Lascaux cave art

Lascaux cave painting

The paintings in the caves at Lascaux, France, allow us a glimpse of the lives, daily activity, and ritual of our early ancestors. The collection of paintings seems to convey, through its dark story-telling passages, anectdotal information about how early humans perceived themselves both in nature and apart, physically and spiritually.

The cave at Lascaux is deep and has many niches in which the cave artist played upon when composing an artwork. The “swimming deer” painting appears appropriately across a high ledge; the “Shaft of Dead Man” painting is a focal point on a back wall in the deepest section. The artists were continually changing and over time, Lascaux was transformed by the many cave dwellers who lived there.

The paintings faithfully depict the animal life that early people both hunted and revered. Large bison, mammoth, and reindeer are the main subjects. They are shown in groups – depicting the herds that these cave painters followed and hunted. Perhaps the artwork is there to magically encourage their arrival. Man often appears as secondary character; He is seen throwing a spear or in defeat when faced by an overpowering bull. The animals often appear larger and more powerful than the man, and seem to indicate the cave dwellers’ symbiotic attachment to a beast who contributes both to his survival and death. Early man certainly saw himself as a part of nature searching for a place of stability within a cave—a cave of illustrated hopes and realities, while always mindful of the greater power of nature outside. 

Pline, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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