Ice age arts are legends to human

If the Ice Age hunter depicted plant species in different seasons as accurately as he de¬picted animals and their behavior, and if he symbolized these changes and differences with both realistic and abstract images, he probably had words for these differences and processes. Thus he was capable of that most symbolic of human functions, speech. If so, this early hunter had the lore and skills that would have prepared post-Ice Age man for the coming stage of human culture that brought planting, agriculture, and the do¬mestication of animals.

TO ME the great surprise was the discovery of plants as key images in the caves of Las¬caux. When and if Lascaux is ever opened again to research, some of the major problems in the century-old debate over the meaning of Ice Age art may be solved. If the association between animals and plants of different species and periods of growth is eventually accepted as fact by the scientific community, then the discussion concerning the nature of man’s first art and his knowledge of his en¬vironment will have undergone a revolution.

ICe age Elephants

In their role as hunters, men had a special relationship with the world of animals and of animal images. Probably compositions on tools such as pressure fiakers and the major paintings of animals in the caves were made by men as part of masculine lore, skill, and ritual. The tendency has always been to see human evolution in masculine terms, that is, as the product of man the toolmaker and man the hunter.

The approach is understandable in light of the stone tools and animal bones that arche¬ologists dig up. For this reason, the presence of female images as old as the earliest animal images, and the persistence of these through¬out the whole Ice Age, posed a special prob¬lem for my analysis. Like animal images, these female figures have been found all the way from Spain to Siberia. In the same way that animals had been called hunting magic, these often naked wide-hipped images had been termed fertility magic.

Ice age matters

It was the microscope that gave me a clue to some of the uses of these Ice Age female images and opened still another door into the Ice Age way of thinking and use of symbols.

 

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