Heat & Light at Lascaux

  The environment in which some of humanity’s first–and still best–works of art, in the cave of Lascaux nearly thirty thousand years ago, is described here by Randall White: Plant materials, especially wood, would have been important fuel for cooking, heating, and light. Again, the excellent preservation at Lascaux indicates that certain species of trees and shrubs were sought, especially […]

Read More →

What the Earliest Forms of Literacy Looked Like

from David Carr’s book on literacy and the creation of literature in the ancient world: … many ancient texts were not written in such a way that they could be read easily by someone who did not already known them well. Indeed, classicists long ago noted that the oldest Greek manuscripts, written as they are all in capitals and without […]

Read More →

The Hooded Lady of Brassempouy

from Randall White’s Prehistoric Art: The best known of the statuettes from Brassempouy is the 25,000 year-old “dame à la capuche” (hooded lady), carved from the dense, homogenous interior core of a mammoth tusk. She was found immediately below a fireplace and was covered by a small limestone slab. Although she has frequently been imagined to be the broken-off head […]

Read More →

How Picking Fleas Led to the Evolution of Language

From Steven Mithen’s Prehistory of the Mind: The anthropologist Robin Dunbar looked at the size of the brain of H. habilis [2.1 – 1.5 million years ago] from a very different perspective. Recall that we have already referred to his work regarding the relationship between brain size and group size—living within a larger group requires more brain-processing power to keep up […]

Read More →

The Earliest Human Communities

From Steven Mithen’s The Prehistory of the Mind: There is good circumstantial evidence that H. habilis [2.1 to 1.5 million years ago] would have been living in larger groups than his ancestors. If we again look at modern primates, there appear to be two ecological situations in which primates choose to live in larger groups, and suffer the accompanying social challenges. […]

Read More →

We Were All Animals Once: The Beginning of Anthropomorphic Thinking

from Steven Mithen’s The Prehistory of the Mind:   This propensity to think of the natural world in social terms is perhaps most evident in the ubiquitous use of anthropomorphic thinking—attributing animals with humanlike minds. Consider the Inuit and the polar bear. This animal is highly sought after and is “killed with passion, butchered with care and eaten with delight.” But […]

Read More →

Understanding Religious Fundamentalism

I am always thrilled to reread these two passages by Erik Hornung, and to find in them just about the wisest things I’ve ever read about religion in general, and fundamentalism in particular. Although he hopefully assumes (the book was first published in 1971) that just because fundamentalism will become increasingly “inhuman” it will lose adherents, his words are still […]

Read More →

Humanity’s Earliest Rituals

Three passages on prehistoric religion from the book Becoming Human:   One of the pervasive themes of [this book] is that spirituality and materiality cannot be separated. The roots of religion are to be found in ritual practice. And ritual practice, as documented by the material record goes back before the Franco-Cantabrian “explosion”, back indeed before the Blombos engravings [70,000 […]

Read More →

The Archaeology & Mythology of Caves

The archaeologist Jean Clottes writes that, besides the more famous paintings in the ice-age caves of France and Spain, it has also been observed that “various objects have been either deposited or stuck into cracks of the walls, or even stuck into the ground. Those apparently non-utilitarian gestures have been noticed from Asturias in Spain to Burgundy in France, from […]

Read More →

Cauldron & Drink (poem)

CAULDRON & DRINK They love their honey and they love the vine, the wine and beer they engender with fire and the altered world each takes them to. They name their vessels like newborns, they name their goblets and flagons and mixing bowls and give titles to their cauldrons, those cornucopias of bronze or clay or silver, a few or […]

Read More →

Books for Days

With June finally done and the rush of bringing out two books behind me, let me thank everyone who has purchased copies. There are still a few of each book left from my initial batch; if anyone is interested, I’m selling them myself much cheaper than Amazon etc., & they will be signed. If you would like a review copy […]

Read More →

“Bone Antler Stone” now available

“Our prehistory now has its poet laureate.” – Barry Cunliffe, Oxford University Download readings from the book below, or read an essay about the book. US readers can order copies directly from me here: UK and worldwide readers, order directly from The High Window Press here Passing through more than thirty thousand years of history, the changing spiritual and material […]

Read More →

Two Gods – poems by Tim Miller

Originally posted on Amethyst Review:
Two Gods I. Esus with an Axe As if he were winter itself Esus goes at the willow tree, goes to prune it back for a time, promising a spring without blades. And as if they were winter itself, the egrets in the willow tree consider how the cold must come, consider where all souls must go, and surrender the willow to fly. And as if it were winter itself the marsh beside the willow tree cools and freezes and hides beneath ice, beneath the cracking axe of Esus, beneath the iron sun, iron clouds, beside the low willow in winter. II. Sucellus: The Wine God Every now and then, why not, give your time to the drunk old man – the hammer he holds struck winter out of the earth after all, and gave us the grapes that got him all groggy, the barrel overflowing and the jar overturned, the amphorae running over. He’s not the most graceful god, not in spring, but remember that his hammer is thunder, that his hammer is the reliable wheel and his body is covered in the serious signs that the dark of deep winter were made for – so join him while his hammer is on the ground and while, stumbling, he gives a smile over at you. ? Tim Miller writes about religion, history and poetry at http://www.wordandsilence.com. These poems are from a larger collection on…

Read More →

Two New Poems from Old Europe

Bone Antler Stone: Poems

Many thanks to the editors of the Cumberland River Review, who just published two of my poems from old Europe, on burials in ancient Sweden and Russia. You can read them here. The full collection of these poems will be published next year by the High Window Press in the UK, under the title Bone Antler Stone. You can read more of […]

Read More →

Don’t Be Such a Boar

After receiving an email from a reader interested in the mythology surrounding bears, I remembered my own obsession with the boar. This was written some time ago, and one day will hopefully be expanded for a small illustrated book. Forgive the in-line citations, which may be an eyesore, but it would take too long to turn them into footnotes. The […]

Read More →

Old Ritual, Ancient Travel, & Fire Houses (3 New Poems)

Many thanks to the editors of The High Window, who just published three new poems of mine. They are part of a larger sequence on the mythology, history, and archaeology of old Europe. You can read them here. For those interested in further info behind the poems, these are good starting places: Star Carr: Starr Carr – the official site […]

Read More →

Burials (2 New Poems)

Many thanks to Michael Bartholomew-Biggs, poetry editor at Londongrip, who just published two new poems of mine. They are from a larger sequence on prehistoric burials in ancient Europe. The poems can be found here. For those interested in more info on the burials, these are both good starting places: Vedbaek Finds Amesbury Archer    

Read More →