Riddled between the labyrinths of caves in the South of France, there is a world frozen in time- a mystical bestiary full of raging black bulls, red cows, gallant horses, ibex and wolves. Down through the caves narrowing passageways and only by the flickering light of a lamp you can begin to see a gallery unfolding- some of the most ancient artwork in human history- you’ve just discovered the Hall of the Bulls.
It is the year 1940, and atop a hill in Lascaux France there is a young apprentice mechanic by the name of Marcel Ravidat that discovers an underground passageway, bringing to life what was thought to be only legend. He unknowingly begins exploring what is now considered the
“Sistine Chapel of Prehistory”: one of the pinnacles of human creative intelligence.”
The Hall of the Bulls is the first of seven sections discovered in the Lascaux Caves. The seven sections include: the Hall of the Bulls, the Axial Gallery, the Passageway, the Nave, the Chamber of the Felines, the Apse and the Shaft. The ancient artist’s palette of burnt reds, yellows & browns were comprised of minerals such as manganese and charcoal. These colors seem to pop-out against the white calcite of the winding cave that stretches over 20 meters long.
Within The Hall of the Bulls are 130 figures including horses, cattle, deer & geometric signs that are miraculously kept vibrate and undamaged, dating back circa 15,000 B.C. The artwork of this nature falls into a category known as “parietal” artwork. That is, these caves, on to which our Palaeolithic ancestors painted, were caves not suitable for shelter- they were for ceremonial visits. Try and imagine a ceremony, mystical and occult where the very essence of existence was- not a survival off a cultivated land, but of the beasts that roamed the earth. The artist begins painting with his hand, drawing with blocks of pigments, engraving with strokes of grinding stone & blades of flint. He blows pigment through a hollowed bone and using the caves natural topography, the artist creates a depth – knowing how the bull moves and how the horse gallops. A rippling light is casted out from the primitive lamps and breathes life into the cave – and with sharpened spears; the hunter makes his mark on these now spirited creatures.
To fully understand the life & culture within the Palaeolithic period continues to remain an ever evolving task.
Were the images a form of communication? Were our early ancestors attempting to document or predict actual events? Some scholars’ even speculate it to be the very earliest form of writing. Whatever the case may be, these images are glimpses into a past, as mysterious & primal as one could imagine.
-Written by Julie Catona
Visit http://www.lascaux.culture.fr/?lng=en for an interactive experience of Lascaux Caves