arta rupestra - paleolitic

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    Lector drd.arh. Corina LUCESCU

    Materialele prezentate au scop didactic. Folosirea lor n alte scopuri dect cele

    necesare procesului de nvmnt, este sancionat potrivit legislaiei n vigoare.


    Cave Paintings The largest part of the cave paintings was found in Europe (from Spain upto the Ural). Naturally, on the walls of neglected caves with the entrances firmly blocked up thousands years ago, the paintings are in a good condition. During centuries the same temperature and humidity have been kept up in them. That is why, together with the cave paintings, other numerous evidences of the human activity are perfectly preserved, among them - distinct footprints of adults and, what is more impressive, of children on the wet floor of some caves. Provinces Dordogne, Ariege Upper Pyrenees in France, Spanish provinces Cantabria and Asturias, adjoining Pyrenees from south-west, are especially remarkable for the concentration of the cave paintings. In literature this region is generally entitled Franco-Cantabria. There are less monuments of Palaeolithic art in French and Italian Riviera, on Sicily; two caves with paintings are found in the southern Ural. The majority of those caves and grottoes were discovered and became the objects of special investigation during the last century. Palaelothic art was long considered to be a purely European or Eurasian phenomenon and no monuments of this type exist on the other continents. H. Breuil even tried to substantiate this exceptional nature of proto-European culture. But later, in the 60 - 70s it turned out to be not correct. In Australia, on Arnemland peninsula, depictions of a kangaroo and hand stencils older than 12000 years were found. In South Africa finds from grotto Appolo 11 are the most interesting. In 1969 two painted stone palm-sized plaquettes were found in the layer between Mousterian and Upper Palaeolithic. One of them was split into two fragments. A rhino depiction made with a black pigment is on one of the plaquettes, an ungulate - on the other. They are dated according to C - 14 to 28000 - 26000 years. In South Africa, in the Lions Cave, the most ancient known place of ochre output, dated according to C-14 to 43200 was found. Hypothetically, some ancient paintings in Siberia, southern Anatolia and northern China are referred to the Upper Palaeolithic but still there are no more or less correct dates of those depictions. Modern data of the cave painting prevalence do not reflect any objective regularity. Rarity of the finds of this kind on the territory between Frano-Cantabria and the Ural can be rather explained by the natural conditions and unequal research of the territories with the caves than by any other reasons. In pre-historic art study the process of the "primary accumulation" of the data is not only far from consummation but even not complete, the more so it is difficult to determine the level of this "sufficiency". Even in southern France, the territory, regular studied for a hundred of years, one can make unexpected discoveries. In the region with concentrated cave paintings,

  • which seems to be investigated thoroughly by abbey H.Breuil and his first pupils in their time, 21 previously unknown caves were discovered in the period between 1984 up to 1994. Among them there are caves, just as ancient, abounding in finds and diverse as world famous due to their paintings Altamira, Lascaux and others. As for the Chauvet cave, it occupies the leading position among them. Probably a new cave with even more ancient, perfect and diverse paintings will be found soon. In 1994 more than 300 caves, grottoes and roofs with paintings, undoubtedly dated to the Upper Palaeolithic, are known in Europe. Among them 150 - in France, 125 - in Spain, 3 - in Portugal, 21 - in Italy, 1 - in Yugoslavia, 1 - in Roumania, 2 - in Germany and 2 - in Russia. Numerous objects of portable art are found on the sites, in caves during excavations and accidentally. The number of the finds in Russia exceeded 150 ( the most eastern - in Pribaikalje) New finds and discoveries are, undoubtedly, still ahead RUSIA KAPOVA CAVE (Shulgan-Tash). As in many other similar cases the caveitself was known for a very long time. In 1760 it was already described by P.I.Rychkov in one of his historic-geographical works about Priuralje. As V.I. Dal' noticed, many local traditions and legends are connected with the cave. But the archaeologists paid attention to the cave only after 1959, when A.V.Ryumin had discovered palaeolithic paintings on its walls. Mammoths, rhinos, a bison and horses are easily recognized among them. The first investigations of the paintings were carried out by O.N.Bader, who established that they are dated to the last period of the Upper Palaeolithic.

    The cave has two levels of cavities - two "floors". Some of these cavities are called "halls". There are the Cupola Hall, The Hall of Signs, the Chaos Hall on the ground floor, the Hall of Drawings - on the first floor. Colourful figurative drawings are, mainly, in the upper level, a rather long distance from the entrance, as in the most upper palaeolithic caves. Excavations have uncovered an occupation layer, containing isolated bones of wild animals, extinct among them, for example, the cave bear.


  • Together with other finds testifying to the man's activity, numerous lumps of ochre, used for making pigments, have been found. There also was a small limestone fragment of the wall, fallen down long ago, bearing a part of a picturesque depiction of a mammoth. Ancient charcoal picked up in the occupation layer allowed to get an absolute date - 14680 + 150 years ago.

    SPANIA ALTAMIRA Is one of the most famous palaeolithic caves in Spain. It is situated in Cantabria province not far from Santander city, on the edge of Santiliana del Mar village. Although the cave and its paintings are known all over the world, the dramatic history of its first investigator, Don Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, the owner of the land, where the cave is located, is not so familiar. The cave was found by a local hunter, Modesto Peres in 1868. Everybody in the neighbourhood knew about the cave, herdsmen found there refuge in bad weather, hunters made halts. But only 11 years later, in 1879, Maria, M. de Sautuola's daughter, walking in the estate, turned her father's attention on the strange images on the ceiling of one of the "halls", barely discernible in the darkness of the cave. hat day had started M. Sanz de Sautuola's long tribulations. A year before he had been at the world exhibition in Paris and got aquainted with an exposition of ancient objects, which we now call palaeolithic small forms (art mobilier). Engraved depictions of bisons, very similar to those found by Maria and him on the ceiling and walls of Altamira, were among them. That made de Sautuola guess that the paintings of Altamira dated back to the Stone Age. He began excavations in the cave and invited his friend, a well-known specialist in the field of prehistoric archaeology, professor of the Madrid university Juan Vilanova y Piera for a consultation. The latter supported de Sautuola's conjecture. Soon they published the first information about that unique monument, which evoked general interest and even made king Alfonso XII visit the marvel cave. But all the prominent specialists in archaeology, especially French ones, beginning with Gabriel de Mortillet, admitting the palaeolithic age of the finds, made during excavations in Altamira, rejected flatly Piera and de M. Sanz de Sautuola's arguments in favour of the palaeolithic dating of the paintings. And what is more, de Sautuola was accused in deliberate distortion. They


  • considered that the paintings had been made by one of his friends, an artist, who stayed in his castle. One can imagine the moral shock caused by "the guardians of the scientific truth" to the spanish nobleman with his enhanced sense of dignity and honour. Only almost 15 years after M. de Sautuolas death his opponents, and E.Kartaillak in particular, had to admit that the Altamira paintings are really palaeolithic.

    The most famous Altamira paintings are on the plafond - a low ceiling in one of the cave "vestibules" to the left from the entrance. The total area of the ceiling is about 100 sq. ms. Here the artist had skillfully combined pigment painting with the ceiling relief. The majority of more than 20 animal figures, (mainly bisons, though there are also a horse, a boar and a deer) is depicted on the natural bosses of the ceiling and so there comes out an impressive picture of bas-relief, embossed figures. When the palaeolithic age of the Altamira paintings had been generally accepted discussions of other problems started. In particular, was the Altamira ceiling painting the result of a single action ( in the terms of life of one man) and conception or was it a long accumulation of different depictions? Some investigators were sure that the Altamira ceiling is a sound compositional work. Though nobody said it directly but it was somehow implied that it was the work of one artist. It concerns not only the Altamira ceiling. The painting of the Niaux "Salon Noire" was also considered to be the work of one artist and only the ibex figure was admitted to be corrected later. Other specialists, A.P.Okladnikov for example, considered the Altamira ceiling to be the result of successive addition of depictions, originally not connected. The last results of the radiocarbon dating of some ceiling paintings showed that 200 - 500 years separate them.

    FRANTA LASCAUX Is situated near Montignak ( Dordogne, 40 kms from Perigueux), at the end of a plateau on the left bank of the Vezer r