Words: Clarisa CollisPortrayed in vivid, seemingly immortal, impressions on the damp, soft surface of limestone cave walls, the world’s best known early human art provides a glimpse of the thoughts and perspectives of our Stone Age ancestors. Deep inside the Lascaux and Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc caves of southern France, sublime images of animals give us the first insight into the intellectual sensitivity of humans far back in time, 36,000 years in the case of Chauvet Cave. The elegant use of perspective, shading and line in the paintings and engravings demonstrate sophistication; an innate ability to interpret and attach meaning to our surroundings. Director of the Lascaux and Chauvet caves research programs Professor Jean-Michel Geneste considers both the science and humanity embodied within these ancient compositions: “When standing in front of the rock art, discovering the way they portrayed selected animals, we are in front of the images they had in their minds; looking into the spirituality of men and women long before us.” That said, he adds there is a limit to how much can be interpreted, such as the meaning of geometric symbols that accompany the animals, or even the meaning of the animals themselves – because they are from a “dead culture”. The human link to modern times was long ago broken and lost.

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