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Animals making art and symbols, and documenting their history?

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posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 04:22 AM
I am really curious about this. Has there ever been documented evidence of animals other than humans making art or symbols?

Hmm, actually now that I think about it, they do make art and symbols. Spiders making webs is one, along with ants making nests, and bees making honeycombs. Okay, so some animals do make art and symbols.

But what I am really wondering is if there are any animals that document their history? Wouldn't it be awesome if we found some huge obscure ant colony underground and on their walls were symbols and art? What if they built shrines and other things? What if they had religion?

Also, what if there is some undiscovered species way on the bottom of the ocean with cities and civilization? What if they had art museums and their own written language? Maybe I'm going a little too out there, but anything is possible.

So what are your thoughts on this topic?

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 04:34 AM

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 04:37 AM

Originally posted by LiveForever8
reply to post by SolarE-Souljah

Painting ants?

Damn, i was going to link the painting Elephants! painting ants? couldnt any ant 'paint' if you chucked some paint until their little bodies and let them wander around? ;p

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 04:41 AM
Hmm, yeah, that could be considered animal art...

But what I really mean is like is there any evidence of stuff like animals drawing an event that happened to them? maybe like a time when the wasps tried to attack the ant colony but the mighty warrior ant ANTMANITO fended them off.

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 06:03 AM

Has there ever been documented evidence of animals other than humans making art or symbols?

Symbols look pretty easy to document. A symbol is something concrete with a meaning of its own, that also refers to something other than itself.

This sentence is not a symbol, but merely a string of signs - there is no meaning except the one that we have agreed to as our interpretation of these signs. If I draw a cross, though, it is both a real object, a tool for killing someone, and also a reference to all manner of things Christian. Therefore, the cross is a symbol. Unless, of course, it is the is one: +.

That is a big complication, then, You cannot tell by looking whether something is or is not a symbol. But you can often tell by behavior of the symbol user that something enjoys "dual meaning."

Pet owners routinely report that domestic animals display individual ownership over toys. The whole idea of toy, of course, is symbolic. And, because domestic dogs and gray wolf are the same species, we can be sure that their shared behavior is not some imitation of us, but something authentically "lupine."

Both dogs and wolves play a form of "tug of war" with found wooden sticks. Who wins depends on social status, which can be verified behaviorally (for example, who wins tug-of-war with sticks eats real food first).

Short of being a gray wolf, I cannot be certain about the meaning of the behavior, of course. But it seems much more likely than not that the stick is both a thing-in-itself (the game medium) and a reference to the social order of the pack. Many people conjecture that the reference is even more specific, stick ~ bone of the prey, but any dual reference at all suffices to establish symbol use.

Art is trickier. Unlike symbol, it lacks an operational definition, and like natural language, such definition as it has is species-specific to homo sapiens. For example, no matter how physically unlikely it is that human beings would paint in that space in Lascaux (it is difficult to get to, cramped to work in, and there is not enough natural light for humans to work by - in color), it doesn't even occur to us that the paintings are anything other than a human production.

What the elephants paint is interesting, but it is not representational art. Even if it is representational to them, it isn't to us, so it isn't representational art. Who has the hyoid bone makes the rules.

If we ever decode dolphin sound, then the situation will be similar. One way or another, it will not be language. Then again, they probably say the same thing about us

As to history, there is some evidence that elephants may have an "oral tradition." For example, they seem to "remember" where their ancestors have found water during a drought, even if the elephant seeking the water hasn't experienced drought before.

That doesn't imply a use for an inanimate physical record. They are nomadic, and don't have pockets, so it is unclear what benefit any sort of token could be to them. They are better off telling their descendants things and remembering what they have been told (assuming that that is what is going on).

Even among humans, writing is much newer than language, and it is throroughly unclear what early representational art represented. The animals on the walls of Lascaux do not reflect the fauna with whom the artists dealt in any simple way. For all we know, then, these could be dream records.

[edit on 21-1-2010 by eight bits]

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 07:05 AM
Eight bits, Thank you for your input on all that. Dolphins have always seemed really intelligent to me, so it would be cool if they passed on their history through oral tradition. But, I don't really see dolphins being able to make art or draw on rocks.

Ants on the other hand, I really think they are capable of astounding things. Back in the day, I was fascinated by ants. There was this banyan tree I would always climb, and this tree was infested with all different types of ants. There were non poisonous orange ants, and small black ants that could sting. The way they set up their colonies was different, and it was always cool to see a fallen branch with all kinds of tunnels inside of it, with hundreds of ants and eggs. If you accidentally uncover a nest, especially in a tree, you really start to see the intelligence of the ants. You will see some approach the disturbance, while the others get in busy in grabbing all the eggs. If they think their nest is in trouble, they will grab all their belongings and migrate somewhere else.

That brings me to the point about animals passing on history possibly through writing. This banyan tree, for a period of about one year, was waged between the orange and black ants. It just makes me think like if they told the ant babies about the banyan tree war. I would love to watch the battles unfold up in the tree. Let's say a black ant is scouting out the tree, and comes across an orange ant. On a one on one battle, usually the orange ant will win. These medium sized orange ants would grab the little black ants with their mandibles and legs, and proceed in doing wrestling moves to rip their opponent to pieces. But if one orange ant comes across a black ant colony, he is in big trouble. When the little black ants team up and all sting an orange ant, all that venom from the stings will add up enough to kill orange.

In the end, the black ants took over the tree. That is why I wonder if they pass on their exploits of how they conquered the orange ants and took over the tree. It would be awesome if you see a carving in the bark depicting the battles.

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 08:50 AM
I also just thought of the possibility of apes making art or depicting events. Monkeys and apes and all them are really smart. I watch animal planet and jeez, they look so human.

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 09:37 AM
The difference here is that animals were introduced to art by a human. I doubt they would ever have discovered the joy of painting on their own. I don't think animals can even grab the concept of aesthetics.
Though the ant hills and spider webs may be considered a form of art by some, these are actually nothing more than the designs of nature in the form instinctual survival tactics used by animals.
Another difference here is that the spider of today won't be able to sell and get rich off the web made by yesterday's spider.

I don't know about ants, but I did have an uncle that loved to paint.

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 09:57 AM
reply to post by SolarE-Souljah

I wouldn't really consider ant colonies, spider webs, beehives, etc, to be art. They're not really self-aware so far as we can tell, and self-recognition does tend to be a necessity for meaningful expressions of oneself. Typically, self-recognition is only seen in mammals and some bird species.

I also wouldn't consider ants very intelligent. Their actions and behaviors seem far more comprehensively by emergence. Basically, they don't think about what they're doing... they're just responding to very simple behavioral "rules" cued by stimuli. For instance, foraging seems like a highly coordinated colony-wide cooperation effort. Really, there's just three basic rules. (maybe more, but for example sake I'll use three)

1. Explore your environment.
2. When you come across a food source, release pheromone as you head back to the hive.
3. Follow the pheromone trail.

What you end up with, is this:

The same concept can be used to describe Checkers playing PCs and flocking formation in birds. So spider webs, beautiful and artistic as they are, aren't really art... but rather a display of emergence from the interaction of simple rules.


That being said, I'm going to dump quite a bit of info on animal intelligence and behavior for you to chew on. I don't think you're going to find any examples of written language or expressions of artwork in the animal kingdom, and certainly not written histories. Yes, there are examples of Elephants & Apes drawing. But to my knowledge, these behaviors have never been observed in the wild. They were taught by to them by humans. Animals may possess the intelligence, inflection, and self-recognition necessary TO express themselves artistically, but they don't do it. Much like how AMH (Anatomically Modern Humans) arrived on the scene 200,000 years ago, yet didn't display behavioral modernity until about 30~40kya. This includes cave paintings, among other things. I'm not sure if modernity evolved slowly over time, or if language skills hit a critical mass level necessary for the expression of complex and abstract thought necessary for art to exist. The jury is still out on that one IIRC. The important thing to note being, while we possess human nature, what we identify as being human - the sphere of the human condition - is not tied innately to our genetics nor is applicable only to our species. "Human" is a collection of information and tradition passed down and refined through the generations.

The reason I doubt other animals possess written language, stems mostly from our own struggles with learning written language. A child will learn to speak a language simply by observing and inferring it's use within normal human interaction. Yet that same child will spend years in school having to be trained how to read & write. You cannot simply immerse a child in a library the same way they are immersed in a language/culture and expect them to know how to read. We have an innate, and very - very simple syntax structure seemingly pre-wired into our brains. As do many other animals it seems, including some of our closest relatives.

Syntax in our primate cousins.

So apparently, even Campbell's Monkeys have a primitive language which is adaptive to the situation with great detail and capable of sustaining abstract concepts. This suggests that it may be possible for oral histories/culture to be passed down - if nothing else. Eventually, study of animal language may allow for some measure of meaningful communication.


Evidence of syntax in Starlings

(Dolphin Cognition Doc 1/3)

Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy: Animal Cognition

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 09:56 PM
Thank you all for the information and opinions on the matter.

Okay, here was what I was really going for when I started this thread. Say what you want about evolution, but I believe it exists. The point I was trying to get to with the ants is what if there was this single huge ant colony underground that was extremely undisturbed, and thus they evolved differently from other ants? Like we see some ants with stingers, and some do not. What if this undiscovered ant colony evolved to the point where their brain power and functioning ability grew enough to the point of self awareness? I know this may seem really stretching it, but I wasn't really thinking that the individual ants were smart, but like the overall colony. Like you say ants take commands and stuff from the queen, so what if the queen of this evolved colony could send out messages for her troops to dig symbols and their history and stuff into the wall? I don't know, it might not exist, but it is a cool thought.

Yeah, and I know about elephants being taught and all that. My overall theme of this thread is basically about undiscovered species on or in the far reaches of our planet capable of doing amazing things.

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 11:52 PM

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