In archaeology most of discoveries are incidental, same is the case of the cave paintings. Million of years these paintings remained unknown. When they were discovered they dazzled the world and it became enigma that how the people of hunting and gathering were so expert to paint such images. There were no institutions to train them. So the question is how they learned the skills to paint.
The making of colors and proportion of paintings which required knowledge of mathematics, There were no institutions to train them, so the question is how did they learn the skills to paint? Where did they learn it from? Still there’s a question that the images which were painted were for hunted or worshipped. Moreover, why most painted images were of the hunted or worshipped remains unresolved.
The first discovery of a cave happening in France
The story of the discovery of the prehistoric cave paintings in Lascaux, in the Dordogne region of southwest France, is one worthy of a Boys’ Own adventure Ripping Yarn. Marcel Ravidat, aged 18, was walking his dog Robot in the hills outside the town of Montignac. Robot, scampering along the hillside, suddenly disappeared from view. Marcel quickly suspected that Robot had led him to the legendary tunnel locals claimed ran between the Vezere river and the Château de Montignac.
On September 12,1940 CE Ravidat returned with three friends to explore the passage and we were completely crazy, entering hole, the boys slid down a 15- meter shaft before being spat out into a great chamber. By the dim light of their oil lamp they soon realized that the chamber was not an old tunnel, but an enormous natural gallery of painted images, recall that he and his friends could see “ a procession” of animals larger than life painted on the walls each animal seemed to be moving”. Handprints or stencils of human hands, abstract designs containing dots and cross hatched large animals, both carnivores and herbivores, most of them now extinct. The boys had made an astounding discovery: evidence of an astonishing visual history of a distant iteration of mankind.
The Lascaux Cave is one of 25 caves from the Paleolithic period located in the Vezere valley par Aquitaine region in southwestern France. The first decorated cave to be discovered in France, nor is it the largest, oldest, or most decorated. But still, it has a character al its own which continued to draw attention for the past 77 years.
Inside the cave, upper Paleolithic occupation ( dated between 10,000 BC) is evidenced by the presence of 6,000 painted figures of which animals are the main focus of stone tools, and small holes, there are human like creatures though, referring to the bipedal stick figures that can sometimes be found on the margins of the panels containing animals shapes, along the cave interior that archaeologists suspect may have reinforced used by painters to reach the upper surfaces. Researchers have noted the depth at which the paint cave sets Lascaux apart from other archaeological sites in southern France, such as Abri Castar shelter with occupation layers dating back nearly 40,000 years), also located in the Vezere Valley.
The walls of Lascaux are decorated with illustrations of horses, deer, aurochs, ibex, bison, and a smattering of cats. Red, black and yellow were the main colors used, created from mineral pigments ( Ochre, hematite and goethite) pigments were applied either by hand, by brushes made of hair and moss, or by blowing powder through hollow bone. In addition to painting, engraving is the most frequently used technique in the cave. As a standard engraving was also applied to some paintings, most likely in order to generate another layer of the animals.
The cave is known as the hall of Bulls. The chamber Marcel Ravidatis discovered is a space large enough to hold around 50 people. Four black bulls emerge as the dominant figures of animals depicted. One bull measures 17 feet long. The attention to detail has led experts to be deliberately plotted out- beginning with an outline of the animal before color was added. The majority of animals are painted in profile, while their heads are turned slightly toward the viewer, as if to imbue more visual impact through realism. The Halls of Bulls is the Axial Gallery, a dead end passage that has been called the “ Sistine Chapel of Prehistory”. The ceiling of the cave is adorned with spectacular compositions of red aurochs now extinct species of wild cattle- standing with their heads forming a circle. On one wall, a great black bull stands off against a female auroch on the opposing side. Horses line the passage, with the technique of perspective evidenced by a training out of their back hooves.
The Hall of bulls leads to The passageway, a decorated tunnel that connects to the Nave a gallery filled with engravings. A black bull, bison, and a herd of swimming deer appear here. Again, the rendering of the bison provides an example of Magdalenian culture’s use perspective.
What makes this particular artwork so valuable is the fact that, not only are narrative scene hardly ever found among stone age paintings, but humans, too, are rare subjects of stone age art ( with the notable Aboriginal cave paintings)
The significance of these images is the question: Who painted the Lascaux Cave and Why? Geologist and historian Norbert Aujoulat focused the majority of his work on understanding the Lascaux Cave. He said that due to the stratigraphy and seasonal characteristics of the animals (determined by their coats and the portrayal of mating rituals),
Perhaps the most famous theory was advanced by the priest and archaeologist Henri Breuil, who spent a great deal of time examining Lascaux shortly after its discovery. Breuil determined the paintings might have played a role in prehistoric peoples’ “ belief in hunting magic”. Breuil’s theory by pointing to Chauvet’ another decorated stone age cave. Ardeche department of southern France. In his documentary “ Cave of Forgotten Dreams”, filmmaker Werner Herzog explored the Chauvet Cave in rare and remarkable detail. The art left in this cave is even older than the paintings at Lascaux cave, an astounding 32,000 years old, making it some of the oldest ever discovered.
Lascaux Cave was completed and opened in 1983, it is located 200 miles from the original ( near the town of Montignac) and comprises the main chambers of the cave, with the accuracy of replicated paintings measured down to millimeters. Today, Lascaux II continues to function as an anthropological and artistic site and facilitates teaching, exploration and discovery.
Discoveries of Cave paintings widen the history of art and we can trace its roots from the Prehistoric Period. It shows that the standard of civilization cannot be determined with the modern age. These paintings fully express the sense of beauty and keen observation of nation. There is a lesson to learn from these discoveries.
When Picasso saw the Cave paintings, he remarked that “ In 15,000 years we have invented nothing!”