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Sid Tafler

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What does cave art mean to you?

Stone Age art has fascinated people around the world since some of the first discoveries of cave paintings in France and Spain in the 19th century.
The recent Werner Herzog film "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," showcasing the spectacular panels of lions and horses at Chauvet, brought new attention to Paleolithic art.
If you haven't gazed into the deep past recently, do a web search for Lascaux, Chauvet or Altamira cave.

What do these arts forms mean to you?
Do you find them beautiful, primitive, artistically inspired, or something less?
Are these drawings art for art sake, an attempt by Paleolithic people to reproduce the world they experienced?
Or do they have some deep cosmic or spiritual significance?
Why did these people of 15,000 to 30,000 years ago often create these works in places that were difficult to access?
Were they trying to communicate with each other, access worlds beyond their own, or engage in hunting magic?
Or were they just enjoying themselves scratching and drawing on cave walls?


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  • May 15 2012: One can look at stone tools and skull fragments and infer a lot about the type of brain that our ancestors had. To me these cave paintings represent the point where we can say with absolute certainty that these people were truely like us.

    I certainly find them very beautiful and artistically insired but it's impossible to know what the actual purpose of these paintings were. Very probably we will never know, but an interesting thought occured to me while trying to imagine what could have been going through the artists mind. Imagine a Paleolithic Shakespeare equivalent wanting to produce a truely imaginative piece of theatre and using or maybe even helping to create these paintings as a back-drop for her or his storytelling.

    What was the story? The legend of a really impressive hunt, the creation myth of all the source of all the animals? Or was it more like a documentary instructing the youth how to best recognise and hunt certain animals at night by torchlight. Wait a minute...

    Eureka! They were an early form of TED talk discussing the correct way to hunt various animals while sustaining the ecological balance of the habitat ;)
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      May 15 2012: Terry,
      Interesting thought, a backdrop to story-telling or theatre.
      Another theatre surmises some of these works were an early form of cinema.
      In the right light and angle, some of those forms look like they're in motion.
      • May 15 2012: I'm glad you liked the idea, it just seemed to pop into my head at the time I wrote it.

        On reflection it occurs to me that the idea probably came from having recently watched a documentary about Shakespeare that mentioned the theatre Blackfriars which the bard used to stage some of his later plays to a smaller, more upmarket audience. A more intimate setting lit with candle light with the audience sat around the front of the stage in a semi circle sounds rather like a cave to me.

        I guess that's where my intuition dragged the idea up from and probably why I had the notion of a Paleolithic Shakespeare rather than say, a Paleolithic Aristophanes. It's certainly interesting that you note in the right light and angle some of the forms look like they are in motion. Maybe it was meant to serve as a backdrop for storytelling or a backdrop for some sort of ritual purpose...
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          May 16 2012: The Lascaux cave illustrations seem to have very similar concepts that I found studying ancient Semetic writing. I had been suspecting that the cave reflects a belief system so old that only remnants of it can be seen in Hindu beliefs and Judaic beliefs. The Ox and the Woman which is drawn on a stalactite at the very end of the cave seem to have something to do with what became eventually cow worship (which "Moses" disagreed with in Genesis, the cow was a symbol of something else, it was not meant to be worshipped but understood for what it represented). The phonetic sound A is from an image of an ox, which means spirit, strength and first. I have come to understand it as ox-power in the same way as horse-power is used to measure force. Ancient beliefs are consistent in cow worship. The ancients seem to have thought that that ox-strength (energy) is the creator of the universe.

          I think our religions are remnants of a very very old belief system and the caves showed me just how old they might be.

          Studying ancient art has made me realize that man has always been aware, always been contemplating the mystery that is human spirituality.

        • May 21 2012: CECILIA !

          I am happy to find your comment here !
          You said :
          I think our religions are remnants of a very very old belief system and the caves showed me just how old they might be.

          Could it be not very old belief system, but a kind of a farewell to that state of consciousness, when mind has not yet replaced the sensation of being one with a world ,
          with a world of symbolic equivalents ?

          " A land of innocence has no need for gods "

          The Lascaux cave paintings are stunningly beautiful, as if beauty , love, truth , god were not yet named and felt as separate.

          Thanks for the link ! It's a fascinating talk !!!
          I'd like to know more about your research, could you help me with references, links ?

          Thank you very much !!!

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