The artists or artists who painted the cave at Lascaux in France deserves nearly all the artistic praise he has received. He, or perhaps she, was both knowledgeable and gifted. On the surface, he appeared to have one distressing weakness, in addition to and perhaps related to what seems to be a habit of misplacing ears and horns. He was not terribly interested in composition, beyond arranging files of animals and an occasional confrontation, which may not have been deliberate. Clutter and chaos suited him nearly everywhere; and this brings up a troubling question.That is, who back in 15,000 B.C. constituted the public for the Lascaux paintings?
There is some plausible evidence to support an answer or answers. If, as seems probable, the present entrance to the cave is approximately the original one, all the pictures were executed in dark passages and could have been seen only with the feeble help of grease lamps and firelight. Also, in many places, too many for them to be called exceptional, the artist painted one animal over another, with no apparent concern for the legibility of the entangled result.
And finally, there is no indication that the cave was ever visited, before its discovery in 1940, by a large number of people. The signs of prehistoric frequentation seem to be compatible with the idea that the only people who went down there were the artists and their helpers or attendants. This theory is strengthened by the fact that the paintings began to deteriorate after they were exposed to the mad rush of modern tourism, with its attendant flash cameras and fast food. Beginning around 1960 mysterious green algae began eating away the colors to such an alarming extent that the cave has been closed to the public save for extremely limited visiting in small groups. The menace to the art work has been checked meaning that their very survival through centuries of pre-history implies a relative isolation from the ravages of human confrontation.
Hence, the conclusion seems inescapable: Execution was everything and viewing was almost nothing. There was practically no public at Lascaux, or for that matter at other decorated caves since the evidence seems about the same everywhere, as seen in Werner Herzog’s film of the nearby cave at Chauvet. This conclusion can be neatly fitted into the assumption that the typical Lascaux artist was not so much an artist as a priest or a maker of magic of one form of another; perhaps a little less grandiose than Herzog’s assertion in pumping and dumping his film, “You sense somehow this is the origin of the modern human soul; this is the origin of art.”
It can also serve as a neat pretext for a little old fashioned moralizing, with the deterioration of the paintings interpreted symbolically as the effect of large modern tourist industry on the creation and durability of masterpieces. But, all this does not get us out of the difficulty of believing that such expert and loving rendering of the visible world was simply a very private sort of action art, unrelated to ecstatic public accolade the the cult of celebrity.
Computer simulation allowed the outlines of the animal paintings, and their orientation to one another in the Hall of the Bulls, to be compared to the summer sky of Magdalenian times, ~15,000 B.C. The Summer Solstice of June 19, 1999 was chosen for direct observation of Sun Set and last light into Lascaux. On June 19 at 21 hrs GMT, the last rays of this Summer Solstice Sun Set were observed for 15 minutes. As predicted, the sun’s rays did reach the Hall of the Bulls and illuminated the cave wall paintings. The auroch bulls that dominate much of the panorhttp://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/sciencetech/what-the-lascaux-cave-paintings-tell-us-about-how-our-ancestors-understood-the-stars/15506 aaaaa
Gary D. Thompson:To date none of the arguments attempting to show the existence of some sort of Paleolithic astronomy can be considered convincing.
Many researchers have believed that the animals painted by the Ice-age hunter-gatherers at Lascaux (the Magdalenian culture) were simply those that they hunted. Certainly the animals they depicted comprise the most dangerous in the world of the Ice-age hunters and were both prey and food. The painted dots are thought by some persons to be perhaps no more than a tally of hunting kills. However, the concepts of hunting magic and hunting tallies would seem to be wrong. The hunted animal remains on the cave floor were largely reindeer yet reindeer are entirely unrepresented in the cave art. Some recent investigations suggest that beliefs involving connection to the spirit-world, through trance and hallucination, are perhaps the key to understanding the cave paintings (including the dot patterns). See especially the remarkable book The Mind in the Cave by David Lewis-Williams (2002).) Professor R. Dale Guthrie, Emeritus Professor in the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; and author of The Nature of Paleolithic Art, proposed in 2006 that the art was largely produced by adolescent males and is somewhat akin to modern teen graffiti. Read More:http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterOne/LascauxCave.htm
Laura Lee:Edge does concede that traditions get layered over one another, so we have no idea how far back it all goes. And, he likes the fact that before the Magdalenians, Neanderthals used these same caves, and Cro-Magnon before that. We’ve lost track of how much continuity there was in oral traditions, says Edge. We wonder how they could have remembered it all. Yet in mediaeval France, minstrels were said to be able to remember 1000 words of rhyme, verse, and song in one hearing, then perfectly mimic it.
I’ve heard it said that the memory skills necessary to preserve this oral was also good practice for the development of that part of the mind used in visionary journeying. We activate the inner screen of the mind when remembering, the same part of our brain used for visionary practices.
Edge’s discovery is important in a number of ways. It clearly sets the origins of astronomy back at least to Paleolithic times. It gives us yet another reason to update and upgrade the image of our early ancestors. And, it provides clear evidence for the long-term astronomical observations that are a cornerstone of both the iconography and the cultures that followed.
Interesting, too, that Lascaux’s Hall of Bulls pictures the stars of the ecliptic, the sun’s path around the earth, the highway the sun, moon and planets, from earth’s point of view, follow around the sky. It later became the great circle used by astrologers, the zodiac.Read More:http://www.atlantisrising.com/backissues/issue10/ar10ancientstars.html