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kmt_sesh

Paleolithic cave art of Europe

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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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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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Posted (edited)

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 know, but then they are not being depicted as pinned on the end of a stick with their wings folded.

.

Edited by Abramelin
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I know, but then they are not being depicted as pinned on the end of a stick with their wings folded.

They are not always shown spread winged, and we don't actually know what the "stick" is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_paganism

"This soul-carrying bird was called sielulintu, "soul-bird". In some traditions people carried artifacts depicting their sielulintu. Sielulintu was believed to guard their souls while they slept. After the person died, the artifact-bird was inserted to sit on the cross at the person's grave."

Found the bolded a bit interesting.

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Posted (edited)

They are not always shown spread winged, and we don't actually know what the "stick" is.

http://en.wikipedia....innish_paganism

"This soul-carrying bird was called sielulintu, "soul-bird". In some traditions people carried artifacts depicting their sielulintu. Sielulintu was believed to guard their souls while they slept. After the person died, the artifact-bird was inserted to sit on the cross at the person's grave."

Found the bolded a bit interesting.

Not nitpicking here,lol, but there's a difference between "respresenting the soul" (your former post) and "carrying/guarding the soul".

The association between soaring to the heavens (after death or during dreaming) and someone's soul is an ancient one.

Anyway, I found this:

annukka02dailyicon.jpg

In Karelia there was an ancient belief in the Sielulintu or Soul bird. The Sielulintu was thought to deliver the soul to newborn babies and also to transport the soul to the afterlife at the moment of death. It was believed the Sielulintu protected a persons soul at it’s most vulnerable; when dreaming, and it was tradition to keep a carved wooden bird by the bedside to keep the soul safe during sleep.

http://www.dailyicon...sories/page/16/

.

Edited by Abramelin

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Not nitpicking here,lol, but there's a difference between "respresenting the soul" (your former post) and "carrying/guarding the soul".

The association between soaring to the heavens (after death or during dreaming) and someone's soul is an ancient one.

Anyway, I found this:

annukka02dailyicon.jpg

In Karelia there was an ancient belief in the Sielulintu or Soul bird. The Sielulintu was thought to deliver the soul to newborn babies and also to transport the soul to the afterlife at the moment of death. It was believed the Sielulintu protected a persons soul at it’s most vulnerable; when dreaming, and it was tradition to keep a carved wooden bird by the bedside to keep the soul safe during sleep.

http://www.dailyicon...sories/page/16/

The one on the left does not have it's wings spread. And you are nitpicking lol. I found the fact that they put the soulbirds on grave markers interesting. My only point is that there is a connection between birds and the human soul in many mythologies around the world. So if the hunter in the painting is dead that could be a possible explanation for the bird depiction.

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Just IMO... in the cave paintings of the animal with the 2 forward pointing horns, I believe this to be a rendition of the Iberian Ibex (ranged through South France also). Depending on the angle of viewing they will either appear straight, or curved as they actually are.

The Bison clearly has its intestines spilling from the body as a result of the Spear embedded in it - the problem that I have is that it would be virtually impossible for a human thrown spear to actually cause this damage, and certainly impossible for an exit wound to be large enough to allow the gut to fall out. The human is dead, no doubt, and the mighty erection depicted could be the essence of the man, the very life force, being immortal (dont want to read too much into it). The Bison itself could have been a Ritual Slaughter to commemorate the man's death

I really must go back to the Spanish Cave Paintings to look for similarities / discrepancies in the art...

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Looking more closely at the Bison: it's head is turned backward towards the person who has (clearly) speared it through the anus (I am calling it a Bison because it has superficial characteristics of the European Bison). This may be entirely incorrect, but Cave paintings in Spain have similar characteristics and style.

As for the bird - on - a -stick, I would suggest a Flamingo (common in Spain) but its body shape does not conform. The other problem I see is that there is no way of knowing whether or not all of the art is in context with the other art. El Miron in Spain is equally interesting for determining context

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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.

Sorry to be so late in responding. The prevailing question isn't why they painted inside or out, but why they painted in the first place. What did it mean to them? It's clearly not art for the sake of art or all of the known caves would be so cluttered with artwork that none of it would be intelligible. There is a clear purpose here, but the purpose is lost to us. The old joke is that if an archaeologist can't explain something, it must be religion. While archaeology does indeed lean on religion an awful lot, the elaborate cave paintings definitely suggest a composed, ritual purpose.

But given that we have no idea what the concept of "religion" meant to Paleolithic people, we cannot know what the cave paintings meant to them. Not with certainty, in any case.

While the cave environments tend to be the best preserved examples of Paleolithic art, many escarpments and cliff faces contain beautiful examples of engravings. Whether or not these were originally painted is no longer possible to tell in most cases, I believe, but it's certainly possible they were. In many decorated Paleolithic cave chambers, there are plentiful cases where artwork was both engraved and painted.

Professional historians who study the caves today no longer wrestle with the issue that these were "cave people" who did the art, although the notion is common among many laypeople to this day and was indeed a prevailing attitude in past centuries even among many professionals. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for example, most people in Europe were still grasping to the Bible as the literal truth of history, so it was nigh impossible for many people to accept the great age of the art. Once folks got past that intellectual hurdle, many still could not fathom that such ancient people not only could affect such incredible artwork, but could have any sort of religious beliefs.

Thank goodness we're beyond that—the Paleolithic artists were Homo sapiens just like us, after all—but the ongoing question remains: what are the reasons behind the art? It's a question that likely will never be fully answered.

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.

Astronomical observations are one theory. Personally I am not convinced. While the occasional example of Paleolithic cave art might somewhat resemble this or that heavenly formation, the majority of the images do not. Still, perhaps it's possible that some do. In all likelihood there is not one, neat, encompassing explanation for all of the art.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by the stick figure above the Lascaux horse. Some of the images are very cursory, and some never seem to have been completed. Common at Lascaux and other caves is the nature of overlapping images, and in many cases there are images inside images (such as horses etched inside horses). Perhaps you're talking about some of the enigmatic geometric symbols, such as seen in this Lascaux image of a horse (and perhaps this is the very image you were talking about):

20120206-Lascaux%20horse.JPG

In many cases these symbols interact with an animal, in many others they seem to float free of the animals. My own favorite example of interaction is with the hind legs of the Great Black Cow in the Nave in Lascaux. The patterned squares into which the cow's legs descend always remind me of some sort of trap:

lascauxsquaressm.jpg

What exactly the symbols mean is an ongoing issue. No one knows for sure, in spite of the fact that some Paleohistorians specialize in this aspect of research. Some have in fact wondered if the symbols represent some form of early writing, but to be honest I am quite certain they do not. The symbols rarely if ever function in a manner that would represent writing. They were almost certainly a sort of mnemonic device, but that's quite different from writing. What they represented to the ancient artists is lost to us.

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Looking more closely at the Bison: it's head is turned backward towards the person who has (clearly) speared it through the anus (I am calling it a Bison because it has superficial characteristics of the European Bison). This may be entirely incorrect, but Cave paintings in Spain have similar characteristics and style.

As for the bird - on - a -stick, I would suggest a Flamingo (common in Spain) but its body shape does not conform. The other problem I see is that there is no way of knowing whether or not all of the art is in context with the other art. El Miron in Spain is equally interesting for determining context

I'd say with confidence that it's a bison, keithisco. Lascaux has quite a few other excellent examples of bisons in its chambers. They are easily distinguishable from similar fauna like aurochs. Think of the scene called the Crossed Bison, one of Lascaux's most famous images.

The bird is another issue. Henri Breuil believed at first that it represented a grave marker for the falling man above it; many others argue it is some sort of totemic device. I think the bird itself is too indistinct to identify a species, but the fact that it's depicted atop a stick is unusual and, no doubt, significant.

You mentioned earlier that it was unlikely a spear could produce such grievous injuries on the animal. Others have commented on the same, and it's pertinent to something the size of a bison. I also see it as unlikely, but I can't say I've ever used a spear thrower to bring down a bison, myself. I'm familiar with what high-powered rifles will do to a large animal, but that's quite different from spears. Whatever exactly is being depicted here, it's possible the spear represents nothing more than a fatal injury affected on this animal. There is little doubt the bulging form below it is the animal's entrails.

You also mentioned context, which is an excellent question. That is always key when trying to form an understanding of such things. Allow me to present the scene in its entirety:

well_872_t.jpg

I've never been in Lascaux but the chamber at the bottom of the Shaft is very small (part of a once much larger space that's now silted in). The bison, man, bird, and rhino are all that appear on that wall, so the context is complete. Based on certain criteria, the rhino is believed to have been added later. As far as other artwork in the Shaft, all I've read about is a painted horse or two one the wall opposite the scene in the above photo.

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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...

Something I forgot to comment on in my earlier post. Odd as it may seem, to this day none of the caves has yielded any evidence that Paleolithic people lived in them. Plenty of sites of inhabitation have been found and excavated, but these tend to be open-air sites in sheltered areas such as adjacent to rock overhangs.

The best anaolgy I've come across is that these caves were akin to churches in the minds of Paleolithic people: we worship in churches but don't live in them.

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Just a thought on those odd squares the Black bull is treading on - my partner is a professional artist in painting and weaving - she is very much of the opinion that those squares are some sort of cloth or woven stuff, dyed squares sewn together. I have seen some kind of woven material from Dolni Vestovice, if memory serves and I think there is some evidence for footwear from 30 - to 50 thousand years ago. Is it possible that brightly coloured cloth in strips and squares was used to attract games such as this - akin to the bullfighters cape, (Yes i know bulls are colourblind, but still there appears to be a tradition of using lures to attract inquisitive animals).

Anyone else agree with this?.

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Birds are very common Spirit symbols, but I can’t imagine why it is on a stick..

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Sir James Fraser in 'The Golden Bough' writes about some remote people believing that trees had a spirit or soul that had to be placated or honoured before the tree was cut down. Could it be that early humans thought the same about animals and depicted them to honour the 'spirit' in them when they were killed or captured ?

The early religious beliefs of these people would seem to have centered around the Goddess and maybe the moon.

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as the paleolithic peoples were hunter-gatherers, it could be that these caves were training grounds for new, young hunters, somewhere the elders and shamens took them to learn the skills needed to hunt & take down large prey. a common practice of shamens is to 'become' the animals they hunt (aren't mushrooms s-o-o-o much fun!), in order to gain a better understanding of the thoughts & patterns of their quarry, so the elder hunter and the shaman would reenact idealised forms of the hunt, with the images inside the caves serving as pictorial representations, guide books if you will, of the ways of the successful, and the perils of failure.

the handprints at lascaux could be their form of 'blooding' the successful initiate, bonding him to the cave, its lineage of the hunters who came before, or even the master hunters/teachers, as a way of saying 'that's my hand there, it gives me the right to pass on my knowlege to the next generation of hunters'.

the fact that ALL caves were representational of the female, the womb of the goddess, could explain why the artwork was essentially all masculine in aspect, as a way of marrying the male & female, bringing the hunter closer to the earth mother, with the animals depicted as offerings, giving thanks to her for providing them with bounty, reinforcing the link with her as well as the union of the masculine and feminine aspects.

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Posted (edited)

Found some links discussing different ideas and theories about the purpose of some cave paintings. ( to keep it simple i'll just include this One)

http://www.rc.usf.ed...querweb/art.htm

"Scientists have explained the meaning behind cave art of the Paleolithic period in a number of ways. Some of the main theories include: Art for Art's sake, the Sympathetic Theory and Shamanism.

Art for Art's Sake

The simplest theory to explain the existence of art in this period is that it has no meaning - that it is simply the idle doodlings and graffiti of a playful activity. Paul Bahn explains in his book From Images of the Ice Age that those that see the paintings as simply an expression of creativity think the art is "mindless decoration by hunters with time on their hands."

Lartet and Piette said in the 19th century that this was a reflection of other's views of anti-clericalism because those people refused to believe that Paleolithic people had any religion.

Sympathetic Magic Theory

Proponents of the sympathetic magic theory believe that the animals in the paintings were created to control or influence real animals.

(( which is what i guessed at in my first post when i suggested that the paintings might have been believed to summon animals ))

A Systematic Approach

Leroi-Gourhan decided to take a purely statistical approach to prehistoric cave paintings and began a systematic investigation in which he spent years classifying 72 groups of pictures in 66 caves.

He recorded: 610 horses, 510 bisons, 205 mammoths, 175 rhinos, 9 nondescript monsters, 8 large-horned deer, 8 fish, 6 birds, 3 nondescript beasts of prey, 2 wild boars, and 2 chamoix.

Leroi-Gourhan found correlations between the types of animals and their positions in the cave.

To Leroi-Gourhan, the Paleolithic cave "temples" seemed similar to modern religious structures, with a certain images in similar places, a specific route of direction, the altar and entrance in the same order, and typical stations of initiation.

Leroi-Gourhan believed that cave art portrays a culture with a very sophisticated religious or philosophical view of the world.

Edited by lightly
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