And now again for something completely different: not to belabor the point but the discovery, from about 10 years ago, that Lascaux’s Rotunda was actually flooded w/ light by the setting sun of the summer solstice (and that the light subsequently disappeared into the depths of the cave’s “axial gallery”) is a lesson in how reevaluating old assumptions (i.e. “the cave was steeped in darkness & lit w/ torches”) can literally shed completely new light on the truth. For all the ink that’s been spilled on the “scene in the well” it took a long time before anyone thought to compare what’s going on inside the cave to what’s going outside in Nature. Not only does the bird-headed staff represent precisely a North/South axis, but the two “axes” that cross the “scene” are aligned with 1) the point(s)  on the horizon where the sun of the summer solstice rises in the summer (bison’s tail) and sets in the winter, and 2)  the point(s) on the horizon where the sun rises in the winter and sets in the summer (rhino’s tale).

Lesson: assume gingerly.

 

 

PS The previous assumption (e.g. Bataille), simply put, was that the entire cave was steeped in darkness. Not so. Before the collapse of the original entrance (which preserved the paintings) the Rotunda (“Salle des Taureaux”) was flooded w/ solstitial light. I guess the point is that the cave itself was something of a natural wonder: it “received” light into its depths on the summer solstice & these prehistoric people realized it & tripped out. The paintings on the north wall of the Rotunda (starting w/ the so-called “Unicorn”) can thus be read as a series of ”constellations” crossing the night sky after sunset on the solstice. The whole cave would thus function as something of a “solar temple,” not unlike, say, Stonehenge (Chauvet, 18,000 years older, is a different sort of natural wonder). Basically, what it shows is some guy getting a hard-on, thinking (dreaming) about the universe & all the stuff in it…Cf. Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez, “Lascaux et les astres,”  Les dossiers d’archéologie, June 2008.