"Heritage, Part One"

Seventeen-year old Marcel Ravidat and a group of his friends in September, 1940 discovered the entrance to an underground network of caves in Lascaux France when Marcel’s dog became stuck in a hole.  After pulling it to safety, the boys were presented with artwork that had been shielded from the elements for what is estimated to be 17,000 years.  Inside the caves they discovered a series of crude paintings and engravings.


    They did not know they had stumbled upon 

     the earliest known example of human artistic expression.


The drawings were presumably part of an elaborate magical ritual designed to ensure the Paleolithic-era hunter-artists a productive bounty.  Perhaps a mystical or pseudo-spiritual element was present in their motives; but I prefer to believe mankind has always had the foresight and sense of wonder to document his surroundings in an artistic way.  Inside the cave were two large spaces with a zoo of images decorating the walls:


     Bulls and bears danced with horses and ibexes while
     many foreign-to-France figures like hyenas and
     lions rubbed shoulders with reindeer and rhinos.  

     Among the throng was the now-extinct woolly mammoth.


One miraculous drawing, etched and painted on limestone,
depicted a spear-pierced and disemboweled bison
that had turned his rage toward a skinny bird-headed man.

The animals were surrounded by mysterious geometric figures and often drawn overlapping each other.  Many have been only partially drawn and all have very skinny, sometimes stick-figured legs.  Even 17,000 years ago, I wonder if this cave was a place of seclusion for a person who had only recently discovered fire-making.


      Perhaps even in Paleolithic-era France censorship

      and the desire to control other’s artwork ran rampant.


I envision our artist hastily scrawling out animals on a ruddy cave wall hoping not to get caught, or chipping away hurried images before his flickering torch sucked up his oxygen and left him gasping in complete darkness.


     Our caveman has left a legacy, whether it was
     intentional, remains vacuum-packed in our perceptions.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

circa 2004

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