by Richard W. Wise
Author: The Dawning: 31,000 BC
I find the altered states explanation problematic. If the painting are non-rational projections of our subconscious or the result of our brain's internal structure, why are they not more fantastical? The artists, at least in Europe, created realistic, naturalistic depictions. Lewis-Williams points to the fact that the images are not grounded, not part of a scene. The animals depicted appear to float—their hooves often missing or relaxed. This is particularly evident at Altamira but less so at Lascaux.
While it is true that these paintings do not obey the rules of 19th-century landscape painting, at Chauvet, we see a vignette—a pride of lions—ears swept back—clearly stalking and in a panel just in front of them a group of prey animals. In another series of panels, we see horses, aurochs, and ibex. Though there is no evident ground line, these animals are in motion, in natural poses, with their leg muscles tensed. Two rhinos face off! These animals, which predate the depictions at Altamira by some twenty thousand years, are engaged. They do not float languorously across the ceiling. Complete pictorial hoove development did not appear before the Magdalenian Period, about 14,000 years BP.
These ancient painters sourced and prepared technically sophisticated coloring media. The list of natural minerals includes a wide variety of iron oxides, ochres, hematite, iron peroxide, black and grey magnetite and silicates, such as: limonite and iron hydroxide. The list goes on. Some of these minerals were sourced twenty-five miles or more from the cave. They then had to be processed, which included grinding, removal of impurities and precisely controlled heat treatment to purify the colors.
The painting of the precisely laid out, fifty-five-foot-long frieze in Lascaux's Hall of the Bulls also required scaffolding as did the paintings in the apse.
If Mr. Bacon, et al, is correct and the images served a didactic purpose associated with the natural cycle of reproduction, they were rationally conceived, not the hallucinatory result of drug-induced visions. The neurological theory also purports to explain religion, the beginnings of social stratification and, ultimately, why, as Rousseau once said: "Man was born free but is everywhere in chains. Wow! More on this later.