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Cave Art
32,000 BC - 11,000 BC

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Paleolithic Art, is the art produced 32,000 to 11,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age. It comprises portable pieces, such as figures or decorated objects carved in bone, antler, or stone or crudely modelled in clay, and cave art in the form of paintings, drawings, and engravings. Some engravings also occur on rocks in the open air. Paleolithic art occurs all over the world but is most abundant in western Europe; and only the art of this area is considered here. 

No single explanation can suffice for the whole of Paleolithic art: it comprises at least two thirds of known art history, covering 25 millennia and a vast area of the world. Portable Paleolithic art has been found at locations ranging from Iberia and North Africa to Siberia, notable concentrations occurring in western, central, and eastern Europe.  Thousands of specimens are known: while some sites yield few or no items of portable art, others contain hundreds. 

France 1979. Cave Art. Grotte de Niaux (Arriège).
  • France 1979.  Grotte de Niaux (Arriège).  
  • France 1968.  Grotte Lascaux.(Dordogne). 
France 1968. Cave Art. Grotte Lascaux (Dordogne).

Paleolithic decorated caves are found from Portugal and southern Spain to northern France. Their occurrence is equally patchy, though it is most abundant in areas rich in decorated objects: chief among these areas are the Périgord, the French Pyrenees, and Cantabrian Spain. There are concentrations in Italy and Sicily and a handful of caves are also known in south-western Germany, Yugoslavia, Romania, and Russia. The current total for Eurasia is about 280 sites. Some contain only one or a few figures, while others, like Lascaux or Les Trois Frères in France, have many hundreds. 

Monaco 1970. Cave Art. Grotte de Lascaux.

Monaco 1949. Cave Art. Institute of Paleontology.

  • Monaco 1970. Grotte de Lascaux. 
  • Monaco 1949.  Institut de Paléontologie.  The stamp was issued for usage on postcards to abroad.  

However, in recent years it has become apparent that Paleolithic people also decorated rocks in the open air. In exceptional circumstances this rock art has survived: so far, engravings that are Paleolithic in style have been found at six sites in Spain, Portugal, and the French Pyrenees. Cave art is therefore not typical of Paleolithic art in general; caves are merely the places where most art has survived.  

 

France 2000. Cave Art. Norbert Casteret, father of modern cave exploring (speleology)

The Father of Modern Cave Exploring (Speleology) was Norbert Casteret (1897-1987), who was honoured with a stamp issued by France 18th September 2000.  He was passionately dedicated to finding underground vestiges of our remote ancestors.  

Casteret was born in the village of Saint-Martory at the base of the French Pyrénées.  One day his parents, led by a peasant, took the five-year-old Norbert into a nearby cavern, and he never overcame his fascination with the "eternal darkness".  

At the age of twenty he rejected a career of law and pursued the study of geology.  His interest in the kindred field of speleology was promptly revived.  

  • France 2000. Norbert Casteret. Portion of the sheetlet "Great Adventurers", (lower right corner of the sheet of six). Scott # B 703.  

Sources and links: 

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