DNA analysis shows that prehistoric cave paintings of horses were realistic depictions of the Paleolithic environment, including the leopard-spotted horse.
Prehistoric Cave Paintings of Horses Were Spot-On, Say Scientists
Long thought by many as possible abstract or symbolic expressions as opposed to representations of real animals, the famous Paleolithic horse paintings found in caves such as Lascaux and Chauvet in France likely reflect what the prehistoric humans actually saw in their natural environment, suggest researchers who conducted a recent DNA study.
“However, our research removes the need for any symbolic explanation of the horses. People drew what they saw, and that gives us greater confidence in understanding Paleolithic depictions of other species as naturalistic illustrations.”
Yes, Paleolithic people were concrete visual thinkers! They could not “hunt for” and eat purple dinosaurs, nor shop the farmer’s market for gourmet chili peppers and gluten-free artisanal breads. They didn’t make “cartoon” drawings of actual living animals so that they could make stuffed animals with little appliqued hearts on them to sell online: they killed and ate horses.
They did access interior cave chambers – a feat that was at times astounding, in order to teach hunting and survival skills to the kids; to teach them animal behavior, hunting strategies, teamwork and safety, and which animals were seasonally available and where – which is what hunters still do.
This was done visually – an obvious fact. Real “hunts” were portrayed as “picture stories” which could be referred to again and again to impart critical information on hunting behavior that was successful, and behavior that was fatal. Doing this in a cave (a literal visio-spatial “model” for mammalian reproduction anatomy) not only protected the actual drawings, (they are still present many thousands of years later) but encouraged the earth to “birth” new animals to replace those that die. Pregnant animals are featured: is this a “conservation” reminder to not kill females that are about to increase and perpetuate a prey species, a common prohibition today? Human bodies were left in caves, notably with red pigment – literally blood – the skeletons meant perhaps to supply “mother earth with “scaffolds” or models on which to build new “people”. It can be noted that the “origin” stories of many human groups claim that their ancestors emerged from the earth’s interior, an idea in accordance with cave, and cave burial activities. As “culture” collected, artificial caves – mounds, pyramids, temples and “whole body” burials and tombs sufficed where no caves existed.
Was this a “supernatural activity”? I think not. Reverence for the animals came from absolute necessity, stress and fear and similar status in the animal environment; humans were in as much danger of injury, predation and sudden death as all the other creatures in the food chain. Hunting large animals with “up close” weaponry was no joke: this “identification” of “being in the same boat” as the animals was true empathy, which engendered respect for life, not insincere socially-prescribed clichés as empathy is defined today.
The location of “spirits” (natural physical, chemical and biological forces as observed in movement, change, metamorphosis, growth and decay, could be observed in every animal, plant and object; across the sky, ocean, and land. The world of sense and perception is an interactive system: this is and was true for all living forms. These physical forces were properly seen to “live” in prominent landmarks, springs, streams and lakes, and in unusually-shaped, patterned or colored pebbles; in shells, bones, or other “curious” artifacts found in the environment; collecting these force-containing objects” is the concrete expression of human experience and observation. Material properties, shapes, forms and patterns do have “power” – to teach; to become useful as tools and sources of food, medicine, clothing, shelter and confidence that challenges may be met and overcome through creative use of what is provided by the environment. This potential for utility offers “real” magic: invention.
(Supernatural magic retains the object, or a “copy” of its form, but attributes personal power to whomever possesses the “object” – power achieved by the devotee’s recitation of charms, spells, prayers and ritual actions believed to “seal the deal”. Words are believed to possess power and to corner the power for one’s own use. This principle is blatantly active in the never-ending obsession to find the Holy Grail, the Arc of the Covenant, and myriad other objects, (and LOL) in the “quest” by archaeologists to “dig up, possess and identify” cultural artifacts, thus gaining “ownership” of archaic knowledge. The “interpretation” of a suspiciously high percentage of what archeaologists identify as “sacred ritual religious or spiritual objects”) only adds to the “power” gained; naming and describing confers “ownership” of magic power. Countless peoples have experienced this “appropriation” over the history of Western archaeological activity.
Words have redefined human experience, as an enclosed and limited “supernatural” version of existence; the body (and all physical processes and forms) is believed to be an “illusion” that disguises a hidden “real universe” in which infantile desire dictates a narcissistic “scheme” that defies all reason. Physical reality is no longer the source for the observable environment; an imaginary mental “state” of self-centeredness is given credence as the creative realm. This inversion of cause and effect exists ONLY in the modern human mind, and results in incredible misinterpretation about what the concrete “wild human” brain functioned.