STL Science Center

STL Science Center

04 November 2015

Paint it on the Cave

Lascaux Cave Art
Whenever an animal was an important enough to humans that it played an integral part in the diet, work, play, stories, or fears of humans those animals tend to make an appearance in their art. The cave art in Lascaux in southwestern France has a couple of very prominent Aurochs in one of the "panels". These Aurochs were not being hunted or working as far as we can tell from this image; however, their inclusion simply as wildlife that was encountered by the people that created the images reveals at least a part of their historical range. Strangely the one on the left looks kind of like a Far Side cow. Mixed into the panel we can pick out horses and bush-antlered deer. Documentation of the animals that lived in Southwestern France allows us to recreate not only the world in which these people lived, but also the fauna living alongside these wild oxen. The Aurochs themselves are enormous in this image, possibly depicting their actual size, but also probably giving the image some depth, which is quite an accomplishment for one of the earliest pieces of man-made (human-made if you prefer) art that we know of. Their unmistakable horns are also wonderfully huge. I just like everything about this piece of art.

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