Through these early achievements in presentation and abstraction, we see a newfound mastery of the environment and a revolutionary accomplishment in the intellectual development of humankind. The painted walls of the interconnected series of caves in Lascar in southwestern France are among the most impressive and well-known artistic creations of Paleolithic humans. Although there is one human image, most of the paintings depict animals found in the surrounding landscape, such as horses, bison, mammoths, ibex, aurochs, deer, lions, bears, and wolves.
The depicted animals comprise both species that would have been hunted and eaten as well as those that were feared predators No vegetation or illustration of the environment is portrayed around the animals, who are represented in profile and often standing in an alert and energetic stance. Their vitality is achieved by the broad, rhythmic outlines around areas of soft color. The animals are typically shown in a tinted perspective, With the heads depicted in profile but the pair Of horns or antlers rendered frontally visible.
The intended result may have been to imbue the images With more visual power and magical properties. The combination of profile and frontal perspectives is an artistic idiom also observed in ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian art. At Lascar and Chaplet another magnificently painted cave in France, images of animals are superimposed on top of earlier depictions, which suggests that the motivation for the paintings may have been in the act of portraying the animals rather than in the artistic effect of the final composition. However, their repose remains obscure.
Most of the paintings are located at a distance from the cave’s entrance, and many of the chambers are not easily accessible. This placement, together with the enormous size and compelling grandeur of the paintings, suggests that the remote chambers may have served as sacred or ceremonial meeting places. In addition to the painted images, Lascar is rich with engravings of animals as well as abstract designs. In the absence of natural light, these works could only have been created with the aid of torches and stone amps filled with animal fat.
The pigments used to paint Lascar and other caves were derived from readily available minerals and include red, yellow, black, brown, and violet. No brushes have been found, so in all probability the broad black outlines were applied using mats of moss or hair, or even with chunks of raw color. The surfaces appear to have been covered by paint blown directly from the mouth or through a tube; color-stained, hollowed-out bones have been found in the caves.