Prehistoric cave paintings may be found in grottos and on cliffs all over the world, indicating that art has existed from the beginning of time. Intact ancient sculpture, on the other hand, is an uncommon but not impossible find for archeologists. They give intriguing insight into the life of the oldest tribes whenever they are unearthed. A system of three enormous caverns near to the River Volp in southwest France has some of Europe’s best examples of Paleolithic art. A modest, sophisticated sculpture of two bison fashioned in clay is one of the caverns’ treasures. This artwork, which dates back to around 13,000 BCE, provides an intriguing hint to early Magdalenian culture experts.
The River Volp runs through the Pyrenees Mountains, which divide France and Spain. The river flows beneath rocks for a short while in the commune of Montesquieu-Avantès in southern France. The river really vanishes into caves, which Henri Bégoun and his three adolescent boys first investigated in 1912. Technically, the cavern system is made up of three different caves, only two of which are linked. The three caverns, named Trois-Frères (three brothers), Enlène, and Tuc d’Audoubert, are divided into three floors. The river runs through the lowest level, while chambers of all sizes may be found on the remaining floors. The young guys came upon cave walls etched and decorated with paleolithic art inside Tuc d’Audoubert.
The caverns were investigated under the leadership of Émile Cartailhac, a family friend and archeologist, to explore what further riches they could store.
Hundreds of specimens of Stone Age Magdalenian artwork were discovered after careful study of the caverns. During the last Ice Age, these ancient people were known to hunt reindeer, horses, and other large wildlife. Cave paintings, carved bones, and other items have been discovered at their ancient dwelling and ceremonial sites in France and Spain. The discoveries at the three caverns contributed to the culture’s collection of old art. Bone and ivory shards etched with animal images were unearthed in the Enlène cave. A horse’s head is carved on a hyoid bone of a horse, and a chamois (a goat-antelope species common to the region) is carved on a bison’s jaw bone.
The Enlène cave has few examples of wall art, while the other two caves have a wealth of engraved and painted specimens. Abstract club symbols (claviforms) formed like the letter “P” were repeatedly repeated in Tuc d’Audoubert cave, notably in a chamber known as the Gallery of the Claviforms. On the walls and floors of the cave, 103 creatures are represented. Horses, reindeer, and large cats are among them. The bison, on the other hand, appears to have been the most revered of these creatures, accounting for 40% of all animal images. In addition, during the decades since the cave’s discovery, scholars have identified 250 abstract marks and other cryptic figures.
The meanings of some of the strange figures on the walls have piqued scholarly attention, but their origins remain a mystery. A picture of an animal hybrid walking upright with horns known as “the sorcerer” is one of the most renowned examples of the art inside the subterranean system. Henri Breuil was the first to document the pattern, which was discovered in the Trois-Frères cave. He drew what looks to be a supernatural man-animal form. As a result, the picture was dubbed “the Sorcerer” by Breuil, who thought the pattern suggested a mystical person or magician. There are several theories about the identity and significance of this figure. Given the large wildlife displayed on the walls, the figure might have been a lucky emblem for a successful hunt.
It’s possible it’s a fabled beast king. Scholars believe “the sorcerer” must be a significant component of Magdalenian society and connect to cave use because of its distinctive form and conspicuous location.
A little clay figurine in the Tuc d’Audoubert cave’s lowest section, now known as the Room of the Bisons, is perhaps the most intriguing find of the tunnels. A little clay figure of two bison carved in relief is supported by a boulder in the cavern’s floor. The piece is just around 18 inches long, but it is notable for the attention to detail in depicting a male and female bison who look to be on the verge of mating. Their extremely lifelike appearance was achieved via the use of a combination of hand and tool techniques. The clay used was plainly cut from a nearby cavern’s wall. Despite the fact that it has been over 15,000 years since it was created, the sculpture is still in fantastic shape.
This is owing in part to the caverns’ limited access policy, which has been in place since virtually the day they were discovered and enables only researchers to enter.
While the beauty of the prehistoric bison monument cannot be denied, its significance to the cave’s original inhabitants is unknown. Experts believe the bison figure, like most of the other cave art, served a ceremonial purpose. Bison were undoubtedly a major food source, and their bones have been discovered among the cave’s other items. There were other depictions of the monsters everywhere, including one etched on the floor beside the clay figure. These massive monsters appear to have played a significant role in Magdalenian society.
The Magdalenians who lived in the three caverns along the Volp are largely obscured by the thousands of years that have passed since their lives and those of current scholars. The biology of these early people can be studied, and archeologists may study the cave art they left behind. However, the lives of the adults and children whose footsteps are still softly imprinted in clay around the cave floors remain a source of intrigue, study, and speculation.
Hundreds of specimens of Paleolithic art by the Magdalenian people were discovered in three caverns near the Volp River in France in the early twentieth century.
A modest, complex statue of two bison—a magnificent and uncommon example of Stone Age sculpture—is included in this collection.
The significance of the cave art is mostly unknown, but it provides a glimpse into the life of early people 15,000 years ago.