Thursday, May 26, 2011

So Few of Us Then

'Christianity was a death cult,' a friend said after she had seen the catacombs in Rome. I thought of her words as J. and I left the theater after seeing The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a film about the prehistoric drawings on the walls of the Cave Chauvet. 'It's not about death,' I said. 'All about life.'

'Energy,' J. said.

While I'm cautious about idealizing the life and work of Aurignacian and earlier people, and most attempts to re-enact and revive the past--remember Leni Riefenstahl--the work of our ancestors fascinates and awes. There were so few of us then.

At Chauvet. The legs of the bison are also the legs of the woman. We see her from the vulva down. (Thanks to S.L. for posting this photo.)

The tiny figurine, carved from wooly mammoth tusk, found in a cave in southwestern Germany, is 35-40 thousand years old. There's a small loop at the very top through which a string could be threaded. The figurine may have been worn as an amulet. (A flute carved from a vulture's bone was found near this figurine. I couldn't find a photo of the flute.)

Figurines from the Grimaldi Caves, often called Venuses.

The horses at Chauvet, 32-33 thousand years old, as is the hand in the top photo, also at Chauvet.

And these--can you see the wooly mammoth on the right? I hope you get a chance to see "The Cave of Dreams" and to read such books as Preshistoric Art by Randall White.


  1. Everything about these cave drawing makes me want to speak in whispers, Mim. How great their age; how brilliantly fluid the artists' mark-making; how prudent their revelation and their secrecy.

    Love to you,
    Claire xo

  2. I've heard good things about this movie. Someone said it is in 3D which may draw me to the theater this weekend.

  3. It is in 3-D, Michael.

    Fluid is right, Claire. Talk about line. No better not talk about it much, as you say. About whispering: one can't do it for long. Whisper then silence.

  4. I agree with your friend. Christianity, Islam and Judaism come across as religions of pain, suffering and penance. The more, the merrier (pun intended). Your images are astounding. You're right, our ancestors were clever. And to think that they were never exposed to Photoshop! :-)

    Greetings from London.

  5. Will you see the film, Cuban in London?

    Thanks for stopping by . . .

  6. a bit like a dream, was the first thought that came to me mind. probably still wondering what humankind is currently able/willing to do, instead of such art.

    please have a good weekend.

    daily athens

  7. Hello, Robert--Should we human walk instead of ride, renounce instead of consume, draw instead of destroy, etc.?

  8. I truly, absolutely love those little, old figures...seeing photos makes me happy..

  9. Aren't they something, Melissa! Those tiny figures. Years ago when I first saw the 'Venuses' I couldn't bear them, didn't really understand them, etc. 'Fear of the Mother,' the big big mother, fat-fear, etc. Who knows? Now it's wonderful to have the blinders off. They are wonderful!

    Here's looking at your photos, too . . .