The ancient artwork that dates back to about 13,000 BCE, provides an interesting, yet mysterious, insight into the early Magdalenian culture.
Art has been around for ages. In fact, it's the prehistoric cave painting that has helped us gauge the evolution of humankind with respect to their surroundings. That being said, it is almost impossible to find a prehistoric sculpture that is intact and not just in the form of remains that archeologists have to piece together. That's why it left archeologists in southwest France rejoicing when they found a small, complex sculpture of two bison which was sculpted in clay. Situated in a system of three large caves, which is adjacent to the River Volp, it is one of the few finest examples of Paleolithic art in Europe. The ancient artwork that dates back to about 13,000 BCE, provides an interesting, yet mysterious, insight into the early Magdalenian culture, reports My Modern Met.
Before we get into the details of the sculpture, let's talk about its location. So, the River Volp streams through the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains which separated Spain and France. Now the Volp flows under rocks for some length before disappearing into caves near the commune of Montesquieu-Avantès. First explored in 1912, the caves had wall engraves, paintings, and palaeolithic art. On further exploration, it turned up a hundred of artwork from the Stone Age Magdalenian age. It was found that during ancient times, people would hunt big games, like horses and reindeer, to survive the Ice Age which was declining.
While carefully searching the three caves, they found bone and ivory fragments carved with animal depictions in the Enlène cave. In one of these, the craftsman chose to depict a horse's head on a hyoid bone of a horse, a chamois or a goat-antelope- a creature that was native to the region- is also carved on the mandible bone of a bison. Although the Enlène had relatively fewer wall arts, the other two had many paintings and engraves. At the Tuc d'Audoubert cave, there were 103 animals depicted on the floors and walls, including reindeer, horses, and big cats. But it seemed like the vision was the most admired animal of them off as 40% of the animal depictions comprised of it.
There were another 250 abstract signs and mysterious figures that were documented in the cave ever since its discovery and one of them known as "the sorcerer" shows a an animal hybrid walking with horns. The design, which was found in the Trois-Frères cave, was initially recorded by Henri Breuil. His sketch shows something that appears to be a man-animal mystical figure. Breuil believed that its painting indicated a magician or a magical figure, the identity and importance of which was abundant. Per one theory, it could have been a lucky symbol for a successful hunt given the sheer number of depictions. Some believe it is a mythical king of the beasts.
But it is a small clay statue found in the Tuc d'Audoubert cave, now known as the Room of the Bisons, which is the most popular. Two bison sculpted in relief can be seen supported by a rock. Although it is around 18 inches tall, its remarkable detail clearly shows a male and female bison mating. 15,000 years have passed since the sculpture was first created, but it still remains in generally good condition. This could be due to the restrictions that allowed no one but researchers to enter the caves.
As for the meaning and importance of the prehistoric bison, some experts suspect that the statue had a ritualistic purpose. Bison were an important food source back then as their bones were found among other artifacts in the cave. Throughout the cave, there were many representations found of the beasts and thus it seems like they held an undeniable important place in the Magdalenian culture,