The caves of Lascaux

17,000 years ago, some Palaeolithic artists painted on the walls of the Lascaux cave maps of the sky. Here are the conclusions of Chantal Jegues-Wolkiewiez, presented at a conference in Milan a year ago.

Sistine Chapel of Prehistory

Perigord, the Vezere valley, 2 kilometers from the town of Montignac, is sprinkled with at least 200 archaeological sites, dating from prehistory. These include Lascaux cave. Discovered accidentally by some children in 1940, the cave hides inside it numerous drawings and rock paintings representing bulls, lions, horses and wizards. And, although there are other caves that abound in rock paintings, Lascaux remains unparalleled, being called, in a word, the Sistine Chapel of prehistory. Unfortunately, the smoke from the lighting of the enthusiasts who came here to admire the frescoes from the Magdalenian era began to cover the paintings, which made the access of visitors restricted.

The drawings have lights and shadows

Currently, a small group of archaeologists and astronomers perform a little ordinary work. Standing on their knees, in the light of some oil lamps, the researchers carefully study the rock paintings, making them clearer at the same time. For this purpose, colors prepared from minerals are used, as found in the cave. A simple brush stroke and on the walls of the cave appears a wonderful horse, brown in color. Something farther outlines a deer in wonderful shades of ocher, a black bull, then a scorpion, a lion, an unicorn … Each animal is painted in the fresco, using two distinct techniques: a contour of the lines of the body, followed by a spray. of the paint through a tube. The drawings have lights and shadows, having a plan of construction, an idea of ​​composition, which proves that the painters in Lascaux possessed a much more advanced culture than the average culture of our people from the country says Robert Charroux in his well-known Book of the Worlds. forgotten. Researchers from around the world have been trying for decades to find explanations for the strength and skill with which these paintings were executed, but especially for the purpose for which they were executed.

Theories related to rock paintings

So far, there have been many hypotheses that allow the understanding of cave paintings, the work of our very distant ancestors. In the nineteenth century, researchers assumed that so-called primitive artists created art for the sake of art and this view was accepted long afterwards. Then this hypothesis took its place and, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the researchers assumed that the authors of the cave paintings were the hunters, who tried to determine by these drawings the gods to help them come to the animals. It was therefore assumed that these drawings were of a ritual nature, the whole theory being called the hunting magic. Many researchers have opposed this hypothesis, issuing another, according to which all cave paintings were arranged in such a way as to imagine a story, a myth, related to these animals. But this hypothesis also generated doubts from the researchers and many rushed to fight it.

Drawings were discovered, as we have seen, not long ago in the Lascaux cave. Since they were discovered, the specialists have spoken about the secret force of this true Sistine Chapel from the prehistoric period. And here, now, Chantal Jegues-Wolkiewiz advances the hypothesis that the painters of the prehistoric period drew not drawn pictures, but … maps of the sky, with its many constellations: On the interior walls of the cave are painted nothing but constellations: Capricorn, Taurus, Scorpio and a few others, the researcher announced, sparking ovations on the one hand, outrage on the other in the room. As expected, those who rejected this idea from the beginning stated that the first observations of heaven were documented 5,000 years ago, and not 17,000 years ago, according to the theory, which they named. -the Chantal theory. To argue his hypothesis, Chantal Jegues-Wolkiewiez spent a lot of time in this cave, studying paintings from the Paleolithic period. Soon she was joined by Jean-Michel Geneste, the archaeologist responsible for the preservation of the paintings in the Lascaux cave, which was with her throughout this period of research work.

A map of the sky, 17,000 years ago

It all started when I decided to check my theory, says Chantal. At the time the drawings were executed, according to my theory, the sun rays had to enter through the cave entrance and reach the Taurus Hall. Everything was as I imagined. On June 21, 1999 we were there with Jean-Michel and we realized that now, during the solstice, the rays of the Sun penetrated the cave in exactly the same way, as when the old painters landed on the walls of the cave their famous paintings. . So it turned out that they had chosen as a place of work one opposed to entering the cave. That way, they could see the sun during the day and the stars at night!

The animals symbolized constellations

Stunned by these assumptions, Chantal began to look for ways to prove his hypothesis. If indeed the rock paintings represented the constellations arranged in the sky in a certain period, one had to necessarily find out if then the constellations had been arranged in the sky as they were on the cave walls. Using the computer, Chantal reconstructed a map of the sky, as it was 17,000 years ago. He then compared it to the cave drawings in the cave, finding that everything coincided. It meant, therefore, that the strange animal on the walls of the cave was nothing more than the representation of the constellation of Capricorn, as it could be seen by entering the cave, in that prehistoric period.

Pros and cons of Chantal theory

Many researchers do not hide their skepticism regarding the theory emitted by the French researcher. Among them is Denis Bjalou, a collaborator with the Museum of Natural History, who said firmly: This interpretation has nothing to do with science. Astronomer Gerard Zarnivie, from the University of Montpellier, who checked Chantal’s calculations, states: Now it is clear to me that the people from the Paleolithic had sufficient astronomical knowledge to paint the constellations. These drawings refer, indeed, to the moments of solstices from that prehistoric period. Unfortunately, astronomy has taken a different position than archeology, and this while people viewed the sky as a natural roof, above the head, as an integral part of their daily lives. Jean-Michel Geneste, a specialist in the prehistoric period and Chantal’s collaborator, says, on the other hand: These researches are systematic and are not based solely on certain beliefs. Chantal presented us with an interesting hypothesis and this is a great achievement, even if her theory will need further substantiation. In any case, the hypothesis that paleolithic people needed stars to calculate time and predict seasonal changes is as real as possible. Alexander Marchak advanced such a theory, following the study of objects from the Paleolithic period and of the drawings on them, which mainly depicted the phases of the Moon. The solstice was a special period, which served as a reference point for measuring time during the Paleolithic period, he states in his book The Roots of Civilization.

Many researchers are interested in Chantal’s work. These include Jean Clodt, a renowned researcher from France: This hypothesis was verified in the most serious way. It is no wonder that paleolithic people were interested in stars. If we remember, the first Taurus Hall was opened on the day of the spring equinox. So it turns out that it was illuminated by the rays of the Sun at a certain time of the year. This is precisely how much people in the Paleolithic Sun gave their interest. I believe that there is a concordance between the drawings on the cave walls and what is seen in the sky and I think that perhaps the paleoastronomical hypothesis will be confirmed here in Lascaux.

Chantal has no time to pay any attention to the critics. She still has many other things to explain, especially about the way people in prehistory were oriented by stars, without leaving the cave: I am convinced that further research will follow, as I will continue my study in this quiet place, located on the banks of the Dordogne river. Until all is clear, it is certain that those who painted with such art the frescoes in the cave at Lescaux were not primitive. However, nothing happened later. Not only did the people of Lascaux not invent the shotgun and bicycle dust, but they also disappeared. One reason explains the sudden and total cessation of the Magdalenian civilization: a gigantic cataclysm that destroyed them, says Robert Charroux in the Book of World Masters.