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Prehistoric Art - Essay Example

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With the quest of knowing his past, man continues to discover what has been left behind by his ancestors. These traces of history, though incomplete in themselves, have become a huge source of knowledge and information about the past. The Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain both serve as indicators of the past civilization…
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Prehistoric Art
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Prehistoric Art

Download file to see previous pages... During 1940, four teenagers discovered the wealth of artistry within these caves (Lascaux 2007). According to Cornwell, "the cave was evidently a sanctuary for the performance of sacred rites and ceremonies."
Lascaux contains the earliest traces of man's civilizations and holds the key in unlocking the prehistoric period. To date, it is estimated that the paintings on its walls totals around 20, 000. Because of its age, many of the images are hardly discernable while the others have deteriorated. The caves feature realistic images of large animals which are believed to have thrived within the area thousands of years ago. Among these paintings are animals called aurochs which, according to fossil evidence have lived in France during the period. The largest portion of the paintings is identified to be animals like horses, stags, cattle, and bison, while there are also drawings of geometric figures. Non-figurative images are speculated by one researcher to be illustrations of the night sky as the painted dots correlate with various constellations (Lascaux 2007).
Aside from the illustrations of animals which thrived during the period, Lascaux is also said to house the "one of the humanity's earliest narrative compositions" (Virtual Realities n.d.). The writer described this particular scene: "Almost cartoonlike in appearance, it shows a man with the face (or mask) of a bird, engaged with an apparently fatal disagreement with a wounded bison. As the bison uses its head and horns as a weapon, the man falls stiffly back, apparently to his death" (Virtual Realities n.d.) Thus, Lascaux does not only depict the different players in the early civilization but expresses stories which have not been put in words by ancient man.
The Altamira in Spain is another famous haven for prehistoric art. Like the Lascaux, Altamira is a cave which features drawings and polychrome rock paintings of wild animals and human hands. Because of its perceived importance in understanding the civilization of man, the UNESCO declared Altamira as a World Heritage Site (Altamira 2007). The 270 meter cave is comprised of twisting passages and chambers. The formation of the cave is due to the "collapses following early karstic phenomena in calcerous rock of Mount Vispieres" (Altamira Cave n.d.). Excavations on the site reveal two levels of archeological levels; one belongs to the Solutrean and the other to the Magdalenian. The Solutrean culture is said to have been formed from the occupation in the cave around 18, 500 years ago. Aside from the paintings, artifacts have also been excavated from this civilization. The Magdalenian period dates back 15, 500 and 14, 000 years ago (Altamira Cave n.d.).
The most famous of area in the cave is known as the Ceiling of the Polychromes. This features superimposed paintings and engravings the most prominent of which shows herd of bison in different poses, two horses, a large doe and a possible wild boar (Altamira 2007). In addition are numbers of more indiscernible figures of what seems to be an elk and "a series of enigmatic signs and red stains appearing in direct contrast with other figures that have clearly been superimposed." This art are traced to the Magdelenean occupation. On the other hand, these red painting inside the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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