CAVE ART

Images from the Lascaux Caves:
Yellow Horse, Black Cow
On a September day in 1940, four teenage boys decided to explore the woods near their home in the village of
Montignac in south central France.  Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel and Simon Coencas had hiked
up Lascaux Hill when they discovered that Simon's dog, Robot, had disappeared down a deep hole that had opened
up around the roots of an upturned pine tree.  Returning later with ropes and a lantern, the boys enlarged the
opening and slowly lowered one another into the black depths.  The flickering light of their lantern barely pierced
the darkness as they groped their way along a damp subterranean passageway.  Then, as the passage widened,
their light fell upon a sight beyond imagination -- huge yellow horses, red bulls and black stags that seemed to leap
suddenly across the walls and ceiling around them, as though awakened from a sleep thousands of years old.  Like
travelers in time, these four French schoolboys had stepped into a world no human eyes had seen for over 10,000
years!

Their accidental find became one of the greatest adventures of discovery of the 20th century, unveiling incredible
"galleries" of prehistoric figures -- magnificent images of beasts from another age -- painted by skilled hands almost
20,000 years ago.  Lascaux was not the first discovery of its kind -- there are at least 200 sites of cave art of
varying antiquity in Western Europe alone -- but it remains one of the most dramatic, and is tangible evidence of the
spectacular changes that took place in human development during the Upper Paleolithic Stone Age, 30,000-10,000
years ago.  Lascaux is the most intensively studied of all the caves:  the inventory of its art includes more than 600
paintings and nearly 1,500 images engraved in its soft limestone walls -- many of such breath-taking beauty that it is
clear that their creators were not primitive amateurs but rather skillful and ingenious artists who had mastered many
of the same techniques used by artists today.  

Why did these Paleolithic people -- the Cro-Magnons -- venture deep into the caves, sometimes traveling over a
mile from the entrances over tortuous routes to paint and engrave their bestiary?  Who was intended to see these
pictures -- and what might the images have meant to the artists and their audience?  We may never be able to
understand what our distant ancestors thought and felt as they made their paintings -- we are perhaps simply too
far removed in time.  Although ancient artifacts and discoveries such as Lascaux may tell us "how" and "what" the
cave artists created, the "whys" may remain forever illusive -- a matter of speculation at best.  Nevertheless we can
appreciate that, just like us, these people left a mark on the world and  -- whatever the intent of their artwork –
found a way to say, "I was here".  In this session of
GalleryTime, we explore the marvels they left behind.
Yellow Horse                                                                       Black Cow