological section that presents the physical and cultural evolution of man, from Australopithecus to Homo Sapiens Sapiens. In addition, a Didactical Laboratory allows schools to all types and levels to perform activities led by museum educators.
The commitment of CeSMAP, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Pinerolo, as well as in the field of Rock Art, culminated in the systematic search and territorial excavations.
Since 2002 till 2012, the CeSMAP – under the aegis of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the Morocco Ministry of Culture – implement Missions in Africa for the establishment of the National Park of Jbel Sarhro between Atlas and Sahara. From 2014, in progress, the Mission is centred in Ecuador, in cooperation with the Ecuadorian Cultural Heritage Authorities.
CeSMAP has been decorated with the EU-European Union Culture Award 1991 for its long scientific and cultural commitment. It promotes congresses, exhibitions on rock art and on archaeology, anthropology, didactic aids, educational and museum events.
CeSMAP is a founding member of the IFRAO, International Federation of Rock Art Organizations, is the IFRAO Italian Representative and IFRAO-ICOM-UNESCO Liaison Office; CeSMAP is member of UISPP, the International Union of Pre and Proto-historic Science.
Director General of the CeSMAP – IFRAO-ICOM-UNESCO Liaison Officer