cave paintings & calcite skulls

cave bear skull, covered in calcite after resting in a cave for millenia

i’ve been reading about the pleistocene (the last lost world) and its discussion of the cave at lascaux inspired me to finally watch cave of forgotten dreams.   the documentary turned out to be terse, moody and beautiful (as always with herzog) and i found the image of that calcite-covered cave bear skull so incredible that i screen capped it to share with rose, and you.

the chauvet cave has some of the oldest cave paintings, painted approximately 32,000 years ago.  they were made using a rare technique, in which the walls of the cave were scraped down to reveal a paler background which designs were applied to.  the paintings themselves suggest movement and depict a wider range of fauna than most other pleistocene painting sites, and are especially notable in the large volume of predators. inside chauvet cave, a cave bear skull sits on an altar-like stone, surrounded by charcoal residue, and facing the cave’s original entrance, which suggests the possibility of worship.  no wonder they painted so many lions, hyenas, bears, etc!

something eerie that i just read: “Lascaux is, with paintings up to 17,000 years old, much younger than Chauvet. Time between today and Lascaux is about as much as between Lascaux and Chauvet.” the earth is so unimaginably old…what does 17,000 years old look like?  5,000?  even 1,000 is really difficult to grasp.  in 1,000 years, everything and everyone you’ve ever known and loved will be gone.  even the landscapes you love will have changed, some so much as to be unrecognisable.


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