Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Altamira Caves

A Journey into Art so where should I begin with this first post?
The Art of Prehistoric Man seems like a good starting place, it might even give us some idea of why we make art and what it’s all about.
The creation of things for use is easy to understand: tools, clothing, shelter and weapons all had a utilitarian purpose for early man as they still do today. But why would we decorate things? Amazingly early in history we find decoration: pattern being added to pots and weapons and clothes, and later to shelters. This decoration seems to serve no material or biological purpose. It does not make the shelter more secure or keep the body warmer or safe from harm. Its actual creation means effort and patience for a postponed mental pleasure. Is that pleasure anticipated while the work is in progress? Or is the pleasure in the process of making? It's a strange and apparently meaningless undertaking that throws a spotlight on the nature of Man.

The illustrations I have chosen for this first post are from the Altamira Caves near Santander in Northern Spain.
These caves were discovered in the late nineteenth century by a huntsman or perhaps it would be more correct to say that the fox he was chasing did by taking refuge there, and that the huntsman's dog had followed the fox, and the huntsman had followed the dog! He in turn told Santavola, a local archaeologist who went to the cave to look for any clues of occupation by prehistoric Man. Suddenly his daughter, going deeper into the cave, pointed to the flattish ceiling of the great cavern and cried :
" Look, father ; bulls ! "

Dating from 15,000 BCE (the Upper Palaeolithic period) they were the first prehistoric cave paintings to be discovered. Since then much older paintings and art have been discovered.

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