I’ve been focusing a lot on early European art lately, but today’s post is truly the earliest: cave art! The Lascaux caves, a complex cave system near Dordogne, are famous for their Paleolithic cave paintings which are believed to be over 17,000 years old! The paintings are incredible because they predate writing and really show us what life was like at the time. Prehistoric artists illuminated the walls of the cave with lamps carved out of stone and filled with fat. Animals and humans were the main subjects, and everything was painted from memory. Across the caves, nearly 2000 figures have been counted, the most of which are human figures, animals and abstract symbols, all rendered in red, yellow and black mineral pigments.
It is not really known what purpose the paintings served. They could have been images for worship or rituals. Or it could have been believed that painted images embodied the animal’s spirit. The multitude of animals painted (over 900 have been found) could have been a means of encouraging fertility by depicting a continuous food source.
Whatever the reason they were created, its amazing that they have survived for so long! The cave paintings are located further from the habitable areas of the cave, and therefore were pretty well preserved until they were rediscovered and opened to the public in 1940. Damaged after years of hundreds of daily visitors has left the paintings in poor shape, and they have been restored numerous times. Hopefully a conservation solution can be found – it would be a shame for people not to get to visit, but it would be worse for them to be ruined forever!
Recipe adapted from Ambitious Kitchen