Monday, May 9, 2011

It Seems So Long Ago . . .

. . . because it was!

Cave bear skull placed atop stone in Chauvet cave, ca. 25,000 years ago.

Some time about 20,000-40,000 years ago, people created the amazing art inside the cave at Chauvet Pont d'Arc. About 20,000 years ago, the entrance to the cave was sealed, and it was not discovered until 1994.

The people who created the cave art were part of what we now refer to as the Aurignacian culture, a
    toolmaking industry and artistic tradition of Upper Paleolithic Europe . . . marked by a great diversification and specialization of tools . . . The art of the Aurignacian culture represents the first complete tradition in the history of art, moving from awkward attempts to a well-developed, mature style."

Werner Herzog has made a 3-D film of the inside of this cave, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams." Read a review from here, and listen to Terry Gross' interview of Herzog here. See images at the official Chauvet Cave website here.

Watch the trailer below . . .

It also seems so long ago since I made a pilgrimage in October 1996 to another paleolithic art cave in France, La grotte de Font-de-Gaume near the village of les Eyzies-de-Tayac in the Dordogne region. When planning a six-week trip to Holland, France, and Spain for late 1996, I remember doing research to see if I could find an actual paleolithic art cave that I could visit, rather than the re-created cave at Lascaux.

This entire trip to Europe was a pilgrimage of sorts, and also included visits to Chartres Cathedral (Chartres, France), Santo Domingo de Silos monastery (near Burgos, Spain), Toledo Cathedral (Toledo, Spain), Seville Cathedral (Seville, Spain), and other places.

At this time in my life I had been out of the Navy only for about two years, was reading a lot of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, and had recently taken some anthropology and archaeology classes at university. I had a few years' previously rejected the Church of Christ Christianity I had been raised with and was casting about for a more open-minded, inclusive, and creative set of explanations for the mysteries of the universe. I was looking for what Joseph Campbell called a "functional mythology": a way of conceiving of the great mysteries of life that was rooted in our species' connection with the rest of the earth, rather than detached and alienating, as I had found the Church of Christ (and monotheism more generally).

Visits to the above-names sites served this purpose for me: I found direct aesthetic, spiritual, and mythological connections between the amazingly beautiful and well-designed cathedrals and monasteries of Europe, the towering forests of the Pacific Northwest, and the astounding environment inside the cave at Font-de-Gaume.

My own photos of the Font-de-Gaume cave are not in digital format so I can't show them, but below are some photos I found on the Internet:

Short trail to Font de Gaume cave entrance.

Font de Gaume cave entrance.

Some images of the interior here.


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