synopsis of slide lecture - cave art

Castellon Spain - mesolithic

Greater realism was usually portrayed in the depiction of the animals rather than the people -

The image was undoubtedly thought to be "magical", related to the soul or essence of being, hence the reluctance to depict oneself for fear of being subject to this magic.

Here you can see where spears have chipped away at the stone:

It seems evident the artist-hunters were trying to "weaken" the spirit of these dangerous animals by "slaying" that part of their spirit which was trapped or contained within these paintings.

Niaux, France - paleolithic

Lascaux, France - paleolithic

Animals were frequently "painted over", as if they had served their purpose.

Ladders had to be used to reach some of these heights, and the lighting would have been very dim and mysterious compared to the electrical lighting in this photo.

approx. 15000 B.C.; Lascaux

Widely interpreted, this image seems to represent a "shaman" having been slain by a bison.

Joseph Campbell thinks this may represent an episode from a legend of that era, a "Man/Bull confrontation" theme seen in two other paintings.

It has also been conjectured that he is wearing a mask, and that the bird-image is some sort of life-symbol.

Sometimes called "the Sorcerer", this image seems to represent the shaman dressed in the skin of a deer or elk. It represents the close affinity felt by man toward animals and nature.

Though the animals were dangerous, mankind needed them and clearly were in awe of them. Numerous rituals must have come about relating to this paradoxical relationship of both fear and reverence.

Still today, primitive people have animal mask rituals and dances.
According to footprints found in the caves, it seems the ancient worshippers danced before the painted images of these animals, the creatures that both endangered them and sustained them.

approx. 13,000 B.C.

"The Venus of Dordogne"

Clearly a fertility symbol, this female figure is holding a horn, probably a phallus symbol.
Another fertility symbol, this "pendant" is also a phallus symbol.
Perhaps a cord was laced through the hole and it was worn in ceremony.

Pendant with sexual theme; both stone and ivory were used for carving.

The limestone "Venus of Willendorf"
4 3/8 cm. high

The "Venus of Willendorf",
perhaps the oldest fertility symbol,
and seemingly the most famous.

Notice how personal features and non-sexual aspects of the figure,
like arms, are ignored.

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