7

The Wikipedia entry on the swastika says:

It is considered to be a sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and dates back at least 11,000 years.

The source cited for the claim is The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols. I searched for "11000" and "11000 years" in it, but this didn't yield any results.

I found a Zeenews article that says:

According to a 'Times of India' report, it has now come to light that 'Swastika' is much older than the Aryans and even the Indus Valley Civilization.

A team of top-notch researchers from several prestigious institutions from across the country have found that the 'Swastika' dates back at least 11,000 years and have traced its spread to western and Middle-Eastern civilizations.

In fact, one of their key findings is that a Ukranian 'Swastika', believed to date back 12,000 years to the Paleolithic Age, may not be this old, said the report.

But it doesn't give any links to the original Times of India article or the report it talks about.

My question is:

Is the claim that the swastika is over 11000 years old backed by scientific evidence?

2

Kind of, kind of not. This is apparently a highly cited article on the subject: 'The "Venus" figurines', Current Anthropology 41.4 (2000)

... we are more intrigued by the similarities between the geometric designs on these Upper Paleolithic bodies and weaving patterns of East European Slavs (Kelly 1989, Lysenko and Komarowa 1992). Although we may be a bit uncomfortable with such a “longue durée,” we find the concordance of design elements and some of the items produced (e.g., belts, string skirts) more intriguing (see, e.g., discussion in Barber 1991 and 1994) ...

In other words, the motifs of 10,000 BCE are also found on modern Slavic clothing...! Well, compare the motif on Joseph Campbell's bird figurine to more modern examples, and decide for yourself. But note the lack of evidence that the swastika was used in pre-1940s Europe apart from its occasional inclusion in larger geometric patterns.

This paper is cited in another apparently reliable paper, "The transition to farming and the 'revolution' of symbols in the Balkans. From ornament to entoptic and external symbolic storage", Documenta Praehistorica 31 (2004)

We agree, they can be interpreted as aniconic geometrical designs for all times, but they might also have been acting as entoptic phenomena.

In other words, maybe this is the sort of pattern you see when you shut your eyes. Neither of these papers appears to have much methodological grounding. Basically every theory of Paleolithic art production, including global matriarchy and shamanic use of hallucinogens, is considered by the authors.

An additional paper, which proposes a more stringent concept of artistic production and a more rationally limited of possible motifs, suggests that Neolithic artists were aware of rotational symmetry: "Symmetry analysis of Neolithic painted pottery from the Republic of Macedonia" Archeologia e Calcolatori 21 (2010). This implies the production not only of swastikas (not shown in that particular data set) but also of many other kinds of geometric motif.

I conclude that swastikas have been drawn for over 11,000 years, but it seems really unlikely that they have been recognized as a specific, meaningful symbol for over 11,000 years.

5

Essentially yes:

The earliest figure recognized as a swastika was found on a bird figurine in Mezin, Ukraine and was dated to about 12,000 years ago:

From Figure 2 we observe that the original swastika was an elaborate form with spiral arms, whereas the more modern symbol is like the gammadion (geometrical) form with short arms.14b Truncation to the gammadion form does not change the meaning of this symbol in connection with the Earth Mother or Goddess culture, but it lessens the chance of interpretive insight. The crux of the matter is this: the swastika is a double-symbol for a fertility religion having two gods, the Earth Mother and the Earth Father. To get to this point, you must study the symbols of ancient art until you conclude that the principal meaning of the equal-arm cross is reference to the Earth Mother. In addition to these context-related sources, numerous examples14a,c of ancient minimal art of human females and birds make the same suggestion about the cross. The point then is that the ancient swastika was an equal-arm cross with a serpent-symbol spiral attached to the tip of each arm. You can see this in Figure 2, and it is over 12,000 years old. Further to this point, we have published14d,e sacred bird images from ancient Australia and Shang China with inscribed snakes. Serious confirmation indeed!

emphasis added

I recommend checking the link because there is an illustration of the artifact and the inscribed swastika.

This discovery was originally noted by Joseph Campbell:

The oldest example of a "Swastika" symbol, as I interpret it, was discovered in the book Flight of the Wild Gander by Joseph Campbell8 circa 1998. It took some time to locate an older source of his figures that could be republished in this Journal.

Source:

  • 3
    That source looks highly dubious. – Reinstate Monica iamnotmaynard Nov 3 '16 at 21:36
  • @iamnotmaynard Unfortunately Joseph Campbell's book is not available online. If someone could get access to a copy to confirm that would be great. – called2voyage Nov 3 '16 at 21:37
  • @iamnotmaynard For what it's worth, Wikipedia cites the Campbell book as supporting this. – called2voyage Nov 3 '16 at 21:38
  • 1
    @iamnotmaynard: Why would you say this looks dubios? It's a snapshot of an age old "Midwestern Epigraphic Society" web site. Archaeologists and epigraphologists(?) are not exactly known for being technical early adopters... From my archaeology studies I still remember pages like this. – fgysin Dec 1 '16 at 6:52
3

Is the claim that the Swastika is over 11,000 years old backed by scientific evidence?

Yes, there is archaeological evidence of at least one Swastika being at least 12,000 years old.

BBC Article Photo bird figurine Mezin

This artifact was found in Mezin, Ukraine. Many details of the excavation site can be found here. There are also illustrations of the bird figurine.

The BBC article on the topic can be found here:

Reclaiming the Swastika

It says at example 5, the bird:

The world's oldest identified swastika pattern is on a mammoth ivory bird figurine from Mezin in Ukraine. It has been radiocarbon-dated to 15,000 years old.

The German Wikipedia article for Swastika though states:

Sie werden auf 10.000 v. Chr. datiert und dem Jungpaläolithikum zugeordnet.

It says 10,000 years BC, that would make it 12,000 years old. I cannot check the source for that statement because I don't have the book. The site reporting on the excavation site states the artifacts are 15,000 years old. That would match the BBC statement, but could be circular reasoning if they used the same source for their information.

I think it is safe to say that the artifact is betwen 12,000 and 15,000 years old.

Now, is it a Swastika we see there? I wondered myself, because I couldn't see one first. Giving the archaeologists some credit, I looked harder, and then it hit me that I should not focus on the three visible patterns, but on the whole thing.

Mezin bird traced

I traced where I see a Swastika. The Swastika we all know is the red one. I kept tracing a bit more of the palaeolithic artist's work in green where I could make out the carving. It is still a Swastika in my book, just a bit more fancy.

I stand by my answer: Yes, there is scientific evidence that the swastika is over 11,000 years old.

  • 1
    That looks more like a meander though than a swastika. – ypercubeᵀᴹ Nov 8 '16 at 0:55
  • @ypercubeᵀᴹ That was exactly my first impression. The quarters are meandering. Those quarters form a Swastika though, and they don't mirror at the center or the axis. – daraos Nov 8 '16 at 6:41

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