Surprise Discovery Of Magdalenian Mega-Art On The Aix Mountain: Majestic Open Secret Of The Lost Civilization (cont.)
By William Glyn-Jones
The Cave Painters of Old Europe - Morphological Accuracy and Abilities as Climbers
We have invented nothing. -
Painting, whether on cave walls or bark shelters, is one of the ways in which the order of the Dreaming is presented to humans [in Australian Aboriginal culture]. Another way is through their observation of the landscape itself, created as it was through ancestral activity. -
Executing and maintaining rock painting was a key part of the ambit of rituals and responsibilities vested in those responsible for particular sites - an inseparable component of the cycle of myths, songs, and rituals through which Aborigines interpret, invoke and harness the powers of their physical and spiritual environment....Painting skills, subject matter and clan designs were handed down patrilineally as a type of apprenticeship, with degrees of symbolism and subject matter deepening with advancing age and respective stages of initiation. -
This summer at the historic Provencal village of Les Baux as part of the Picasso festival there are to be projections of his paintings onto the interior walls of a large cave for public viewing. I can't help feeling that Picasso himself would have approved. He had an interest in early art including that of the Cave Painters, and he shared their love of paintings of bulls.
There is an extent to which the degree of civilization can be measured by a society's art. In other words, where there is fine art, there must also be civilization. Much of the artwork from the prehistoric caves is fine indeed. There was a civilization in Europe which maintained its artistic traditions for many thousands of years. This is our Elder Culture. We are orphaned amnesiac foundlings if we don't integrate this long tradition into our cultural understanding of ourselves. If warfare took place at all, it was not deemed important enough to be represented in any of the art. The vast majority of the images are devoted to animals. Witness the skill in this extremely old art shown here from the Chauvet Cave in southern France, depicting the foreparts of lions and bears. These artists are capable of close observation and accurate depiction of the morphology of the fauna around them. The majority of us would have to adopt the role of novice by comparison, standing as humble apprentice quietly watching while a wise-looking elder teaches us his art and the Tradition through demonstration.
Some of the art they created demonstrated their skill not only in image production but also, by its location, in climbing. They must have used ropes or created scaffolds to produce some of the works to be found high up on cave walls and ceilings. This was a society that in its own harmless way had aspiration and organisation. And they were good climbers.
The Magdalenians Appreciated Simulacra
The Upper Paleolithic cave painters were appreciators of simulacra, those natural formations in rocks, trees or clouds that look like an intelligible form. There is a well-known example in one of their caves, namely Peche Merle, where a natural jutting outcrop of cave wall in the shape of a horse's head - Category 1 in Devereux's system - has been used as the starting point for a painting of a horse. This is clearly Devereux's Category 2 - the alteration and enhancement of a natural simulacrum for emphasis.
The art of Peche Merle cave is attributed to Upper Paleolithic people in the region prior to 20,000BC, known as the Gravettian Culture, while it is thought that some of the paintings in the cave may be from the period around 16,000BC onwards known as the Magdalenian. I'll be honest, I'm not fully up on all the minutiae of the differences between one European cave painter people and their descendants - they're all Arcadians to me (in the sense of ἀρχή, "very old", "original") - but it's quite obvious that traditions were handed down right across both periods. In the image above first spots were added to make a horse which had the natural horse-headed rock shape as its head, then later a smaller horse was placed over the top of this, one whose solid black neck tapers to a strangely small head inside the bigger one. It seems such things were accepted by the Gravettian/Magdalenian eye, and it gives an impression of height, as if the horse were a giant, its headed way up in the heights.
The painting of a second horse over the first has implied to archaeologists that this part of the rock wall was associated with this animal over an extended period, and, fitting with this view, the recently published (October 2008) results of uranium/thorium comparison dating work of European cave art has lead to the conclusion that individual cave art images often evolved over several thousand years. This reminds us of what we know of the Australian aboriginal rock art used for initiation into the Dreamtime. Sites were accorded a long-term mythological association, with the artworks expressing this being touched up and added to over long periods of time. The stories about these totemic ancestral figures were told to the initiate in conjunction with seeing the art at the mythologized site, and this process was treated with care and reverence because it was felt that it could have a potent effect on the consciousness of the initiate. These are Mysteries in the true Greek sense.
So, knowing that these Arcadians appreciated and honoured faunal simulacra, if we can find landscape forms in the southerly regions that escaped the ice and which have the semblance of such an intelligible form to a significant degree, we will have opened a portal to the Arcadian Dreamtime, like the wardrobe to Narnia, and indeed we shall see in a moment that our search need not be limited to subterranean regions.