A light-hearted survey course that I, Alexis Clements, put together for my former work colleagues upon the occasion of our weekly beer drinking celebration. Some of the links are dead (I apologize in advance for that), but some people seem to enjoy this, so I've left it up. Click here to return to my homepage.

A Brief Survey of Artistic Representations of Social Interaction:
From the Caves of Lascaux to the Halls of CIW

Unit 1 - Charging Bull

A painting from The Shaft of the Dead Man in the Lascaux Cave,
depicting a man as he confronts a bison while a rhinocerous flees to the left.

On a cool autumn day, in the year 1940, four teenage boys, spending their afternoon exploring the hills above the Vezere River near the town of Montignac in the Dordogne Valley of south central France, stumbled upon a gap in the earth left by a long-since fallen pine tree. Like all good teenage boys, they could not help but get up to some sort of mischief. And so, after sliding down through this portal to unknown worlds they discovered what is now considered one of the most important archaeological finds of the century, if not of all time-the winding cave at Lascaux, with it's vivacious depictions of charging bison, bulls, and intrepid hunters, crudely rendered in natural pigments by the hands of the lonely cave dwellers of this world, some 15,000-17,000 years ago.

Though there is still some disagreement about whether or not the paintings and etchings that litter the walls of the Paleolithic cave at Lascaux are actually the earliest examples of artistic representation, there can be no doubt as to their impact on the social lives of the cavedwellers who created them.

Detail of above depiction.

While it is difficult to know precisely what these people talked about in their dark and dank underworld before the paintings came about, one can only assume that conversations all too often focused on arguments about who was the last one to haul firewood, who was the next in line to gut the bison, who smelled the worst, or who was going to go out to the stream to fetch the drink. Tired of these endless and circuitous ramblings, one among the group, either out of sheer boredom or in hopes of giving his or her favorite enemy a good scare, began painting a stirring scene along the craggy walls of the dwelling. And whether or not these paintings ever achieved their intended effect, one can be sure that for days, if not years after, the cave dwellers spent many an hour berating the poor fool who made these first attempts at art.

Related Links:
Offical Website for Cave at Lascaux
Plato's "Allegory of the Cave"
Two articles about contemporary cave dwellers living in the Shaanxi Province of China. (1, 2)