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WiseGuy: The Author's Blog

The Painted Caves of Southern France, Part XI: Neanderthals: The Charmed Circle

Ancient Neanderthal ceremonial circle at Bruniquel Cave in Southern France


by Richard W. Wise

Author: The Dawning: 31,000 BC

Copyright 2022 Read More 

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Fabulous Five Star Review of The Dawning: 31,000 BC, from Literary Titan.

The Dawning: 31,000 BC by Richard W. Wise is set in prehistoric times, going back 33,000 years. The story is inspired by the age when the Neanderthals clashed with Homo Sapiens on earth in a battle for domination. The battle for supremacy however, in this fiction is between members of the Cro-Magnon tribe and a clan of pale-skinned Neanderthals. When Lada and Tule are unexpectedly kidnapped by unknown tribesmen and the Cro-Magnon tribe is ransacked, Ejil,  the son of the Cro-Magnon tribe must, together with unlikely allies, save his people. Different kinships and families are broken and forged amid the war. The story also features a tale of young-love blooming in a bloody conflict.


Author Richard Wise provides readers with a fascinating take on the past in this prehistoric historical romance novel. He draws inspiration from tales of ancestral people who once roamed the earth and whose extinction is still a subject of different academic debate. The author displays an obvious flair for history gathered through research. His knowledge about the concept can be gleaned from his insight and vivid descriptions of the habits, mannerisms and techniques of ancestral people before the development of the world.


The barbarism of cavemen in premodern times is evident...The Dawning: 31,000 BC was engaging and I reveled in the author's descriptions of the settings. The emphasis on character development certainly makes the story quite fun and immersive to read. Although, a different era, the experience and customs of these ancestral people are not unfamiliar.


I've read many historical romance novels, but none that go this far back in time. This is a fantastic story that will appeal to fans looking for an accurate depiction of prehistoric times and the strife those people faced, or for any reader looking for a thoughtful love story in the midst of it all.

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The Painted Caves of Southern France, Part IX: Neanderthal Art

Artistic rendering of red ochre scalariform d.rawing on the walls of Cueva de Los Aviones in southeastern Spain. Scientists found this ladder shape made of red horizontal and vertical lines. The artwork dates to more than 64,000 years ago

by Richard W. Wise

Author: The Dawning: 31,000 BC

Copyright 2022


What of the Neanderthals? As part of the research for my novel, The Dawning: 31,000 BC, I have been seriously studying Paleolithic art for about four years. Even in that short time, previously held misconceptions about the brutish nature of Neanderthals—their life and culture—have been crumbling all about me. First, there was the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome and the discovery that--way back in Africa--Homo Neanderthalis and Homo Sapiens Sapiens interbred, making them part of the same species.
The first shock of the trip to Southern France came at the Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzes de Tayak. The museum is located about five hundred feet from our hotel. My wife has a sore ankle, so our guide, Christine Desdemaines-Hugon, author of Stepping Stones and world-renowned expert on Paleolithic art
conducts me on a solo museum tour.
Set in a glass case on the second floor at about eye level, she points out three "crayons," each about the size and shape of my thumb. One is made of charcoal, one of red ochre, and the third is Manganese dioxide. "These," she announces, "were made and used by Neanderthals."
Red ochre and charcoal have many uses, but "Manganese dioxide—she points out—is toxic." Large amounts of this mineral have been found at Neanderthal diggings, and experiments by archeologists have proved that it is useful as a fire accelerant, particularly when powdered.  However, the morphology here suggests a crayon.

According to a 2018 article in National Geographic:
 "In three caves scattered across Spain, researchers found more than a dozen examples of wall paintings over 65,000 years old. At Cueva de Los Aviones, a cave in southeastern Spain, researchers also found perforated seashell beads and pigments that are at least 115,000 years old." 

 A new technique, uranium-thorium dating, used to redate these drawings, analyzes small rounded deposits formed by the evaporation of percolating water in limestone. These deposits are known as cave popcorn. Radioactive uranium decays slowly into thorium at a measurable rate, thus measuring the age of the deposit.
Even with this new technique, the dating of the drawing at Los Aviones has stimulated some controversy. A group of forty-four researchers wrote a critique of the dating method, suggesting that the Uranium-thorium method should be checked using other dating techniques. Archeologist Randall White has written that scrapings of the carbonite crust from one side of this same red ochre drawing have given a date of just 3,100 years ago. As of this writing, the controversy rages on.


Neanderthals and symbolism. Stay tuned for Part X.

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The Painted Caves of Southern France, Part VIII: The Venus figures

Three Venuses: From left to right: Dolni Vestonice (29-25,000 BP. Venus of Willendorf (40-30,000 BP). Venus from Lespuge (26-24,000 BP).

by Richard W. Wise

copyright: 2022


Paleo artists did not limit themselves to drawing, painting and bas-relief; also produced three-dimensional sculpture. These include the famous "Venus" or Dolni figures. The oldest thus far, the Venus of Hohle Fels, dated to the Aurignacian Period (30-40,000 BP), was found in Germany.


These are sculptures of women. Many, though not all, are headless and naked with wide hips, bulging stomachs, legs and distinctly defined vulvas. This has led many experts to view them as votive or fertility objects or perhaps goddesses.


There are stylistic similarities, but they are not all the same. There are fat ones and skinny ones, compact and attenuated Venuses. Some are more, some less abstract. Some, particularly the French examples, are naked (naturally), but some, most notably those found in what is now Russia, are fully clothed. These Russian examples have been tagged: "Venuses in furs." The small statues range from Siberia to Northern Italy and are between 40,000-10,000 years old, attesting to an astonishing artistic continuity.
Like the work of Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore, and Louise Bourgeois---artists strongly influenced by cave art---they demonstrate a very sophisticated ability to reduce form from complex to simple while retaining the essential and evocative. 

This artistic sensibility was not limited to Western Europe or to the female figure. A recent discovery of a 13,500-year-old bird figurine at Linjin in Henan Province demonstrates a similar ability to capture the essential. Though not a representation of the human form, the artist who created this Paleolithic bird reduced and captured what Constantin Brâncuși called: "not the outer form but the idea, the essence of things." For Brâncuși, the abstract is the more real because it captures that essence.

The female form is a recurring figure in Western art. The Venus figures represent a high-water mark in Prehistoric art.
Next: The Art of the Neanderthals

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