Lecture 1 - outline

This 'sorcerer' figure, from c. 13,000 B.C., is about 2 feet tall

"The Sorcerer"
(Drawn by Henri Breuil, for clarity, from cave art)
Probably a 'shaman' engaged in a ritual dance, dressed as a deer.

This may be an effort to control the animal
by taking on their attributes,even sympathetically,
for mankind depended upon success in the hunt of these creatures.

Prehistoric Depictions of Animals & Humans -
late Paleolithic ('old stone age');
c. 40,000 / 25,000 - 10,000 BC

June, 2012: World's Oldest Cave Art Found - National Geographic

Caves - Lascaux (France), Altamira (Spain), many others:
Oct., 2014: Cave Paintings in Indonesia - National Geographic
Altamira Cave - New World Encyclopedia
Cosquer Cave - Wikipedia

East Europe - seemed to produce more sculptures, less painting.
Dec., 2007: Cave Art - The Art History Archive

Limited numbers of prehistoric art sites have also found in the Mediterranean.
Rock Art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin - Wikipedia

Social interpretation: quasi-religious:
'Art of the Hunt' - sympathetic magic or voodoo
Sympathetic Magic - Wikipedia

c. 15,000 B.C. - This bison carved from reindeer horn is only 4 1/4" inches

Above: Small Bison carving.

'The artist/magician':

Development of specialization in human industry & beginning of limited 'leisure' time;
still devoted to a 'practical' art intended to produce results.

Views of some of the caves & their surroundings; floor plans of caves:

What Does Cave Art Mean? - University of South Florida
Human and Animal Activities in the Deep Caves - The Bradshaw Foundation

Some Other Topics Discussed :

- Relatively modern discovery of both major caves mentioned above.
Jan., 2016: A Journey to the Oldest Cave Paintings in the World - Smithsonian Magazine

- Initial scholarly skepticism; anthropological studies of contemporary 'primitive' cultures to help understand 'prehistoric' culture.
History of Anthropology - Wikipedia

- Evidence first of Paleolithic art in Europe; later in other parts of the world.
July, 2013: Prehistoric Cave Paintings - World Mysteries
Paleolithic Art and Culture - Visual Arts Cork

Types of Images Shown on Slides :

Views of some of the caves & their surroundings; floor plans of caves:
Slide Show of Lascaux Cave (art and geology) - Slide Share
Science, Vols. 19, 20 (1904) - Google Books
Chauvet Cave - Don's Maps
Tools & artistic implements:
Early Modern Human Culture - Palomar College

Simple Markings; 'meander' drawings (Below):

Abstract Symbols - Did they have some numeric or symbolic meaning?
from Nauix, France

"Panel Of Signs"
simple markings -
perhaps some symbolic significance,
but the first artistic 'experiments'
probably looked like this.

Paleolithic Cave Paintings - Boundless.com



The first 'finger drawings' were mere playful experiments
& appear to have no meaning.

Here is a simple line caricature of a generalized human face -
one writer has described the abstraction as 'grotesque' -
at any rate, it seems probable the cave artists preferred not to depict people with all the realistic ability at their disposal. Depictions of people were rare in this time period, perhaps for fear of accidentally enacting some sort of 'magic' over themselves.

June, 2008: What Does the World’s Oldest Art Say About Us? - The New Yorker

So called "meander" drawing taking the shape of a face
Hand of the artist? Probably at first, but others also had their hands duplicated....See Right

Feb., 1959:
Special 'Science and Art' issue
- several articles
- Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Frostbite victims usually retained their thumb
Silhouette of the artist's hand -
often found repeated a number of times.

A form of 'signature' or other expression of an independent ego? This may be so, but more archeologists theorize prehistoric culture had no real sense of individual identity, certainly not as we understand the concept.
Some dismembered hands appear to be part of a ritual of some sort, but most appear to be victims of frostbite in this,
the end of the glacial period.
Notice how the silhouette is created in a 'niche' area of this outcropping of rock - certain 'areas' seemed to be particularly inviting for the artist, perhaps for some symbolic or suggested artistic reason.

Depictions of 'Witch-doctor' Figures
(Left; also see Shaman, top left of page)


Male and Female Fertility Symbols as Abstractions
(Right, female fertility symbol)

April, 2014: The Venus Figurines of the European Paleolithic Era
- Ancient Origins

The Origins of the World's Mythologies,
2012, Oxford University Press -
some pages available at Google Books

Venus Figurines - Wikipedia

etchings of animals into stone & bone
(see top of page, right)

depicted here, a rare human subject

Sexual & Magical Pendants

natural stone formations suggesting imagery
(see next page)

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