good article in the new yorker concerning the prehistoric cave paintings here in the dordogne & elsewhere in sw france
i particularly like the jean clottes quote: Homo sapiens is Homo spiritualis
“You can advance a scientific hypothesis without claiming certainty,” Clottes told me one evening. “Everyone agrees that the paintings are, in some way, religious. I’m not a believer myself, and I’m certainly not a mystic. But Homo sapiens is Homo spiritualis. The ability to make tools defines us less than the need to create belief systems that influence nature. And shamanism is the most prevalent belief system of hunter-gatherers.”
“The topography hasn’t changed much, except that the Ice Age vegetation was much sparser: mostly evergreens, like fir and pine. Without all the greenery, the resemblance of the Pont d’Arc to a giant mammoth would have been even more dramatic. But nothing of the landscape—clouds, earth, sun, moon, rivers, or plant life, and, only rarely, a horizon—figures in cave art. It’s one among many striking omissions.” – jean clottes (in the interview)
Letter from Southern France
What does the world’s oldest art say about us?
by Judith Thurman