A prehistoric archaeologist’s goal, as per Scupin and DeCorse (2013:5), is to decipher the beliefs and mindset of past societies, particularly early inhabitants of Europe and America, through their material culture, such as the cave art found in Lascaux. This cave, located in southern France, contains what is believed to be one of the oldest artistic representations of wild animals and art; it has captured the interest of numerous scientists, philosophers and historians, all of whom wish to make sense of these enigmatic images (Lippit 2002:20). With the multitude of minds working to decode these images, it comes as no surprise that there are a variety of unique interpretations of these paintings today. Most explanations are formulated through the extrapolation of an analysis conducted upon a specific scene within the larger picture, and seek to understand the ethos of the species painting it. More specifically, the study of the ‘accident scene’ has led to two prominent explanations, which state that these paintings depict the challenges of life, or have religious significance to healing or the hunt. However, both articles indirectly agree that these paintings represent the beginning of humanity’s self-awareness.
To start, it is important to have an understanding of how anthropologists interpret cave art. First, they attempt to decipher any glyphs or written letters by comparing them to today’s languages to infer their meanings. For example, this is what occurred at Lascaux; Lechler (1951:166) noticed that one of the letters closely resembles a letter in Hebrew, and another used this to say that it symbolizes entrails. One can see that anthropologists thoroughly analyze potential symbols...
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...l. 2013 Introduction to Anthropology. In: Sex, Food and Death. Anthropology 1AA3, Custom Second Edition for McMaster University. Toronto: Pearson Education.
2013 Illness and Death. In: Sex, Food and Death. Anthropology 1AA3, Custom Second Edition for McMaster University. Toronto: Pearson Education.
2013 Humans and the Environment. In: Sex, Food and Death. Anthropology 1AA3, Custom Second Edition for McMaster University. Toronto: Pearson Education.
1951 The Interpretation of the ‘Accident Scene’ at Lascaux. Man 51;165-167. doi: 10.2307/2794817
Lippit, Akira MIzuta
2002 “Archetexts”: Lascaux, Eros, and the Anamorphic Subject. Discourse, 24(2);18-29. url: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41389642
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