Category Archive 'Lascaux'

07 Jan 2023

Do the Lascaux Paintings Feature 21,500-Year-Old Writing?

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Examples of animal depictions associated with sequences of dots/lines. (a) Aurochs: Lascaux, late period; (b) Aurochs: La Pasiega, late; (c) Horse: Chauvet, late (we differ in opinion with the Chauvet team, for whom it would be early); (d) Horse: Mayenne-Sciences, early; (e) Red Deer: Lascaux, late; (f) Salmon: Abri du Poisson, early; (g) Salmon (?): Pindal, late; (h) Mammoth: Pindal, early.

It looks plausible that the lines and dots repeated on, or beside, multiple images of the same animals may possibly have been placed there to communicate some information to hunters. (link)

The First known Writing In Humankind?

The 21,500-year-old ‘controversial’ cave painting depicts the now extinct auroch bull. The new study instigated by furniture conservator Bennett Bacon and in collaboration with academics from the University of Durham was published on Jan. 5 in the Cambridge Archaeology Journal. As an example, it specifically looks at four dots on a painting of an auroch within the overall design at Lascaux. The writers of the study say the dots and lines “might relate to the seasonal behavior of prey animals.” If they are right, and this design conveys seasonal data, these dots and lines do indeed represent the earliest form of writing ever discovered in the history of humankind.

Similar groups of dots and lines have been found in hundreds of hunter-gatherer cave sites across Europe. The team of researchers maintains that when positioned near animal imagery the “apparently” abstract groups of dots and lines actually represent “a sophisticated writing system.” The team speculated that this early form of communicating seasonal information is related to hunter’s “understanding of the mating and birthing season of important local species”.

13 Jul 2008

Paleolithic Cave Art of Southern France

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Horses & rhinos from Chauvet Cave

You can’t read this excellent article by Judith Thurman, biographer of Isak Dineson, on the Paleolithic cave art of Southern France at the New Yorker web-site, but you can read it via Art & Letters Daily. Go figure.

We don’t know the purpose for which the images were made. We don’t understand why Paleolithic artists almost entirely avoided the depiction of human beings. But we marvel at their representational accuracy and their ability to move us emotionally across a separation of tens of thousands of years of time.

During the Old Stone Age, between thirty-seven thousand and eleven thousand years ago, some of the most remarkable art ever conceived was etched or painted on the walls of caves in southern France and northern Spain. After a visit to Lascaux, in the Dordogne, which was discovered in 1940, Picasso reportedly said to his guide, “They’ve invented everything.” …

(The) earliest paintings (at Lascaux) are at least thirty-two thousand years old, yet they are just as sophisticated as much later compositions. What emerged with that revelation was an image of Paleolithic artists transmitting their techniques from generation to generation for twenty-five millennia with almost no innovation or revolt. A profound conservatism in art, (Gregory) Curtis notes, is one of the hallmarks of a “classical civilization.” For the conventions of cave painting to have endured four times as long as recorded history, the culture it served, he concludes, must have been “deeply satisfying”—and stable to a degree it is hard for modern humans to imagine.

Read the whole thing.


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