Prehistoric Art in Caves and Rock-shelters


PREHISTORIC art is a branch of prehistoric archaeology or prehistory, and, as a study, is comparatively new. Although the discovery of the Altamira paintings was made many years ago, their palaeolithic age was not accepted until after Riviere's discoveries at La Mouthe (Dor-dogne). Riviere, in the course of digging out the Magdalenian deposits of this cave, discovered an entrance leading to a long passage behind. The entrance had been completely obstructed by undisturbed layers of the deposit. Man could only have entered the inner cave previous to the deposition of these datable layers. In the cave behind were found a number of engravings, many of them quite primitive, and a few paintings. Once the palaeolithic age of these drawings was accepted, M. Piette recalled the then almost forgotten paintings of Altamira. The fact that animals like the bison were found painted there {i.e. animals long ago extinct in Spain) further vindicated their palaeolithic age, and any stray sceptic was finally won over by M. Cartailhac, when he published his famous retractation.

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BURKITT, M. Prehistoric Art in Caves and Rock-shelters. Nature 107, 460–464 (1921).

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