Herodotus Returns

35,000-year-old cave art found in Romania
June 15, 2010, 6:32 am
Filed under: Cave Paintings, Rock Art, Romania | Tags: , , ,

Romanian experts have discovered the most ancient cave paintings found to date in Central Europe, aged up to 35,000 years old, Romanian and French scientists said Sunday. Everything I’ve ever read about Central/Eastern European prehistoric art cites abundant portable artifacts, like figurines and small models, but a dearth of cave art. This, obviously, changes that. It’s good to have Jean Clottes’s stamp of approval here. No pictures released of the art yet. I’m wondering if styles will reflect what we see in Western Europe. Theoretically, the people who painted Lascaux passed through Romania on their way to France.

The pictures show animals including a buffalo, a horse and even a rhinoceros.

“It is for the first time in Central Europe that… art this old has been found and confirmed”, said a joint statement from the Romanian Federation of Speleology — the scientific study of caves — and Jean Clottes, an expert working with UNESCO.

It is a “major discovery” and “its authenticity is certain”, Clottes, a specialist in prehistoric art, told AFP. He was called on by Romanian specialists to certify the discovery.

His team included cavers, a paleontologist, an archaeologist and two cave art specialists and estimated the drawings were “attributable to a period of ancient rock art, the Gravettian or the Aurignacian (between 23,000 and 35,000 years ago).”

Carbon tests must confirm these estimates, they said.

The black-paint drawings, discovered three or four months ago in the Coliboaia cave in northwestern Romania, depict animals, including a buffalo, a horse, bear heads and rhinoceros, federation chief Viorel Traian Lascu said.


San bushmen paintings Inanke Cave, Zimbabwe
January 26, 2010, 11:56 am
Filed under: Cave Paintings | Tags: , ,

Check out this Wall Street Journal article from art historian Michael Fitzgerald on the 5,000-10,000-year-old San paintings in the Inanke Cave in Zimbabwe. Unlike the cave paintings in Europe which will never be understood beyond conjecture, scholars can actually interpret the San paintings with considerable accuracy. In the 19th century, linguists learned the ‘click’ language of the San Bushmen, enabling them to record a culture that has changed very little across millennia. The paintings, they discovered, depict spiritual rituals, in which a shaman enters a trance state and travels to the spirit world. The shaman is often depicted in anthropomorphic states. There’s a lot of literature on these paintings; the book I’ve read is Mind in the Cave, by David Lewis-Williams, which I recommend without reservation.

Unlike the dark, underground caves of Lascaux or Altamira in Europe, those in Matobo are located high up granite slopes in shelves scooped from the sides of the hills. They are shelters filled with light and open to surrounding vistas. Beneath Inanke’s encompassing dome, herds of giraffe, eland, kudu, ostrich and duiker, among others, fill a broad painted band running the length of the back wall just above eye level. They offer a celebration of life equal to any of the mural cycles of the Renaissance. Generally rendered in silhouettes of ochre ranging from tan to mulberry in tone, this dense profusion of wildlife includes a giraffe so subtly modeled in yellow and white that one of the leading experts on African rock art, Peter Garlake, has called it the finest animal painting in the country. Next to this vivid creature, seven stick-figure men march in file with weapons on their shoulders, and many other human figures are scattered among the animals. But these are far from simple hunting scenes.

Rest of the article here.