This four-and-a-half-inch-tall terracotta sculpture was a product of the late stone-age “Hamangia culture” of present-day Romania and dates to approximately 5,000 BCE. Most of the extant art of the era depicts hunting or fertility, but the “thinker” (Ganditorul) is clearly sitting in introspection in an almost identical pose to the famous statue by Rodin, despite the gap of 7,000 years. (Note that the older thinker wasn’t discovered until 1956, while the younger was conceived in 1880.)
The thinker of Cernavoda is, without a doubt, my favorite work of art in the entire history of our species. It is staggeringly ancient. It pre-dates the Bible (both Old and New Testaments), the great pyramids, even writing itself, which didn’t appear in Mesopotamia for another 1,500 years. And yet, looking at it, we can immediately identify with this pensive fellow and share in his thoughts and struggles which suggests to me that — whatever else has happened — being human hasn’t changed all that much.