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Lascaux Caves

Lascaux Caves

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Lascaux Caves

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  1. Lascaux Caves October 6th, 2010 Clarice Kessenich

  2. Red Cow The morphology of the animal elicits some hesitation as to its identification. Despite a number of anatomical details that testify to a skilful graphic treatment, its general shape, particularly the forequarters, have divided opinion, which wavers between bos and bison. Several features can lead one to think that this is a cow – its very long tail falls straight down to the ground. This double characteristic can be seen in every depiction of a cow in Lascaux. The long and slender horns with their double curve cannot be those of a bison.

  3. Brown Horse Only the head, neck and back of the animal are depicted. On the other hand, anatomical details such as the ears, the tip of the nose, the nostrils, the mouth, the lower jaw and the beginning of the neck are precisely rendered. The brown horse occupies the space bounded to the left and right by their two heads, and at the top by the rocky ridge that marks the perimeter of the painting surface. The limited space available allows for an almost perfect interlocking of the figures, such that the horse's head fits between the horns of the aurochs on the right. The eye, which is almost never represented on the horses at Lascaux, appears to be depicted here. A carbonate outcropping acts as a substitute for it, and the effect is heightened by the presence of a small semi-circular indent just below this formation. Nevertheless, this phenomenon may post-date the presence of Paleolithic humans in the cave, which would limit our interpretation to a happy union of the natural and the anthropic. The artist took advantage of the relatively fine-grained surface to create mixtures of brown and black colors, and to apply shading, a technique rarely seen in Lascaux.

  4. The Red Bison The natural envelope created by the shape of the wall determined or supported the general shape of the body, naturally emphasizing the volumes and creating a massive silhouette. The well-developed horns stand out by their lyre-like shape, but also by the twists and turns given to each element – a double curve for one and a triple curve for the other.

  5. Head of a Cow The dimensions of the animal figures vary quite considerably. Although a consistent scale is maintained within a group of the same animals, this is not at all the case when various species are depicted next to each other. In the Passageway, some images are nearly 1.8 meters wide, like the painted and partially degraded horse (see previous figure), but also very tiny figures, like this head and neck of a cow that measures 22 cm in length. It is located next to a roof channel in the middle section of the gallery. It is painted red, and its outline is engraved. The lower line is doubled, indicative of a repentir.

  6. The Crossed Bison This bison diptych ends the long series of panels on the left-hand wall. What makes it unique is not only the disposition of the figures – mirror images of two male bison – but also the accumulation of graphic conventions that have been applied in order to accentuate the feeling of flight. In terms of perspective, we can see that the limbs in the back are separated from the body, in contrast to those in front. There is a space between the two hindquarters, highlighting the bison on the left. The hind limbs are less finished than the forelimbs, a voluntary gesture to simulate their increased distance from the viewer. The wall plays a part in the relief of these two figures, as its slant towards the viewer increases the composition's effect of flight.

  7. Felines Felines are not often depicted in Paleolithic parietal art, with the exception of the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave, and they are often assigned a specific place within a sanctuary. The felines in Lascaux are no exception to this. There are six in all, and they appear on both sites of the entrance to the passageway, in a strictly symmetrical composition. On each wall, two felines face the back of the gallery and a third faces the entrance. The graphic execution of the figures is of average quality, a characteristic they share with other depictions felines in parietal art.

  8. The Fallen Stag The Fallen Stag is one of the major figures in the Apse. It occupies a space of nearly four square meters, at the beginning of the ceiling near the entrance to the Nave, where the density of figures is minimal. It stands out by the way its limbs are folded beneath its belly – a not very realistic depiction from an anatomical point of view. There are traces of brown coloring on the antlers and limbs, and black on the hooves. At one time, it is likely that the entire silhouette was painted. Two hooked signs, one painted and the other engraved, cross the thorax. This is one of the rare figures in which we can see both cause (the signs, which may be thought of as arrows) and effect (the animal's collapsed body).

  9. Man and Bird This is the only representation of a human being in the entire cave. It is a stick figure, and the four fingers on each hand are splayed into fan shapes. The body is tilted at a 45° angle, no doubt to the bison's abrupt about-face. Below the figure we can see a bird perched on a stick, although the silhouette is not defined enough for us to make out its species. It shares certain characteristics, even links, with the man below. These are unique themes for the cave; among other things, their heads have been drawn in a similar manner. In certain primitive or ancient societies, birds are often assigned the role of psycho pomp, or conductor of souls.

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