The Lascaux cave, situated near Montignac, France contains one of the most remarkable collections of prehistoric cave paintings and carvings ever found.
Surprisingly the grotto was only discovered relatively recently considering its long history, when a group of teenagers followed after their dog along a narrow entrance into the cavern back in 1940 and has been studied ever since as archaeologists try and unlock its secrets.
Dating back some 15,000-17,000 years the prehistoric cave paintings offer a window to the past, our past, and offers an insight into the lives of the men and women who gathered in this cave complex thousands of years ago.
The paintings, some 600 of them, depict mainly animals and are one of the finest collection of paintings from the Upper-Paleolithic period to be found on the planet. They are amazingly detailed and have been crafted with obvious care and skill. I find myself wondering who they were, these ancient folk, and what were their lives like - Certainly vastly different to ours now.
French archaeologist Henri-Édouard-Prosper Breuil, was the first to study the paintings, and about 1,500 engravings, and he had his work cut out for him with the cavern being 66 feet wide and 16 high, all covered with the artworks. The animals depicted number horses, deer and bovines plus what could only be mythical creatures, possibly hinting at religious or superstitious beliefs, deity's maybe. src
There is only one human-shaped figure, a man with a bird-head and an obvious hard-on; A guy playing dress-ups with his wife or a representation of some form of deity the cave-folk worshipped? A shaman possibly.
Archaeologists cannot be certain, however it is surmised that the cave was used as a central location for religious rites and a gathering place for hunting parties, and possibly subsequent feasts afterwards, over a very long period of time. It makes sense for such a cave to be utilised in this way as it would have provided excellent shelter from the elements and protection from wild animals or other humans. I'd love to say T-rex here, but everyone knows the dinos were gone by then.
In 1948 the grotto was opened for public viewing however the artificial lights used to illuminate the paintings began to fade the colours, obviously preserved in the cave which received little to no light over thousands of years. An algae had also begun to grow over the paintings and so in 1963 the Lascaux grotto was closed to the public. It's a shame of course as I would dearly love to visit however a replica is available to view - Not as cool as the real thing, but interesting nonetheless.See it here
We like to think we are the masters of our world, that we are the best evolution of humanity, but time changes most things as our friends who painted and carved the Lascaux grotto found out.
Did they feel as invincible, as endless, as it seems humanity feels these days? I'm not sure. Their world would have been vastly different to ours though and my belief is that they were more in-tune with it; I think they understood the natural world better, lived more in-sync with it than we do. We are probably more disconnected with the world, and each other, than ever before and I wonder what might be left of our existence for someone to find in 17,000 years. What will those people think of us?
Did our long-dead ancestors gather at this cave to perform religious rites, sacrifice or to worship their deity(s) or was it a simple meeting spot for hunting parties? We'll never know. The paintings they left behind must have had some form of meaning to them though and the artists who created them had some obvious skill considering the crude materials they would have had at their disposal. Fascinating.
Anyway, that's where I'd rather be and what I'd rather be doing right now. If you want to join in on #whereonwednesday just tag it in your post, on a Wednesday and away you go. It's not a challenge or anything dumb like that, neither do you get anything for it. It's just a chance to post your thoughts and maybe a picture or two.