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Paleolithic cave art of Europe


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#16    laver

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 10:34 AM

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'There is a spear piercing through the animal, and its guts are spilling out. One woman I met in the exhibit absolutely insisted that big bulge hanging down must be the animal's scrotum, and nothing I said would change her mind. She wanted it to be the animal's scrotum.'(quote)

The idea that there was reproductive advantage in some of this art might not be so far fetched? The position of the spear may be important linking the female and male 'areas' of the animal. Did the shaman (artist?) gain reproductive advantage from this art it clearly has sexual connotations ?


#17    Irna

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 01:08 PM

There is a very interesting article here: http://halshs.archiv...eaud_Beaune.pdf by Romain Pigeaud, one of the best French specialists of Paleolithic cave art, unfortunately it's in French. The author presents examples of archaeological evidence in the use and occupation of caves, trying to answer the question of possible regular and repeated rituals.


#18    Dragonwind

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 08:36 AM

A couple of things I've wondered about:

- Was it 'modern man' who painted them or neanderthals? Modern man (cro-mags) had not been in europe very long before starting to master artistic representations of ice age european animals deep underground. Yet Neanderthals had known both the animals and cave systens for far longer. It's interesting to ponder how modern man may have integrated into the cave systems of europe taking over from neanderthals.
- Some of the artwork is quite 3 dimensional. In many ways far more accurate in perspective, scale and expression than much later periods of antiquity - or versus other ancient modern human artworks such as aboriginal australian cave art that is far more abstract or patterned. I have seen a documentary that covered how many autistic people draw or paint without much learned artistic teaching. The cave art is very similar in it's conception and implementation. Once again Neanderthals appear to have a link to autism in their genes. Of course modern man was also hunting big game and had artistic expression but I like speculating on how neanderthals and modern humans may have influenced each other, directly or indirectly.


#19    Frank Merton

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 08:43 AM

I fear we bring several thousand years of art history to our perception of these pictures, and there is no way to not do this.  Virgin eyes do not exist.


#20    thewild

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 09:46 AM

I did a paper on the role of the horse in helping mankind spread through Europe. The four horses that are painted in the front of the cave are simply beautiful, and one of the earliest representations of horses. The cave of Forgotten dreams is a fantastic film.

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#21    The Puzzler

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 10:25 AM

View Postkmt_sesh, on 18 May 2013 - 03:40 AM, said:

Some weeks ago the Field Museum of Natural History, here in Chicago, opened a new temporary exhibit called Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux. It's an exhibit put on by the French government and the Field Museum is the first North American venue to host it. The exhibit runs until September. Those of you who know me will remember that my head is usually stuck in the ancient history of Mediterranean and Near Eastern civilizations, especially pharaonic Egypt, so this was something new to me. Prior to this exhibit's opening, I had spent little time reading about prehistoric Europe. But I'd agreed to help staff the exhibit and give private lectures, so I had my work cut out for me.

Going into the training for Lascaux, I wasn't sure I'd even be motivated. I had tried other exhibits at other times but the interest level was never there. So imagine my own surprise when I fell in love with the Lascaux exhibit from almost the first moment I set foot in there. Before its opening and in the weeks since I've spent considerable time researching this topic and reading everything I can get my hands on. The interest level is still very much there.

Just the same, the topic of Paleolithic Europe and its cave paintings is not my forte, so I thought I would bring it to the forum. I know there are posters here better versed on this topic than I am, so I am always eager to learn from others. I wouldn't be surprised to see some posters bring in very strange ideas, too, but all are welcome.

A question not answered to this day is: Why did Paleolithic man expend so much time and effort to decorate hundreds of caves with phenomenal engravings and paintings? The short answer is, there is no universal agreement in the academic community, and there never can be. Short of a time machine, that is. But it's been enjoyable for me as I work inside the exhibit to solicit answers from visitors, and my favorite answer so far came from an elderly man I met last weekend: graffiti gone wild. Okay, so he was kidding, but the thing with Paleolithic cave art is, one theory is about as good as any other (to a point, of course). In the oodles of reading and studying I've been doing, I've seen for myself how prominent Paleolithic historians give props to other theories but state they're all wrong, while the present historian's theory must of course be correct. So it goes in the world of academia, especially with a subject so distantly placed in time and with such little explanatory evidence.

Lascaux is considered one of the finest painted caves in Europe. It was decorated around 20,000 years ago, in the Solutrean-Magdalenian periods. It's a large cave system with seven primary chambers extending altogether over 800 feet in length. It contains almost 2,000 images of animals and enigmatic symbols, but only one man. He appears in the chamber called the Shaft, which drops almost 20 feet below the level of the rest of the cave system. This mysterious man belongs to one of the most famous images from Paleolithic art:

Posted Image

I drew one visitor's attention to the "bird on a stick" below the man, and asked him what he thought the bird was. The visitor stated that it must be the world's oldest lawn ornament. You've got to love a good sense of humor.

This is how I'll leave my opening post. I'm curious about what other posters have to say about Lascaux and the other painted European caves. I'm eager to learn all I can, and I look forward to your comments and contributions. :tu:

Strange or logical my answer may be. Why wouldn't they paint inside kmt? Today modern artists paint inside of buildings, look at the Sistine Chapel etc. Where would they have painted outside? Put all that considerable effort in and have the rain destroy it the next day? They lived in the caves so it makes sense they would have painted in them.
I think part of the problem is seeing them so ' stone age'  or whatever, like they first thought when they discovered the paintings, which were not recognised as genuine for around 20 years I think off hand.

Some people say the ' bird on a stick'  is a shaman with the Cygnus constellation nearby him. The picture of a galloping horse we often see at Lascaux has a stick figure image above, like the horse drawn as a pictograph, I've never really seen anyone mention this but for all we know they could have been developing writing at this time.

They were making very intricate Venus' of Brassempouy and Lion-people from ivory. I love the paintings of prehistoric Europe, I have a few books on them, older ones with wonderful pictures you don't see in todays books, I stare at them and imagine myself being there, do it, it's not hard to see them, all quite cultured, carving ivory, while the artistic types painted wonderful paintings from natural resources capturing just what they saw, no need for more evolution is necessary to paint those paintings, just an imagination to imagine them doing it.

Edited by The Puzzler, 20 May 2013 - 10:31 AM.

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#22    lightly

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 11:08 AM

i'm guessing it may have been ritualistic ( i think nearly everything is/was ritualistic/religious)   .. maybe they thought that by making the animals Appear, on the cave wall,  helped summon them  for hunting.
     I dunno,  but i'm guessing they painted what was most important to them?

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#23    jules99

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 06:56 PM

Looking at some of the artworks in the Chauvet cave, the way the rhino's horn (on the right) is drawn seems to use the illusion of light to give perspective, the other rhino's head is turned showing some use of foreshortening..This seems an ambitious and well executed work for anyone not trained in art, or the use of some artistic technique.

http://www.youtube.c...Y6EU7Bw#t=4145s


And life drawings of lions and horses? just incredible... Im guessing maybe some of the work must have been sketched in the field and taken back to the cave, or did they do them 100% from memory?

Edited by jules99, 20 May 2013 - 06:59 PM.


#24    Dragonwind

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 04:19 AM

View Postlightly, on 20 May 2013 - 11:08 AM, said:

i'm guessing it may have been ritualistic ( i think nearly everything is/was ritualistic/religious)   .. maybe they thought that by making the animals Appear, on the cave wall,  helped summon them  for hunting.
I dunno,  but i'm guessing they painted what was most important to them?
Perhaps they just painted because they enjoyed it and painted animals out of fascination and respect for them. Why does absolutely everything in ancient history have to be ritualistic or spiritualistic??? (not having a go at you timestamp - just a rhetorical question). Maybe it was their form of TV/entertainment? Maybe they were high on mushrooms and had raves deep in the caves. Perhaps it was a way of teaching.


#25    Frank Merton

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 05:34 AM

View PostDragonwind, on 21 May 2013 - 04:19 AM, said:

Perhaps they just painted because they enjoyed it and painted animals out of fascination and respect for them. Why does absolutely everything in ancient history have to be ritualistic or spiritualistic??? (not having a go at you timestamp - just a rhetorical question). Maybe it was their form of TV/entertainment? Maybe they were high on mushrooms and had raves deep in the caves. Perhaps it was a way of teaching.
In other words, we are only guessing.

This is of course absolutely the case, but our guesses do not have to be wild; they can have some reasoning behind them, based on the subject matter, what we know about paleolithic cultures, and based on little details.  I think though that we must be very careful not to be too confident in our logic and think we know when we only guess.

I would like to repeat one guess I said earlier that wasn't picked up -- that the men lying on their backs with erections are dead.  Hunting was dangerous, and it was important that boys learn this as strongly as possible before they went and got themselves killed.


#26    lightly

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 11:14 AM

View PostDragonwind, on 21 May 2013 - 04:19 AM, said:

Perhaps they just painted because they enjoyed it and painted animals out of fascination and respect for them. Why does absolutely everything in ancient history have to be ritualistic or spiritualistic??? (not having a go at you timestamp - just a rhetorical question). Maybe it was their form of TV/entertainment? Maybe they were high on mushrooms and had raves deep in the caves. Perhaps it was a way of teaching.

     I like the teaching idea..  and even the entertainment idea ...  but it does seem that the paintings , especially of animals,  may have been restricted to those who paint best? ..and weren't  something Everyone  did?   But sure,  if the work wasn't done in some restrictive manner ( you can't come in now .. the  big hooplas are painting  and can't be disturbed )  ...  i can see the work , in progress, drawing a crowd.
(sort of reminds me of the church ,or other wealthy patrons, commissioning the best painters)

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#27    Papagiorgio

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 11:59 AM

View PostFrank Merton, on 21 May 2013 - 05:34 AM, said:

In other words, we are only guessing.

This is of course absolutely the case, but our guesses do not have to be wild; they can have some reasoning behind them, based on the subject matter, what we know about paleolithic cultures, and based on little details.  I think though that we must be very careful not to be too confident in our logic and think we know when we only guess.

I would like to repeat one guess I said earlier that wasn't picked up -- that the men lying on their backs with erections are dead.  Hunting was dangerous, and it was important that boys learn this as strongly as possible before they went and got themselves killed.

Birds are often used to represent a departed soul. So if he was dead that could explain the bird next to the man.

I'm just saying.

#28    third_eye

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 12:11 PM

View PostPapagiorgio, on 21 May 2013 - 11:59 AM, said:

Birds are often used to represent a departed soul. So if he was dead that could explain the bird next to the man.

your avatar just made my day ... Benny Hill ... oh how do I miss the saucy lil bugger ///

And yes, you are right on the quid with the birds .... :lol:

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#29    Abramelin

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 04:01 PM

View PostPapagiorgio, on 21 May 2013 - 11:59 AM, said:

Birds are often used to represent a departed soul. So if he was dead that could explain the bird next to the man.

The fact that the bird is stuck on a stick could mean something entirely different.

Like that the bird was the shamans totem.


#30    Papagiorgio

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 04:36 PM

View PostAbramelin, on 21 May 2013 - 04:01 PM, said:

The fact that the bird is stuck on a stick could mean something entirely different.

Like that the bird was the shamans totem.
It could mean anything. At this point we have no idea, and are just guessing. I thought the dead hunter theory was interesting, and the use of birds representing departed souls or spirits is common among many people.

I'm just saying.




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