Gender of characters in cultural media, adds a range of natural and social nuances to other typological categories, which have emerged from structural art analysis statistics. This paper compares the small range of genders to the wider range of attributes in cultural media, to demonstrate some aspects of the rigorous ‘grammar’ or ‘DNA’ of behaviour as embedded in artefacts.
The wider aim of typology is to develop a terminology and baseline for the study of categorically recurrent motifs in artefacts, and thus to revive the structural approach to conceptual anthropology.
[This paper by Edmond Furter, author of Mindprint (2014), and Stoneprint (2016), was first published in the anthropology journal Expression, edition 15, March 2017, by Atelier Etno].
Several rock art studies have confirmed that gender in art is not just a binary (male or female) category. Archetypal structural analysis confirms that typology in cultural media is more complex, yet more globally consistent, than artists, viewers or cultures could consciously manipulate. Typology, including gender attributes, is an innate or compulsively subconscious expression of perception, thus of natural structure and archetype itself. Typology requires specific terms, images and tables to describe and study. The core content of culture consists of certain predictable characters, recognisable by their attributes; and their peripheral sequence; and the precise relative positions of their eyes as pairs of opposites; and two consistent exceptions to eyes; and certain average frequencies of certain attributes of types. In this cumulative or over-determined definition, each pre-condition is a multiplication factor of identity, eliminating the role of conscious imitation, or chance.
The highest frequency of archetypal expression in culture thus far identified is type 11, expressed as a pregnant womb, at 87% on average worldwide. [Subsequent to this paper, statistics from 45 building sites confirmed that builders express 11 Virgo as an interior 81%, mother 61%, tomb 13%, water feature 11%, library 11%, wheat 6%, law 6%. Churches or statues of St Mary are typical of the type 11 axis on Western building sites].
Among tens of thousands of rock art characters in the Cedarberg and southern Drakensberg regions in Southern Africa, Lauie (2015) categorised male, indeterminate, or female, and noted a few hermaphrodites. In the Kimberley region of Australia, Holt and Ross (2016) categorised unsexed, male, homosexual, female, bisexual, or ambiguous. They noted that artists express gender by primary [natural] keys such as genitalia, and/or secondary [social] keys such as relative size, dress, items and context. Several studies have revealed the relative dominance of male characters, and the surprising rarity of categorically female characters in rock art. Beltran (1966) noted males as more common and diverse (in terms of non-gender attributes). Lauie (2015) reported only about 5% (or one in 20) categorical females in Southern African rock art. Holt and Ross (2016) reported only 8.3% (or one in 12) females in Wanjina art; and only 11.8% females in Painted Hand styling. They found 50% females in Argula and Jillinya rock art, however the subjects are local nature spirits or angels (which in most cultures are female or non-male). Poor technique and styling conventions may obscure the intended gender of some rock art characters. Holt noted “a large proportion of figures classified as unsexed… because of the lack of iconographic standardisation in each style [in the same area].”
Even extreme stylisation, typical of polities in potential territorial contest, does not overrule the core content of archetypal typology that all artists, mythographers and ritualists express in all media (Furter 2016. Expression 14). If researchers shared the same definition of gender categories, and took account of related factors of typology, statistical results would be identical worldwide, in all eras and media, including amateur and professional art. However some of the subtleties of cultural media remain beyond words, requiring images and tables to reveal.
Media, such as myth, emblems, ritual (Furter 2014), and building features (Furter 2016. Stoneprint), confirm gender as a limited range of attributes, inherent in larger sets, such as status (god, ancestor, parent, adult, peer, juvenile); or posture linked to a social function (such as rainmaker, hero, monster, emperor, king, priest, nature guardian, strength, creation, healer, trader, mother, prophet, creator); or genera (particularly bovid, avid, equid, caprine, feline, reptilian, canine, and piscine). In art, characters express gender in the context of a panel or group, and sub-groups (such as peers; enemies; tutor-pupil; hunter-quarry; parent-child which may be merged in a pregnant female; human-animal which may be merged in a therianthrope).
Type 11 is a womb on an axial grid
In any coherent artistic grouping of about twelve to about 22 characters, there is usually one pregnant female; and her womb is always between type 10 Libra and type 12/13 Leo; and her womb is always on the invisible axial grid that connects the eyes of the opposite pairs of types, as if her womb were an unborn eye; and these combined conditions apply at an average of 87% of artworks, irrespective of continent, ‘culture’, styling, age, media or technique. The adjacent type 12/13 Leo always (85%) has his chest (heart) on the axial grid. On building sites, the type 11 ‘womb’ is often a mound, platform, dome, or building dedicated to a young mother (such as Mary); and type 12/13 Leo is often a bastion, platform, armoury, tomb or cenotaph (Furter 2016, Stoneprint). Type 11 Virgo could be any species (often a bovid, horse, giraffe, hippo or human), usually visibly pregnant (Mindprint demonstrated this in 100 rock art examples, 100 art examples, and listed 200 more. Stoneprint demonstrated 130 building sites. See some examples in Expression editions 9, 10, 13 and 14).
Here is the sequence of the twelve basic archetypal characters (four of which usually unfold into two each, thus usually sixteen), with mythical labels added to enable memorisation (noting that typology does not derive from myth or astrology, which are equally archetypal); with their usual genders, known attributes, and average frequencies:
1 /2 Taurus; bisexual (48% twisting/kneeling, 19% bovid, cluster, cave)
3 Aries; ambiguous (42% long or bent neck, dragon)
4 Pisces; male (25% squatting, 26% rectangular, profile view)
5 Aquarius20/21; bisexual of any gender (44% varicoloured, 31% hyperactive, 30% horizontal or rotated, 24% large, tailcoat head, technology. Sometimes expresses its opposite 12/13 instead)
6 Capricornus; homosexual (48% ingress/egress to the centre, double-headed, one-legged, horned, tree, U-shaped camp, on a hill)
7 Sagittarius; juvenile (25% bag, rope, unfolding)
8 /9 Scorpius; ambiguous (34% bent forward, 31% strength feat, trance, large, pillar)
10 Libra; male (53% arms in V/W posture, 34% staff, market, metallurgy)
11 Virgo; womb (87%, thus a foetus of any gender, inside a female)
12 /13 Leo; male, but female when combined with type 11 in one body (85% heart, 14% feline, 11% inversion, 10% weapon, platform, bastion, water works)
14 Cancer; unsexed, but male when combined with 13 in one body (45% ingress /egress, tree, transformation)
15 Gemini; male (33% rope, 21% bag, 16% smiting, 9% sceptre/mace, creating).
There is clearly no conscious design in the range of recurrent attributes; or genders, or their sequence; or the axial grid of eyes; or the average frequencies; or the polar and temporal structure at the centre (which is outside the scope of this paper); or the consistency among cultures and eras, including Ice Age and modern art and buildings. Complexity and consistency both indicate that recurrent attributes in art are subconscious, collective and thus archetypal.
Myth and astrology ascribe three decans, or adjacent sub-types, to each of the twelve major types, however the four large types have four sub-types, making a total of about 36 or 40 decans. Constellation Virgo’s traditional decans are Spica (Corn Ear); Corvus (Crow); and Hydra (Water Snake). She shares Coma Berenices (Hair of Berenice, at the galactic north pole); and Crater (Grail), with adjacent type 12 Leo. Part of her slice of sky (since astrology is an imperfect expression of archetype) is occupied by most of Bootes (Herdsman, a decan of adjacent type 10 Libra), whose attributes of ecological and spiritual balance, justice, and wheel of fortune she often takes on, to express physical Justice or Fortune. Artists often express type 11 Virgo with flora, notably a wheat ear in Medieval art. Flora and pregnancy invite the interpretation of a semi-conscious symbol or metaphor of agriculture, as Mateu (2002) did in Spanish Levantine rock art. Mateu speculated: “Females were represented carrying out tasks such as clearing fields, harvesting, sowing, herding… and… production of sons and daughters… The politico-ideological strategy is to hide, and give limited social value to females in relation to… social life.” Mateu’s study aimed at ‘fragmentation’ (perhaps intending a kind of deconstruction), but succeeded only in imposing certain fundamental, ideological and ‘evolving’ motives on artists and on recurrent artistic motifs. There is more reliable and more accessible philosophy available in classic iconography, including the Tarot trumps. If symbols and metaphors were logical and defined, there would be no need for variant versions of myth, art, ritual and ‘non-functional’ architecture. However conventional methods of art analysis, including attempted ‘psychological’ methods, have failed to explain, and even failed to describe recurrent motifs in art.
Art is rigorously structured
Structural study of art revealed the eternal female as an archetype expressed in natural and cultural media. She is not a relic of a supposed stage of socio-economic development, or a stage of conscious philosophy. Archetypes, or rather the set of archetype (since all the parts imply the whole, and are expressed in their complete context), is a pre-existent potentiality that informs nature and culture, including myth, art, ritual, and buildings. Archetypal structure enables interchange between natural and cultural media, including the myth maps that all cultures impose on constellations. The nature-culture interchange is particularly notable in categories of species, and of genders. Archetype thus is structurally logical, and not a symbol or metaphor of any aspects of nature or culture. Conscious symbolism shares in some aspects of archetype, such as plants and wombs as dual sustenance of life. However conscious logic differs from archetypal logic. Common sense does not account for consistently recurrent motifs, or their layered structure, or their consistent frequencies. Thus archetype requires scientific study. The revelation of archetypal expression in the art of all cultures and eras is still a novelty in science and esoterica, despite the efforts of structural anthropology over several decades to reveal natural logic in artefacts and rituals. Decline in the popularity of structuralism and depth psychology, are among the indications of the eternal divorce between our conscious and subconscious minds, and of the tendency of science to serve practical and broadly political ends. We prefer to pretend that we invented and developed culture into many different ‘cultures’ (as discussed in Expression 14 under the theme of colonisation). Yet the prevalence of typology confirms structure as self-motivated, inherent, and compulsive to culture, as it is to nature. No amount of styling could change cultural structure, which remain rooted in archetype. No amount of conscious manipulation of ‘symbols or metaphors’ could have made cultural media as subtle, nuanced, and rigorously structured as they are. Science has been less successful in the study of culture, than the study of nature, where the periodic table predicts reactions, and parts of protons have cracked under nuclear physics since it developed optional pairs of labels, such as ‘charmed or strange’. The study of culture has fallen behind the study of nature.
The natural rules of subconscious behaviour are relevant to the disciplines of conceptual anthropology, cognitive archaeology, sociology, psychology, art history (particularly iconography) and semiotics. The humanities in general should resume the incomplete work of structural anthropology and depth psychology, in a multi-disciplinary or trans-disciplinary (Td) context. Further research into cultural expressions of gender, should study all typological factors, in the context of global, archetypal, subconscious expression. Typological analysis of artworks and building sites, may resolve the gender of some characters or features, notably type 11 as an unborn child in a female; types 4, 8/9, 10 and 12/13 usually male; type 7 sometimes juvenile; type 15 sometimes a couple; types 1 /2, 3, 5-20/5-21, 6 and 14 sometimes intermediary genders.
- This paper was first published in the anthropology journal Expression, edition 15, March 2017, by Atelier Etno.
Sources and References
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