LASCAUX CAVE AND CHAUVET CAVE

LASCAUX CAVE

20120206-Lascaus Megaloceros.JPG
Lascaus Megaloceros
Lascaux Caves is the world's most famous prehistoric cave. Consisting of one great chamber and two passageways, it is located near Sarlat on a hillside in Montignac, in the Dordogne region of southwest France. The 17,000-year-old painting are rendered with great skill, incorporating the contours of the caves and displaying some of the first known use of perspective, a technique that was not rediscovered until the Golden Age of Greece, as well as shadowing, highlighting, stenciling, and Pointillism. The artists used powdered colors, brushes and stumping clothes and spit pigment out of their mouth. Based on the hand prints left in the caves, the artists including males and females of all ages and even babies. After Picasso visited the cave in the 1950s was he reportedly emerged and exclaimed: "We have invented nothing." Miró once said, "Painting has been in a state of decadence since the age of caves."

The cave was discovered in 1940 during the Nazi occupation of France by four adolescent boys given flashlights by their schoolmaster who was told that caves in the areas might contain prehistoric paintings. After finding the paintings by climbing through a hole revealed by a fallen tree, with their dog Robot, the boys swore one another to secrecy. Later they informed their schoolmaster, who had to squeeze into a narrow passage to see the cave. Later still a 24 hour guard was placed at the entrance. One of the four boys worked for many years as a guide to the caves.

On its website the International Committee for Preservation of Lascaux notes: “The art of Lascaux is a legacy belonging to all mankind.” The cave “redefined what was previously known about our creative development of human beings and our ability to construct image from abstract thought.” There are and additional 25 caves and a 150 rock shelters in the Lauscaux region that contain prehistoric paintings and engravings.

Websites and Resources: Modern Human Origins modernhumanorigins.com ; Talk Origins Index talkorigins.org/origins ; Hall of Human Origins American Museum of Natural History amnh.org/exhibitions ; Time Space Chart Hominid Fossils Pictures msu.edu/~heslips ; Smithsonian Human Origins Program humanorigins.si.edu ; Wikipedia article on Human Evolution Wikipedia ; Becoming Human University of Arizona site becominghuman.org ; Human Evolution Images evolution-textbook.org ;Hominid Species talkorigins.org ; Institute of Human Origins iho.asu.edu ; Paleoanthropology Link talkorigins.org ; Britannica Human Evolution britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/275670/human-evolution ;Modern Human Origins modernhumanorigins.com ; Human Evolution handprint.com ; Paleoanthropology and Evolution Links unipv.it/webbio/dfpaleoa ;National Geographic Atlas of the Human Journey genographic.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/atlas ; Yale Peabody Museum peabody.yale.edu/exhibits/fossils ; Humin Origins Washington State University wsu.edu/gened/learn-modules ; Book: The Human Evolution Source Book

Websites and Resources on Early Modern Man: Evolution of Modern Humans anthro.palomar.edu ; Virtual Ice Age creswell-crags.org.uk/Explore/virtually-the-ice-age ; Stone Age Tools aerobiologicalengineering.com

Images in Lascaux Cave

20120206-Lascaux horse.JPG
Lascaux horse
Lascaux caves contains over 600 paintings, 1,500 engravings and numerous geometric figures and strange dots placed mostly on cave's ceiling. Animal figures include red deer stags swimming across a lake, shaggy horses running in a line, four huge bulls---three time life size--- as well as wild goats, enormous hunch-backed cattle and two-horned woolly rhinoceroses.

There are 60 horses. One is 10 feet long and has a mysterious branched symbol near the front legs. In the Rotunda there is a procession of animals with two long-horned wild cattle. Some figures are 17 feet long. Two bisons dancing butt to butt are each four feet long. Molly Moore wrote in the Washington Post, “the creatures seem to move over the walls’ uneven surfaces...horses galloping amid cattle, ibex leaping through space.”

The strangest creature is a mythical beast with the hind quarters of a buffalo, the midsection of a pregnant horse, the front legs of cat and a strange head with two long straight horns. The only image of a human is a man with a bird mask with a large beak and a long, skinny erect penis. Thought to be a shaman of some sort, he is being charged by a bison with a spear in its stomach and its intestines hanging out. One can only speculate as to the meaning of recurring geometric symbols.

Painters at Lascaux Cave

The paintings were made early homo sapiens, using animal fat lamps to light the cave and scaffolding to reach the cave ceiling. The "paints" came from brown, reddish-brown, yellow, black and white minerals; and it appears they were mixed and heated to get the best shading. The painting themselves were made by rubbing these minerals along the rock.

The Aurignacian people is the name given to the early modern humans that created Europe's first art works. On their skill the German film director Werner Herzog said, We should never forget the dexterity of these people. They were capable of creating a flute. It is a high-tech procedure to carve a piece of mammoth ivory and split it in half without breaking it, hollow it out, and realign the halves. We have one indicator of how well their clothing was made. In a cave in the Pyrenees, there is a handprint of a child maybe four or five years old. The hand was apparently held by his mother or father, and ocher was spit against it to get the contours and you see part of the wrist and the contours of a sleeve. The sleeve is as precise as the cuffs of your shirt. The precision of the sleeve is stunning.

Tourism, Wear and Tear on Lascaux Cave

20120206-Lascaux_plan.jpg
Lascaux plan
The caves were located on the private land of the La Rochefoucauld family. After World War II they decided to open the caves to the public as a way to make money. They enlarged the entrance, built steps and replaced the original sediment with concrete flooring. Hordes of tourists showed up. The wear and tear of breathing, heat producing human beings was too much for the 17,000-year-old paintings, which were assaulted by growths of mold, fungus, microbes, black spots, bacteria and algae.

Lascaux Caves was closed in 1963 to all but those with best academic and press credentials. A beautifully-created replica of the two most famous rooms, called Lascaux II, was built a few hundred meters away from the original. But now so many people have visited the reconstruction it too needs restoration work.

The cave was closed in 1963 after green mould started to appear. This was followed in the late 1990s by the emergence of a white fungus, Fusarium solani. The bug either infiltrated the cave through a new ventilation system or during work during heavy rain to install it. The outbreak was tackled aggressively, including the use of fungicides and antibiotic compresses applied to the walls. In 2007, black spots of a different fungus, of the Ochroconis group, sparked the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to threaten to place Lascaux on its "World Heritage in Danger" list. [Source: Laurent Banguet, AFP, June 26, 2011]

By the mid 2000s the situation had gotten so bad that an international team was brought in to try and save the paintings and only a few people were allowed in on only a few days a month. Marie-Anne Sire was named chief administrator of Lascaux Caves. A specialist in restoring medieval paintings in the exterior of churches, she presides over a 25-member team of biologists, conservationist, restorers, archaeologists and other specialists. She has a tough job of not only cleaning up the mess created by people entering the cave but also by efforts to fix the problem created by people entering the cave.

For example a formaldehyde foot wash used for years to disinfect people entering the case filled the caves with fumes that ended up killing friendly organisms that might have prevented fungus from growing. A white fungus outbreak occurred after an air-conditioning system was installed that was designed to keep harmful microorganism from entering the cave. “It looked as though it had snowed,” Sire told The New Yorker. Her team responded by pouring quick lime on the floor and putting antibiotic- and antifungal-soaked blankets on the wall. When the white microbes cleared, a team painstakingly photographed every painting under lights. When they finished black pots---perhaps generated with the help of the lights---appeared and began spreading fast. The spots have since been contained but there are lot of questions about what to do next.

Preservation at Lascaux

Lascaux is protected by steel doors and security cameras.The state of the caves and the paintings has stirred a debate on whether Lascaux should be reserved only for scientists in the name of preservation or they should be opened to public with the risk of damage. In the mid-1990s Lascaux was openly briefly to tourist capable of plunking down $5,000 for the privilege of visiting the cave.

Jean Clottes told AFP Lascaux had been affected in ways no-one could have predicted 60 or so years ago. "The cave was completely disturbed. In 1947 alone, they dug out 600 cubic metres of sediment to make an entrance and concrete path and installed lighting for the public."Six hundred cubic metres (22,000 cubic feet) is the equivalent to about eight 12-metre (40 foot) shipping containers.[Source: Laurent Banguet, AFP, June 26, 2011]

"No prior study was done, and it completely changed the cave's micro-climate," sighed Clottes. "We altered its balance." In its untroubled state, the cave's microscopic flora had had thousands of years to reach a truce in the battle for habitat. But the introduction of new organisms may have upset the peace, enabling one species to dominate others, said Clottes.

Laurent Banguet of AFP wrote: "Conservationists today focus on a multi-disciplinary approach, believing any single thrust has side effects in other fields.The cave is fitted with passive sensors to monitor air circulation, temperature and humidity but intervention is kept to a minimum. The fungus seems to be in retreat, for it is limited to a few greyish traces on the bare rock and on small areas of some paintings." "We are using compresses against it but not surgery," said Muriel Mauriac, an art historian appointed the cave's curator in April 2009.

Under scientific guidance, the human presence is limited to a total of 800 hours per year, including maintenance and academic research. Banguet of AFP wrote. Visitors to the cave don sterile white coveralls, a plastic hair cap, latex gloves and two pairs of slip-on shoe covers. Previously they had to dip footwear in a germ-killing bath, but this was deemed to be another source of destabilisation. Entrance is made through two airlocks, one of which is an "air curtain" designed to keep out external humidity yet not affect the natural draughts that circulate in the cave through fissures. The paintings themselves, viewed in the glimmer of an LED forehead lamp, are breath-taking. The strokes by unknown hands trigger a shock of how we humans today are linked to our distant forebears. After exactly 45 minutes, our visit is over. We are ushered out, the doors are sealed and the bison, horses and ibexes return once more to dark and silence.

Chauvet Cave

20120206-Chauvet cave lions 22.jpg
Chauvet cave lions
On Christmas Eve, 1994, three spelunkers---Jean-Marie Chauvet and his friends Elitte Brune and Christian Hillaire---made one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the century inside a cave near Pont-d'Arc in the Ardéche region of southern France, an area popular with cavers. [Source: Jean Clottes, National Geographic, August 2001]

What the spelunkers found was Chauvet Cave. Named after its discoverer, the cave complex consists a string of chambers that are 570 meters long and a connecting gallery and three vestibules. The largest chamber is 70 meters long and 40 meters wide. The distance between the entrance and the furthest images are about 250 meters. At the northern end the cave forks into two horn-shaped branches. In the chambers where the art is found the ceiling varies in height from about 1½ meter to 13 meters. There are some passages that require adults to kneel or crawl.

Chauvet Cave is five times larger than Lascaux cave and regarded by many who have seen both as more impressive and beautiful. Chauvet contains stone engravings and paintings with 420 animal figures. Some paintings are 35,000 years old paintings, the oldest cave paintings known to science. The images are almost twice as old and more than twice as large as the images in Lascaux and Altamira.

"Tears were running down my cheeks," Jean Clottes, France foremost expert on cave art, said of his first glimpse of the paintings. "I was witnessing one of the world's greatest masterpieces...I was so overcome...It was like going into an attic and finding a da Vinci. except that the great master was unknown."

Zach Zorich wrote in Archaeology magazine, “The primary residents were a now-extinct species of bear and that feces and rotting carcasses of bears that died while hibernating---in addition to smoke from torches and fires lit by the artists---would have made up the atmosphere. More than 190 cave bear skulls have been found in Chauvet Cave. One was placed at the edge of a large stone block. Why remains a mystery. Some of the paintings in Chauvet Cave incorporate claw marks left by bears, making the art an interspecies collaboration. [Source:Zach Zorich, Archaeology magazine, March/April 2011]

“After the cave paintings were discovered in December 1994," Zorich wrote, " the first question archaeologists faced was, how old are they? At first glance, the paintings' technical sophistication made them seem relatively recent, perhaps 10,000 to 15,000 years old. Radiocarbon dating of the charcoal in the black pigments, however, showed that the earliest paintings in the cave were made 35,000 years ago. The date overturned the idea that Europe's earliest cave paintings were crude and simple and that artistic techniques had to be refined over thousands of years before the finest cave art could be made. More than 80 radiocarbon dates have been taken from the torch marks and paintings on the walls, as well as the animal bones and charcoal that litter the floor, providing a detailed chronology of the cave. The dates show that the artwork was made in two separate periods, one 35,000 and one 30,000 years ago.

Book: La Grotte Chauvet: L'Art des Origines by Jean Clottes (Editions du Seuil, 2001)

Images in Chauvet Cave

20120206-Chauvethorses.jpg
The 416 paintings in the Chauvet Cave complex include images of herds of hooked-horned aurochs (wild oxen), ibex, running deer, charging wooly rhinoceros, prowling lions, rearing thick-maned horses, wooly mammoths, open-mouthed bears and animals that are usually associated with Africa not Europe.

Describing the Megaloceros Gallery, Judith Thurman wrote in The New Yorker,”Huge, elklike herbivores...mingle on the walls with rhinos, horses, bisons, a glorious ibex, three abstract vulvas, and assorted geometric signs...It seems to have been a fathering point or a staging area where the artist built hearths to produce their charcoal.”

The End Chamber is a spectacular vaulted space with a third of the cave’s etchings and paintings. Thurman wrote: “The paintings---a few in ocher, most in charcoal--- are “all meticulously composed. A great frieze covers the back left wall: a pride of lions with Pointillist whiskers seem to be hunting a herd of bison, which appear to have stampeded a troop of rhinos, one of which looks as if it had fallen, or is climbing out of, a cavity in the rock... As at may sites , the scratches made by a standing bear have been overlaid with the palimpsest of signs or drawings, and one has to wonder if the carved art didn’t begin with a recognition that bear claws were an expressive tool for engraving.”

“To the far right of the freeze, on a separate wall, a huge, finely modeled bison stands alone, grazing stage left toward a pair of figures painted on a conical outcropping of rock that descends from the ceiling and comes to a point about four feet above the floor. The fleshy shape of this pendant is unmistakably phallic, and all of its sides are decorated.”

Unlike other caves in France and Spain which show mostly hunted animals such as bisons and oxen, the animals in Chauvet cave are large powerful animals that generally weren't eaten for food: lions, cave bears, rhinos. A wooly rhino is shown charging a herd of other rhinos and clashing with one of its members. Among the 72 cave lions one is depicted "sniffing the hindquarters of a crouched and snarling companion." The cave contains the first prehistoric cave paintings of a spotted leopard, a musk oxen and an owl turning its had 180 degrees.

Many of the powerful animals are rarely seen in other ancient cave complexes, suggesting a religious purpose. Clottes told Newsweek, they appear to have "symbolized danger, strength and power" and the artist may have been attempting to capture "the essence of " the animals.

Artistry at in Chauvet Cave

20120206-Chauvet Rhino grotte.jpg
The images in Chauvet Cave turned many interpretations about early man art on its head, especially those that viewed art history as a Darwinian progression from the primitive to the advanced: many of the works at Chavet are more sophisticated than works that appeared more than 10,000 years later.

The paintings are drawn with yellow ocher, charcoal and iron oxide and show the use of shading and perspective. Some even incorporate dots like Seurat-style pointillism. One of the chambers has only red paintings and another has only murals drawn in black. Connecting the large chambers are smaller chambers, roughly four by five meters. The engravings vary in size from 80 centimeters to four meters across.

"There is sense of rhythm and texture that is truly remarkable," French cultural official Jean Béghain told Time magazine. One of the more than 50 rhinos some are shaded with black charcoal to express rudimentary perspective and others look like action-depicting multiple exposure photographs. A couple of hunched over spotted hyenas are shown standing over one another. The artists incorporated natural cracks in the cave in the horns on an ibex.

Gilles Tosello of the University of Toulouse carefully photographed the paintings, added sketches that showed different layers of work and put it in all in a computer for analysis. Describing some details in a group of horses he wrote in his book Chauvet Cave : “Once again, the surface was carefully scraped beneath the throat, which suggests to us a moment of reflection, or perhaps doubt...the last horse is unquestionably the most successful of the group, perhaps because the artist is by now certain of his or her inspiration. This forth horse was produced using a complex technique: the main lines were drawn with charcoal; the infill, colored sepia and brown, is a mixture of charcoal and clay spread with the finger...A series of fine engravings perfectly follow the profile. With energetic and precise movements, significant details are indicated (nostril, open mouth). A final charcoal line, dark black, was placed just at the corner of the lips and gives this head an expression of astonishment or surprise.”

Near the first paintings of lions and owls are 92 human palm prints in the shape of a bison or rhino. Some archaeologists believe they may be the artist's signature. Analysis of the prints indicate they were made a single individual, who stood about 180 centimeters tall, using his right hand.

On the producing tracings of images in Chauvet Cave, Zach Zorich wrote in Archaeology magazine, “Studying the paintings is an intensive process that begins by going into the cave to photograph an image. The digital photograph is enlarged in the laboratory. Then a researcher places a sheet of transparent plastic over the photo and traces the image in as much detail as possible. The tracing is then brought inside the cave to check it against the original painting. At this stage the researchers also move a light at different angles around the painting to reveal any hidden details of the image. The process forces the researchers to put themselves in the place of the painters and understand the variety of techniques that were used to make the artwork. Some of the images were made after scraping away a layer of dark brown clay that covers the cream-colored limestone walls. Most were made by drawing with a piece of charcoal, or painting with a brush or finger covered in red pigment, or by spitting pigment against the wall. As the tracing is created, the research team learns how the images were composed and the order in which the lines were drawn. "People ask me, 'Why don't you use photos?'" says Clottes. "Well, a photo is not a study...the human mind is still the better computer."

Chauvet Cave, a Pilgrimage Site?

20120206-Chauvet_cave.JPG
Chauvet Cave looks a little like a tourist cave. It is filled with stalactites and stalagmites comprised of limestone and minerals that come in many shades and colors. The floors are littered with ursine remains. It seems a lot of cave bears hibernated here. Archaeologists had counted numerous bear wallows and 147 bears skulls in the cave, many of them dating back to the time when the paintings were made. Some of bears perhaps died naturally. Others maybe were eaten.

Chauvet contains human footprints, burnt bone fragments, napped flints, burned torches, and blackened hearths. Some archaeologist believe this is evidence indicates no people lived in the cave but visited again and again in a way that is consistent with a pilgrimage site.

Among the images with possible religious significance are semicircles of dots and a creature with human legs, the head and torso of a bison and a pubic triangles (possibly a fertility symbol). One of the most intriguing finds is bear cranium skull found resting on what appears to be a stone altar in a space called the Skull Chamber. Some of the bear bones and skulls are arranged in such a way that suggest ritual slaughter.

Zach Zorich wrote in Archaeology magazine, “The way that people used Chauvet Cave was shaped by their interactions with the cave's primary residents, the now-extinct cave bear. Humans do not appear to have lived in the cave and it is likely that the paintings were made in the spring or summer when the bears would not have been hibernating. The bears themselves seem to have held a special significance for the artists who worked in the cave, in addition to being subjects of the artwork. A bear skull was placed on top of a large, flat rock in an area called the Skull Chamber. There is evidence a fire was lit before it was set there, raising the possibility that it had some kind of ritual function. More than 190 bear skulls have been found in the cave, giving paleontologists an enormous amount of information about a species that disappeared 20,000 to 25,000 years ago and used caves in ways that were similar to how humans used them. The bears organized the space within the cave by digging shallow depressions in the cave floor, possibly as sleeping areas. They also made their own marks on the cave walls by repeatedly raking their claws across the limestone, incising sets of four parallel lines. In some cases the paintings in Chauvet Cave are a kind of collaboration between humans and bears. Human artists incorporated claw marks into some of their paintings. In others, cave bears made their marks on top of the paintings, adding a new element to the images that cave art expert Jean Clottes calls "the magic of the bears."

Discovery of Chauvet Cave

Chauvet Cave has a cool, damp climate with temperatures at a constant 56̊F and a humidity level of 99 percent. These conditions account for its remarkable state of preservation. It appears that only a bears entered the cave between the time the last paintings were created and the time the cave was rediscovered in the 1990s.

Jean-Marie Chauvet was a park ranger working the Ministry of Culture and a custodian of the prehistoric sites in the region when the cave was found. He and his friends, Brune and Hillaire, were looking for prehistoric caves. The entrance to the one they found had been covered for millennia by a landside.

A few days before discovering the cave they "felt a draft coming out of the ground...For us that is sign there is something else." After digging out the hole they found the two men and one women squeezed through a narrow tunnel and lowered themselves 30 feet down on a rope where they found a spectacular gallery of prehistoric old paintings. "I thought I was dreaming," said one of the spelunkers, "We were all covered with goose pimples...It was a great moment. We all shouted and yelled."

The spelunkers were aware of the damage they might cause. The next time they entered the cave they laid down a roll of plastic so they wouldn't disturb the archaeological integrity of the site. Chauvet had the cave named after him. Brune and Hillaire were honored with their names attached to chambers.

Chauvet Cave After Its Discovery

20120206-Chauvet cave paintings.JPG
The French government spent two years and $2 million widening the entrance, installing video surveillance cameras and preparing a staging area for human visitors. Since then guards have been posted at the entrance around the clock. The entrance itself resembles a bank vault with a metal door and double key system. Voice alarms go off if anyone approached too closely. Inside the cave a metal catwalk was installed in one section.

For years exploration of the cave was blocked by lawsuits over who owned the cave. Scientists didn't visit it again until 1999, when they photographed the images using 35-mm, infrared, and digital cameras and scanned the images into computers that brightened the colors and intensified the contrast.

The lawsuits pitted the French government against Jean-Marie Chauvet and his partners as well as the owners of the land on which the cave stands, The suit was settled with the finders entitled to royalties from reproductions of the art inside the cave and the owners of the land entitled to “treasure” found on the land, which technically means they have the same right landowners have when gold or oil is found on their land.

The plan is for cave to be bought from its landowner and sealed off to everyone except for scientists. "Our goal," said Béghain, " is to keep the cave in this virgin state so that research theoretically continue indefinitely." A replica of Chauvet is being built nearby by local authorities in Ardeche.

Only a few select group of scholars and journalists are allowed in the cave. They are only allowed in the cave for brief periods in the spring and autumn and it is not unusual for the cave trips to be cancelled because of some problem or another.

Werner Herzog’s Film About Chauvet Cave

In March 2010, Archaeology magazine reported, preeminent German filmmaker Werner Herzog was given unprecedented access to Chauvet Cave in southeastern France to film the site's Paleolithic art. The result, his film Cave of Forgotten Dreams , which was released in spring 2011, is a document of some of humankind's earliest and most extraordinary paintings. Since the cave was discovered in December 1994, few people, mostly researchers, have seen the artwork, owing to the cave's extremely delicate climate and concerns about preserving the ancient paintings. But the film is more than a tour of the cave. It is an exploration of what the science of archaeology is revealing about the Aurignacian people---Europe's first artists---and the origins of the modern human mind. Part of the film focuses on the work of Jean Clottes, the former director of research for the Chauvet Cave Project, and Jean-Michel Geneste, the project's current director, and what their work tells us about how the Aurignacian people may have lived their lives and connected to their world through art. Herzog's experience as a hunter and a long-distance walker helped him understand certain aspects of their lives. [Source: Archaeology magazine, March/April 2011]

On why Chauvet is so exceptional Herzog told Archaeology magazine: “It is one of the greatest and most sensational discoveries in human culture and, of course, what is so fascinating is that it was preserved as a perfect time capsule for 20,000 years. The quality of the art, which is from a time so far, so deep back in history, is stunning. It's not that we have what people might call the primitive beginnings of painting and art. It is right there as if it had burst on the scene fully accomplished. That is the astonishing thing, to understand that the modern human soul somehow awakened. It is not a long slumber and a slow, slow, slow awakening. I think it was a fairly sudden awakening. But when I say "sudden" it may have gone over 20,000 years or so. Time does not factor in when you go back into such deep prehistory.

On the difficulties shooting a 3-D film in a cave, Herzog said, “Of course, we were only allowed to take along what we could carry in our own hands, so we couldn't move heavier equipment into the cave. The most intense challenge came from the fact that when filming in 3-D, you cannot move a 3-D camera around like a regular film camera. If you move, for example, closer to an object, the lenses actually have to be closer together, and when you are fairly close you even have to make them "squint" slightly. We had to reconfigure our camera to take close-up shots of the paintings. It is a high-precision, technical thing to have to do, in semidarkness on a narrow walkway. We had a fairly brief period of time to film. When the researchers left in early April, I had the cave practically undisturbed for filming, but only for six days, and only four hours each day. Of course, later in the season the carbon dioxide level in the branch of the cave where you have the Panel of the Lions becomes dangerously high. In other parts of the cave there is a fairly high level of radon, and it has a cumulative effect on your lungs. So, we had to move around between toxic gases and radioactive gases.

When asked why he choose to film in 3-D, Herzog said: “3-D was imperative because I initially thought there were flat walls and paintings in the cave. But there are no flat areas. The drama of the bulges and niches was actually used by the artists. They did it with phenomenal skill, with great artistic skill, and there was something expressive about it, a drama of rock transformed and utilized, in the drama of paintings. This is why it was imperative to shoot in 3-D.

Werner Herzog on the Paintings in Chauvet Cave

On the paintings that he found particularly striking or moving, Herzog said, “the Panel of the Horses and the Panel of the Lions, of course. The lions in particular are just incredible because a whole group of lions is looking, is stalking something. The intensity of their gaze, all looking exactly at something, focusing on something. You don't know exactly on what they focus and it has an intensity of art, of depiction, which is just awesome.

When asked if the people of Chauvet were artists or craftsmen, Herzog said, “In this case, you can clearly say this is art, and you can say it easily. It goes back to a time when there was, for example, no art market, no exhibitions, no galleries. No doubt in my heart that this is art, and it's some of the greatest that the human race ever created, period. It can't get any better, and it hasn't gotten much better. That's a great mystery.”

Image Sources: Wikipedia Commons

Text Sources: Mostly from National Geographic articles. Also the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton?s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Page Top

© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated March 2011

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.