Cave Painting Puzzle Assembled

Between 17,000 to 20,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic Period, the cave complex at Lascaux, near the French village of Montignac—to cite a prime example—became decorated with prehistoric art. As a result of the intensive and prolonged efforts of early prehistorians, that information has not been in question for many years—the works are Stone Age. Henri Breuil empirically studied the cave paintings in France and beyond, beginning more than 100 years ago. Ethnologist André Leroi-Gourhan later studied cave art across Europe and produced statistical information. The two men took different qualitative and quantitative approaches in their thorough and careful examination of caves containing paintings and produced results that, taken as an amalgamated body of knowledge, enable conducting a definitive meta-analysis.

Although Breuil and Leroi-Gourhan were able to identify patterns in the data they collected and classified, the purpose, meaning, and source of inspiration for these Stone Age artworks has remained a mystery, although there have been simplistic theories based on presumptions about our ancient ancestors. Breuil, a Catholic priest, suggested that the images represented “hunting magic,” images used in ritualistic pre-hunt ceremonies. Another reasonable theory has it that the caves were decorated with symbols and likenesses of animals by tribal shamans who used the darkness to enter into trances, conjure visions, and paint. PluribusOne™ has considered the essential body of knowledge, existing theories, and related speculations and applied our Noetitek™ system in order to interpret and assemble the puzzle-pieces into a clearer picture:

First, we see the Stone Age people as having been more cognitively developed and more metaphysically aware than prehistorians have believed. We see them as having harnessed the power of imagination enough to develop useful tools—stick and stone technologies—as a side effect of having the broader ability to render intangible ideas in a tangible manner, including the ability to render things that they perceived as individuals by way of shared visual symbols. The cave paintings are described as including images of “animals and symbols,” but all of the artworks are symbolic—e.g., a picture of a horse is not a horse and a highly abstract rendering of a horse is basically a symbol within a symbol. With this level of cognition, they would have had the further ability to connect and classify patterns of Nature. That they linked patterns in the sky and in the everyday subtle rhythms of life with blatant patterns experienced in their immediate physical environment is evidenced in various artworks rendered on cave walls.

Question one: What was the source of inspiration for Stone Age cave paintings?

As we see it, the source of inspiration was tethered to the first stage of the hunter-gatherers’ neurological and intellectual development: recognition of opposites, of this-versus-that, day versus night, hot and cold (dyads), as part of a desire for knowledge and understanding. Because the drive to reproduce and preserve the tribe and species was dominant, the dyadic thought processing associated with examining male biological functioning versus female biological functioning—and having had the curiosity to pursue an intellectual grasp of the interlacing of those functions—led these people to consider all aspects of their environment (whether in the sky, or on the earth, or under the earth) in terms of sexuality. It is not surprising that the art focused—at both the lower and higher levels of their symbol-making—mainly on creatures that reproduced similarly to humans. Yet these “primitives” were aware of their own biological and neurological uniqueness, which is the reason why, we say, the artists always depicted humans via the more abstract level of symbolism—i.e., it was not out of a sense of shame or modesty, as prehistorians generally believe, but in acknowledgement of a hierarchy that set them apart from the lower life-forms that they hunted for food and clothing.

Questions two and three: What was the cave paintings’ meaning for the Stone Age people, and what was the purpose of these beautifully and powerfully decorated caves?

The meaning and purpose was, we conclude, physical and practical as well as metaphysical and proto-religious. We see truth in the widely accepted interpretation that the caves involved practical magic as well as shamanic journeying, intentions that must have intersected in rituals. Unlike other theorists that we are aware of, we further see these decorated caves as having served the community as secluded, secure, and sometimes guarded places designated for engagement in both private copulation trysts and communal sex ceremonies—spaces sanctified for the veneration, preservation, and expansion of the tribe and species. Prehistoric humans would have been most vulnerable to harm during coitus, and we can be sure that they were also sensible enough to want their sexual activity to be as comfortable and pleasurable as possible.

The kinds of images and their patterns of distribution within the caves support the above idea, and the overlay of symbols as well as the symbolism of the cave (or cave system) also backs this conclusion. For example, the mostly male animal symbolism at the entrance to the womb-like interior of a decorated cave reflects recognition of the fact that the male penis entering the female vaginal opening begins the generative process. The mixture of male and female symbols—and more female than male—in the central area reflects the fact that babies of both genders gestate in that corresponding vicinity of the female body, and may also reflect their observation that more females were birthed than males. In this schema, the overwhelming predominance of male symbols at the back of the cave evidences an elementary understanding that the male seed is deposited at a deep point prior to fetal development.

Cosmologically, these prehistoric community caves represent, first of all, the Divine Feminine—female energy at large—while the artful decorations signify the complementary role of male energy in the synthesizing and bringing forth of all things, not only human progeny. The three primary abstract symbols found in the caves: the phallus, the vulva, and the female body in profile, symbolize the male, the female, and the Divine Feminine. Based on our overall analysis, the entirety of each embellished cave setting together with its inner sanctum activities served as both a place of sexual stimulation and reverential expression of the mysterious cosmic patterns above as resonant in those of the nurturing Earth Mother below and in the design of various creatures she spawned. As an organic part of this, the painted caves must have additionally served as centers for education and initiation.


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