lascaux : sacred geometry and coherent chaos

The mystery of the Lascaux puzzle. In all likelihood the real meaning of the paintings in the French cave will never be totally clear until we know who they were actually done for. Who was the patron? There has been much learned, but our knowledge is  still as dark and murky as the cave itself…

To be sure, the painters of the cave wanted the pictures to have a certain magical, religious or philosophical utility: make game for plentiful, make hunting more accurate, perhaps to render the entire universe more fecund and kindly disposed toward his people. But to suppose that this hoped for utility was his only reason for painting is to fly against what we know about the history of art and about human nature.

---Near to the entrance of the Lascaux cave complex is a magnificent painting of a bull. Hanging over its shoulder is what appears (to us) to be a map of the Pleiades, the cluster of stars sometimes called the Seven Sisters. Inside the bull painting, there are also indications of spots that may be a representation of other stars found in that region of sky. Today, this region forms part of the constellation of Taurus the bull, with the remarkable suggestion of a direct transfer of information for over 17,000 years.--- Read More: image:

That the Lascaux artist had the itch is a very visible fact. He was an accomplished colorist, capable at his best of obtaining an astonishing range of effects from his limited palette of mineral red, yellow, brown, black, and violet. Sometimes he used a stippling technique, with widely spaced dots and flecks, and sometimes an impressionistic dabbling touch, but his favorite method was to apply the color, including a velvet black, to large areas as a flat wash and then let it vibrate with the irregular surface of the wall, or shade off delicately into the clotted, shimmering paleness of the surrounding limestone.

William Glyn-Jones:Keeping this in mind we may then go to another theory about Lascaux art, and the leaning bird-man image to be specific, which suggests that he and his bull represent the old myth of Yima and the Primordial Bull. Mary Settegast in Plato Prehistorian makes this brilliant suggestion. This Yima figure is found in Hindu India as Yama, Persia as Yima, Norse lands as Ymir, and always there are the associations of the primordial bovine, the identity of Yima as a first ancestor, and as the lord of the dead, and usually there is the creation of the world from his body. The Indo-European root of this name means "Twin", and Gemini ("twins") is from this same root. This is where I fuse the two aforementioned theories into one, and an increasingly solid hypothesis begins to reveal itself. The Twins constellation, Gemini, is located next to Taurus, the Bull. Gemini consists of two long straight lines leaning at a 45-degree angle with respect to the ecliptic, while the majority of Zodiac figures stand upright at culmination. The Bird Man also leans at this angle, and is drawn from two long straight lines. He is certainly in the right position relative to the Bull.... Read More:

The painter’s skill as an optical naturalist scarcely calls for comment. It is easy to be struck by the charming, if rather precious and mannered vivacity of the small-headed, full bodies horses and cows,and by the vigorous presence of the great white bulls. The conceptualism, on the other hand, seems a bit pointless and crude, that if it were not so evidently deliberate, it could be dismissed as bungling. It consists in such tricks as the placing of an ear almost anywhere and the use of twisted perspective for horns, heads and hoofs. An analogy with the practice of the pioneer cubists, who also fragmented reality and drew what they knew rather than what they saw, does not really hold up, for they did not really distribute their “concepts” haphazardly but in perceptible patterns.

---Given the thought that underlying the apparent arbitrary movements of nature, there is a pattern of order, given a tradition of accurate measurements conveyed through oral and pictogramic formula, given patience and good eyesight, with sticks and stones and a pot of paint, the artists who painted in the caves at Lascaux, France, could have portrayed the proportional limitations of the temporal process. These artists did not have our grid system, yet they discovered the patterns of order in nature....---Read More: image:

The abstractionism goes further than the rectangles, dots and dashes. It is apparent in the way the wall space is appropriated and animated, in bits of what seems to be nothing but inspired doodling, in the counterpoint of S-curved backs and sagging bellies, and in such details as the elaboration of antlers of the small deer. The artist clearly enjoyed the graphic results of simply letting his hand swoop and his arm sweep.

---To enter the Well you descend from a chamber called the Apse, so-called because it ends in a semi-dome. On the walls are paintings that have been nearly effaced by what Bataille calls "a swarming network of countless etchings." The entire ceiling and all the walls were minutely carved with many of the figures superimposed. The vast number of engravings is in contrast to the few figures in the Well Scene, as if here an abundance of data was accumulated and computed into the equation on the wall of the Well. The cave itself is a sacred space, and the Well is a special spot within this space. The Main Hall opens directly north, and the wall of the Well Scene, as you face it, is a few degrees south of east. The bird-headed man points to the celestial north, and the spear represents the pole of the ecliptic. I consider all the figures in the Well Scene to pertain to one composition, and that composition is analogous to Egyptian charts of the northern constellations represented by a hippopotamus, a bull, and a bird-headed man.--- Read More:

One of the most analyzed images from the cave is that of the stick figure of a human, but a human with a “bird” head.  Beside this  image is a totem-like stick with a bird atop it.This type  of symbolic and repeated bird imagery is recurrent among shamanistic themes;  shamans are known as frequent flyers when inhabiting an altered states of consciousness .This is one of those paintings where it is almost impossible to decipher whether the figure participating is dancing, fighting or in some ritualistic relationship. What is clear is that the overall meaning goes beyond the explanation of hunting, magic and tallying of the kill. It also defies the known contexts of ethnological analogy. Although research has plausibly, even convincingly demonstrated the connection of the cave paintings with astrology and the “dead man” painting with sacred geometry, we still do not entirely comprehend what game is actually being enacted and that the ground rules for understanding it have yet to be fully deciphered.

The paintings in the cave at Lascaux have been deemed a miracle, but their meaning remains an enigma. In general, art historians have concentrated on documenting the caves, taking measurements and tracings, and they have only put forth tentative hypotheses about the meanings of the paintings. There are essentially four categories of interpretation. First, animism, where all things are filled with an immaterial force animating the universe. The portraits are of animal spirits, the painters repainting in order to renew their power over them. This helps explain the many superimposed figures. Second, the magic of the hunt,

e invisible spirits must be revered and, if possible, influenced with sympathetic magic.

This helps explain certain obscure markings, possibly spears and arrows drawn on the figures or actual holes dug into the compositions, which indicate the animal has been killed or wounded. Third, the cult of beauty or pure decoration, where the artists painted for the pleasure and fascination of representing creatures that were a part of their lives. This helps explain the high degree of competency in their drawing, their understanding of animal anatomy, and their incorporation of natural accidents in the rocks as part of the paintings.

The fourth conjecture is the language of sexuality, where the paintings are interpreted in the context of a fertility cult, the bison with a female valence, the horses with a male valence. The prehistorian André Leroi-Gourhan hazards this idea. In The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light, William Irwin Thompson couples Leroi-Gourhan’s idea with the idea of Alexander Marshack, that the animal figures are expressions of time-factoring patterns, to suggest the possibility of a complex cosmology in which the animals are the early forms of the zodiac. Read More:

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