EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD
Cave Art of Lascaux
This complex of subterranean chambers is one of the most elaborately painted caverns known. Located in southwestern France it was discovered by four teenage boys looking for a lost dog. The paintings, which are about 16,000 years old, represent large game animals — aurochs, bison, horses, and stags — many of which seem frozen in rapid motion. Read on >>
Cave Art of Altamira
When the paintings of Altamira were first discovered in 1879, no other cave paintings were known. This, together with the high quality of the images, led to allegations of fraud. Today they are recognized as some of the oldest and finest paleolithic paintings in Europe. Read on >>
|Horses (Chauvet Cave)|
All art thus far discovered in caves is thought to be the creation of Homo sapiens, for the most part in late Paleolithic times. There is no evidence that neanderthals, or any of the other prehistoric hominids, other than Homo sapiens, produced cave paintings. The earliest known European cave paintings, those in Chauvet Cave, are about 32,000 years old, which corresponds with the arrival of Homo sapiens on that continent.
Although many theories have been proposed, the purpose of long-forgotten pictures is really unknown — Cavemen tell no tales. Typically images found on cave walls are of animals, especially large game such as bison, aurochs, or deer. But frequently, too, predators such as wolves or hyenas make an appearance. Some caves also depict human beings.
The sophisticated style characteristic of the art of Altamira and Lascaux caves lasted for about 20,000 years. But with the dawn of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago, people moved out of the caves and the art they had created there lay long forgotten in darkness. No doubt much of it remains to be rediscovered today.
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