Today I visited the site of some rock carvings from 7000 years ago. I was driven down a long dirt track to the site by two Berber guides in an old truck. The carvings were all pretty simple except for a picture of an elephant drawn inside a rhinoceros. I tried to find out more. . .
The guardian of the site suggested that the rock was good for carving, so the artist had used the surface twice. I prefer to imagine that there was some other logic behind it. Perhaps the rhinoceros is dreaming it’s an elephant? Did the carvers imagine what it was like to be the animals they depicted?
I tried to ask the guardian why the carvings were made in general. I was told they were made to express the people’s way of existence, and the things they hunted, when this part of Morocco was more like the Savannah.
I asked who they thought they were speaking with. Why bother to express the details of their daily existence? Was it for posterity, or to distinguish themselves from other tribes? The guardian pointed to the sky. The carvings were a sign to show the people were grateful for the animals god had given them.
It made me think about the way existence changes when we have an audience. We’re no longer directly experiencing, we start to represent and to perform our lives. In some ways this self representation makes the circumstances of our existence feel more real, more meaningful. I wonder if it’s anything like Facebook or having a photo blog? It’s not so much wanting other people to see us, as it is wanting to see ourselves more completely. Or you know, some of us are rhinoceros who want to imagine we’re elephants…