Analysis of the Canvas in the Context of Epoch and Techniques
The prehistorical heritage is not that vast compared to the times when civilizations appeared and humankind developed from primitive survival to primary cultural epochs. First ways of survival and imaginations of people about the world later transformed into more sophisticated and intelligent forms. The Lascaux Cave is more than 20,000 years old, but it is a unique phenomenon with its paintings that are still saved. The paper is aimed to prove that the Hall of the Bulls is a unique historical monument in the world’s culture.
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The three teenagers first discovered the Lascaux Cave accidentally in 1940 while skipping there. It was a system complex of caves with several sections: the Lateral Passage, the Hall of the Bulls, the Shaft of a Dead Man and some others. At that time, this place was not much learned and people did not come there with the touristic purpose. Researchers as well did not know about the unique canvases inside until the first publications appeared after 1940 discover. The international heritage commission estimated the founding as one of the oldest testimony of early civilizations depicting their reality and using first primitive tools. Such an exotic artifact became popular for the tourists willing to see and touch canvases because of being amazed at its age and sizes. The paintings, especially the Hall of the Bulls became interesting for two reasons. First, there was a question about why prehistoric people started to depict animals. Second, many researchers wondered how they did that meaning techniques and tools they used and how they climbed the walls. However, in 1963, the caves were closed from broad auditory due to the damaged condition of the canvases.
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There are a lot of possible theories of the role of Lascaux paintings, and one of them refers to the fact that the first people were so dependent on the success of their hunting that unconsciously started to believe in some mystique powers. They created the entire system of meaningful beliefs that could help them to succeed in hunting. Another theory is that people depicted some actions of the animals as a way to depict own lifestyle and their environment.
Lascaux Cave is one of the oldest examples depicting preconditions for human development and the possible genesis of the beliefs. Conducting a geographical survey of the world existing twenty thousand years ago, it becomes clear that the living conditions of people were too severe. Simultaneously, people started to think about the laws of nature for the first time trying to understand its cycles. Among the theories regarding the cave paintings, there is one assuming that painting encourages good luck in hunting. On Picture 1, there is a depiction of the Bulls at the end of Ice Age. At that time many wild animals became smaller in population, “and some theorize it was because they were over-hunted by humans” (NOAA Satellite and Information Service, 2008).
Considering the lines (which are smooth and deep), once can assume that the process had several stages: a basic sketch and a later gouge of lines, later filled with paint (Looney). The angle of the hall and paintings allows observers to think that work was done by a large group of people since even the manner of depiction is different. In addition, it was physically impossible for one person to make lines and fill them with painting simultaneously holding illumination and mixing colors. According to Bradshaw Foundation, “most of the major images have been painted onto the walls using mineral pigments although some designs have also been incised into the stone”. Some big parts of the wall have a soft calcite surface, which makes it possible to create deep and smooth lines in the cave.
(Pic. 2: The Hall of the Bulls)
Regarding the tools, the archeologists found many sharp stones that possibly were used while making the canvas. The holes in the walls (Pic. 2) were used for the scaffolding of the branches of trees so the masters could get higher up by the wall. The unique quality of the canvas technique is the expressions of the animals. Their faces are very detailed and realistic, which proves artists’ intention to emphasize it. Furthermore, the painting is very dynamic as for the old times, considering the variety of black, brown, gray, and yellow colors. In addition, artists attempted to depict the basic muscles of the animals to express them more realistically. Moreover, The Hall of the Bulls canvas impress with its size, shape, and motion as well as details (one of the bulls even has fur). In the cave, this is one of the largest rooms. Thus, the size of the painting is approximately 11 feet 6 inches long (Looney). In addition, “Each painting of a bull is between 10 and 16 feet long. There are also smaller paintings of cows, horses, deer, and a bear” (Burnham, 2003). It is quite difficult to find common analogs of the same size, techniques, and details all over the world.
In 1963, the Cave was closed for many visitors because of the harmful conditions. The official version is that tourism does not promote preservation of such a valuable heritage. The place became under the threat of disappearing as a lot of infectious fungi affected the walls and the ceiling of the cave. Moreover, some of the lines were damaged and colors became duller in the course of time. The researchers admit some human-fault damages, including cases when people tried to steal small stones from the cave as a souvenir.
However, the international expedition and research team created a replica of the cave which was opened for tourists twenty years after. According to Lubbock (2009), “The Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery – two connecting chambers, holding most of the paintings – was opened underground 200 meters away”. Making a replica took more than a decade but the importance of it is that the paintings are not photocopies of the originals. The archeologists and painters were working on exact imitation of the manner, style, and materials used by the old artists.
Thus, Lascaux Caves have a vital function as a way to explore culture, beliefs, and imagery of the prehistoric period. The discussions on the reasons people started to make paintings produced two theories. One of them turns around the belief that people used it for good luck in hunting since it was the only way to survive in a severe cold climate. The other theory is that it was just a depiction of daily life and the environment of descendants. The biggest value of the Cave and canvas the Hall of the Bulls is its size, technique of mastering, the realistic and detailed depiction of the animals with the usage of different colors. There is clear evidence of using first construction technologies to climb the walls to create substantial paintings using various tools.