While reading through the Huffington Post the other day, I can into this one, and for a variety of reasons that we'll get to in a moment, had to share it. Here it is important for the reader of this blog to look through the slide show of these paintings, for my comments will be based on a couple of them.
Notably the article states that these cave paintings - almost 5,000 of them! - have not yet been dated. My guess is maybe a thousand to two thousand years old, at best. Assuming that these paintings are not clever forgeries (which certainly seems unlikely, after all, who would go to all the trouble to hoax almost 5,000 paintings in caves? and for what purpose?), then the article raises some interesting questions.
The statement that concerns us here is this one:
"The ancient artists painted humans, animals and other scenes from nature using a palette including red, yellow, black and white, reports the AFP. The colors were created using organic dyes and minerals, according to the INAH press release."
I don't know about you, but "humans, animals and other scenes from nature" do not, to my mind, adequately describe paintings or "scenes" such as this:
I have enhanced the color and levels a bit, so that you can see how stunning this picture is...except, I don't see much resembling humans, animals, and "other scenes from nature." There are lots of arrows with circles around the shafts, and, well, a basic geometric obsession. One might even say a geometric dynamism, suggestive of strife or conflict.
Then there was this stunning slide, and again, I have tried to enhance the original colors and levels simply so the vivid details here are quite visible:
One might see the center figure as a highly abstract stick-figure "human" inside some sort of box, but what about the two boxes on the right of the painting? What are they? Can one honestly look at them and maintain they are depictions of humans, animals, or scenes from nature?
I will be honest... my mind was racing when I saw these, and I will readily admit, I am speculating wildly again, beyond even the "high octane" ideas I normally like to indulge in on this site:
Why paint so many pictures? And why paint them in what appears to be such a dramatic, dynamic, almost obsessed and abstract, symbolic style? Indeed, it appears to my non-artistic, non-archeological eyes that these artists, whoever they may have been, were in a hurry to record something, to capture a lot of details as quickly as possible, before the inevitable distortions of fading memories crept in. These were not artistic creations that were labored over, with dyes and pigments carefully selected, and images and symbols internally debated in the mind before being painted. These were done in a hurry, but yet, with care and deliberation. These two paintings leaped out at me precisely because they did not appear to be describing "humans, animals, or scenes from nature," but rather, something technical or technological, and a dramatic event. The statement in the article struck me as an attempt to put out a "meme or template" of interpretation, before the stunning nature of some of the paintings sinks in. They are all stunning, they are all beautiful, but these two in particular I found to be profoundly provocative and disturbing.
I cannot avoid the thought: someone was trying to preserve a record of something, the only question is, what?
See you on the flip side.