Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Man's Greatest Technology... The Beginning

Have you ever wondered when writing started, when man first began making marks on surfaces? If making marks was the beginning, then surely writing even in the guise of art is man's oldest, most valuable technology. More importantly, writing led to all of our other technologies.

About twenty thousand years ago, Paleolithic people began descending into an extensive complex of caverns in Southern France to carve and paint on the cave's walls depictions of animals, people, and symbols. What drove these men, and hopefully women, into what I image would be a very dark and scary place? How long had they practiced this ritual? As a former art teacher, I can tell you these are not ill thought out childish works, but wonderful and imaginative art.

A teenage boy found the caves in 1940. Opened after World War II, visitors flocked to see the caves, but France closed access only eighteen years later in 1963. Lets see, that is seventeen to twenty thousand years hidden and only eighteen years public? Wow! At least we now know they exist.

Have you ever visited a cave with Paleolithic paintings and symbols painted on the walls? No, because you cannot anymore, they caves are closed to the public and to most scientists and researchers too. You must receive special permission to visit. Otherwise, we would destroy these relics of our ancient past, certainly by those trying to cart off a piece for their own, or by someone destroying a piece for the pleasure received, or by the fact visitors keep breathing. In the years the caves were open, the keepers found the carbon dioxide in our breath damaged the paintings, not to mention all the damage done by bacteria and fungus humans tracked in.

However, you can take a virtual tour. Click on: Las Caux Caves and then click on the 'visite de la grotto' for a tour. It is utterly amazing. Does it make you wonder why? What drove these people? These are not small paintings  as some are over thirty feet in length. These mark makers ignited or expressed something inherent in humans: the desire to leave information for others, evidence they lived and thought. Those privileged to learn the art of leaving marks have been doing so ever since.

Images are from Wikipedia Commons and public domain.


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Really well stated. Man has always wanted to leave his mark, but opening the caves to the public again for all your collection of reasons and adding artificial and natural light would destroy them for the scientists to come.

Rhobin Lee Courtright said...

It's a shame, but the truth. The virtual tour while a brief but inadequate look, gives a hint to the wonder.

Big Mike said...

Very informative, Rhobin. Thank you.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)