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THE first intrepid explorers to brave the 7-metre crawl through a perilously narrow tunnel leading to the Chauvet caves in southern France were rewarded with magnificent artwork to rival any modern composition. Stretching a full 3 metres in height, the paintings depict a troupe of majestic horses in deep colours, above a pair of boisterous rhinos in the midst of a fight. To the left, they found the beautiful rendering of a herd of prehistoric cows. "The horse heads just seem to leap out of the wall towards you," says Jean Clottes, former director of scientific research at the caves and one of the few people to see the paintings with his own eyes.
The cave was first explored on December 18, 1994 by a trio of speleologists: Eliette Brunel Deschamps, Christian Hillaire, and Jean-Marie Chauvet, for whom it was named.
Hundreds of animal paintings have been catalogued, depicting at least 13 different species, including those which have rarely or never been found in other ice age paintings. Rather than depicting only the familiar animals of the hunt that predominate in Paleolithic cave art, i.e. horses, cattle, reindeer, etc., the walls of the Chauvet Cave are covered with predatory animals: lions, panthers, bears, owls, rhinos and hyenas. Typical of most cave art, there are no paintings of complete human figures, although there is one possible partial "Venus" figure that may represent the legs and genitals of a woman. Also a chimerical figure may be present; it appears to have the lower body of a woman with the upper body of a bison. There are a few panels of red ochre hand prints and hand stencils made by spitting pigment over hands pressed against the cave surface. Abstract markings—lines and dots—are found throughout the cave.
While some scholars like Clottes had recorded the presence of cave signs at individual sites, Genevieve von Petzinger, then a student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, was surprised to find that no one had brought all these records together to compare signs from different caves. And so, under the supervision of April Nowell, also at the University of Victoria, she devised an ambitious masters project. She compiled a comprehensive database of all recorded cave signs from 146 sites in France, covering 25,000 years of prehistory from 35,000 to 10,000 years ago.
What emerged was startling: 26 signs, all drawn in the same style, appeared again and again at numerous sites (see illustration). Admittedly, some of the symbols are pretty basic, like straight lines, circles and triangles, but the fact that many of the more complex designs also appeared in several places hinted to von Petzinger and Nowell that they were meaningful - perhaps even the seeds of written communication.
The real clincher came with the observation that certain signs appear repeatedly in pairs. Negative hands and dots tend to be one of the most frequent pairings, for example, especially during a warm climate period known as the Gravettian (28,000 to 22,000 years ago). One site called Les Trois-Frères in the French Pyrenees, even shows four sign types grouped together: negative hands, dots, finger fluting and thumb stencils (a rare subcategory of the negative hands).
Originally posted by siahchi
reply to post by kiwifoot
Fascinating! The zig-zag, pectiform and peniform bear strong resemblance to Phoenician as well as Runic. I wonder if they'll discover similar writing at the recently unearthed temple in Turkey they call Gobekli Tepe or the ancient South African ruins?
In his book The Mind in the Cave, David Lewis-Williams suggests these marks may be understood as entoptic phenomena. Entoptic = within vision. In other words, this imagery 'may originate ... between the eye itself and the cortex of the brain.' He distinguishes two types of entoptic imagery: phosphenes, induced by physical stimulation, such as pressure on the eyeball itself; and form constants which derive from the optic system beyond the eye. There is a spacial relationship between the retina and the visual cortex which means that points close together on the retina, if stimulated, lead to the firing of equivalently placed neurons in the cortex. Lewis-Williams suggests that, when psychotropic substances are taken, as he believes they were by most ancient artists, the usual order of this process is, or can be, reversed so that 'the pattern in the cortex is perceived as the visual percept.' People in this state may see the structure of their own brains.
Originally posted by Aliensun
reply to post by kiwifoot
Some on ATS will cringe at this statement, but given early interventions by ETs to the first, capable humans cultures, art, language and writing would have been some of the first gifts. Art, such as cave art protected from the elements, would be the best evidence that remains. And so it is....
Let us hope that they will be so kind toward us at this moment in time.