Gwenn Rigal has been a information and translator for a few years within the well-known Lascaux Cave. Few individuals are as nicely versed as he’s in prehistoric rock work. Now comes the interpretation of his Sacred time of the caves for the Adelphi sorts (p. 300, 32 euros). An incredible journey via the millennia to find the secrets and techniques of prehistoric artists. We requested him to inform Il Giornale about this mysterious iconography that has been creating for 1000’s of years.
The historical past of prehistoric rock work may be very lengthy. Can an evolutionary line be drawn? Or extra distinct evolution strains?
“There are hundreds of thousands of prehistoric rock works on this planet. If we restrict our analysis to the mural portray of the European Higher Paleolithic, between about 41,000 BC and 11,000 BC, it’s tough to watch a transparent evolution. Probably the most placing are the invariants: animals in profile and symbols, frequent use of pure reliefs, no contextual parts, neither objects nor landscapes. Earlier than discovering the Chauvet cave within the Ardèche, specialists would inform you about beginnings marked by the artwork of contour, with few inside particulars. The indicators had been fairly important, and the limbs (horns, hooves) typically appeared in entrance. A number of thousand years later, the internal indicators and particulars multiply, the ends are represented by three-quarters. A pattern that holds true as we strategy the tip of the ice age, which additionally marks the tip of the artwork: extra naturalistic animals and the best concentrations of characters typically seem in newer caves. Nevertheless, the invention of Chauvet Collapse 1994, with dates putting it initially of rock artwork, round 36,000 BC, challenged this evolutionary view. With Chauvet, we acknowledge that naturalism, perspective and blur results are mastered proper from the beginning. Prehistoric artists didn’t good their artwork over time, they merely made cultural selections. Which ultimately remained surprisingly steady if we take into account the 30,000 years that this (earlier than) historical past lasted ”.
What do these pictures inform us about how our Cro-Magnon ancestors interpreted the world?
“What strikes me most is the rarity of human illustration. We’ve got many components of the human physique, particularly the unfavorable fingers and the vulva. However complete our bodies are uncommon. And when they’re represented, the fingers, ft, and faces usually are not. Feminine representations are extra quite a few than male representations, with typically exaggerated sexual traits. These are the well-known prehistoric Venus. When males are launched, they’re generally beastly and have erect intercourse. All of this implies a worldview wherein the boundaries between nature and tradition or between humanity and animality usually are not as sharp as they’re in our present societies. Prehistoric man in all probability doesn’t see himself because the grasp and proprietor of nature, however fairly tends to mix in with it. Furthermore, they by no means present anybody, specifically no human being may be uniquely recognized, which can correspond to a society wherein the person is requested to downsize for the advantage of the group. Nevertheless, this doesn’t essentially imply that these had been egalitarian societies, some richly endowed burials that urge us to be cautious on this topic. Lastly, the vulva and venus lead us to the path of artists motivated by concern for fertility. Is it a request for restoration of prey, points associated to the survival of the clan, and even myths in regards to the origin of the world? The query stays open ».
Right this moment we now have a exact concept of artwork as a seek for magnificence. Can these work be thought of artwork? Or are they, in a way, in the beginning non secular magic instruments?
“Watch out for ethnocentrism. Artwork is just not a common idea. Amongst hunter-gatherers, artwork is nearly all the time utilitarian and infrequently supernatural. If in our eyes these individuals are artists, then I am by no means certain in the event that they thought of themselves such. Magic, in fact, is likely one of the commonest hypotheses to elucidate cave artwork: searching magic, pacification magic, qualifying magic, destruction magic … However the proof will all the time be missing. “
We’ve got an apparent cultural issue in decoding some myths or tales within the caves. Might any of them return to historic occasions, even in a kind that has modified over the centuries?
“It’s an phantasm to hope to decipher a misplaced delusion based mostly on the drawings on the cave partitions. It is onerous to think about that prehistoric myths may need survived us, given the quite a few migratory episodes that separate us from the Ice Age and the obvious fragility of our oral traditions. Nevertheless, it could be fairly counterintuitive that some creation myths, that are current on all continents, do in actual fact have glacial antiquity. Subsequently, the mythologists Jean-Loïc Le Quellec and Julien d’Huy labored intensively on the myths of the rebellion, a really outdated model of which will need to have been this: To start with of time, people and animals weren’t but utterly separated from one another. others and lived underground. Till the day they determined to return to the floor after cracks within the rock. After they appeared (via holes within the floor or cave entrances), dying appeared. And since the rock was nonetheless comfortable initially of time, their passage from one world to the opposite left marks on the stone. A historical past of this sort is sort of suitable with a lot of European rock artwork ».
Cave work and carvings have been preserved, however is it attainable that there are various different types of creativity with which we now have gotten misplaced?
“After all. On account of differential conservation, which needs the marks to turn into uncommon over time, at this time it will get the impression that Cro-Magnon solely painted or engraved on the backside of the caves. Nothing could possibly be farther from the reality. Right this moment we all know, that the Cro-Magnon males didn’t hesitate to mark their environment. For instance, the Cro-Magnon rock shelter within the Dordogne (beneath which the primary skeleton of the identical title was discovered) was scarlet 27,000 years in the past. He will need to have seen himself from a distance! However we had to make use of a microscope. and picture processing software program to determine it out. Most of what was produced open air or on perishable supplies has disappeared. And I do not simply consider their artwork; their wooden and vegetable fiber processing was undoubtedly rather more developed than is often identified. As for the few discovered musical devices (flutes, rhombuses, scrapers, lithophones, and many others.), in the event that they verify the existence of prehistoric music, we solely get concepts ».