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A: Palaeolithic European Constellations
1: Ice-age star maps?
A Great Bull painted image (#18 (fourth bull), main hall, right wall) in the "Hall of Bulls" in the Lascaux cave in France. Of the nearly 2000 images there are 915 images of animals and the other images comprising various geometric symbols. At Lascaux, specially carved stone bowl lamps (holding burning lumps of animal fat) were used to light the cave. It is clear that wooden ladders and/or scaffolding was also used to reach high walls and ceilings. Traces of these have recently been discovered.
Lascaux is probably the most famous cave in Western Europe. It goes without saying that the single most striking characteristic of the Lascaux cave is its lavish decoration.The Lascaux cave in southwest France, near the town of Monrignac, was discovered by children in 1940. Lascaux is a natural limestone cave. Upper Palaeolithic cave art was first discovered in 1856 in the cave of Niaux in France. The first real claim for the existence of Palaeolithic cave art was that made in 1880 for the Spanish cave of Altamira by a local landowner (an amateur natural historian who was fond of archaeology), Don Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, who first discovered the cave in 1879. His views were treated with scepticism. Palaeolithic cave art remained largely ignored, even suspected by some as a hoax because of its sophistication, until the first decade of the 20th-century. The discovery of the Altimara cave in northern Spain in 1879 initiated 15 years of controversy before the acceptance of the cave paintings as Paleolithic art.
Some of the most splendid Paleolithic cave art locations are Lascaux (discovered in 1940), Altamira (discovered in 1879 and only fully explored in the 1950s), Chauvet (near Marseilles) (discovered in 1994), and the (now) underwater cave Cosquer (also near Marseilles) (discovered in 1991). The Chauvet cave holds the earliest paintings - dated to circa 30,000 BCE. The purpose of the Palaeolithic cave paintings in Europe is not known with any certainty. According to Jean Clottes "Paleolithic Cave Art in France." (Adorant Magazine, 2002): "Wall images are perfectly compatible with the perceptions people could have during their visions, whether one considers their themes, their techniques and their details. The animals, individualised by means of precise details, seem to float on the walls ; they are disconnected from reality, without any ground line, often without respect of the laws of gravity, in the absence of any framework or surroundings. Elementary geometric signs are always present and recall those seen in the various stages of trance."
The earliest expert research attempting a systematic study of the artwork in Palaeolithic caves in southwest Europe was carried out in the 1950s and 1960s by Annette Laming-Emperaire (1917–1977; a French archeologist) and André Leroi-Gourhan (1911–1986; a French archaeologist, paleontologist), working independently of each other. In a series of publications between 1957 and 1965, Annette Laming-Emperaire and Andre Leroi-Gourhan revolutionized the study of Palaeolithic art. André Leroi-Gourhan studied and statistically analysed over 2000 representations in 65 caves. Another important publication was Palaeolithic Cave Art (1967) by Peter Ucko and Andsrée Rosenfeld (both British prehistorians). The authors critically reviewed the theories and speculative assertions, of experts and amateurs - up to that date - concerning the meaning Palaeolithic cave art. The more recent research of Michel Lorbblanchet (French prehistorian) has demonstrated the importance of giving adequate attention to the forces of corrosion and concretion when recording artwork images in Palaeolithic caves. To recover deteriorated artwork Michel Lorbblanchet used different lighting and photographic enlargements. (See: Secrets of the Ice Age by Evan Hadingham (1979).)
The paintings in the cave at Lascaux remain the most well-known Palaeolithic cave paintings. Many are beautiful but some are simple and primitive. The great artistic tradition of the Palaeolithic period ended with the last Ice Age circa 10,000 BCE.
The Lascaux cave contains some 600 paintings and 1500 engravings dating from the Palaeolithic Period. The very few symbols are limited to isolated or grouped dots (mostly black) and to variously coloured dashes. The animals depicted on the cave wall are horses, bulls, and deer. (But deer do not dominate the art work.) Horse, bison, and wild cattle dominate the cave walls. Most figures in the Lascaux cave pictures are horses. Horse and bison are the most common animals painted. The "Hall of Bulls" mural is dated circa 15,000 BCE. (The radiocarbon dating of charcoal recovered from the cave floor indicates occupancy circa 15,000 BCE to 14,000 BCE.) Lascaux's Hall of Bulls is approximately 18.5 metres long, 7 metres wide, and 6.5 metres high. The largest painted bulls are approximately 6 metres long. Several researchers have offered an astronomical interpretation of Great Bull #18. (The bulls are actually aurochs, a large species of wild cattle. Wild auroch bulls were over 2 metres high at the shoulder and weighed over 2 tons (approximately 2000 kilograms).
There are 2 sets of painted dots closely associated with this bull. One set of dots is placed above the shoulder of the bull and the other set of V-shaped dots are located on the bull's face. Also, there is a row of 4 painted dots to the left of this bull. (A number of types of elementary geometric signs/shapes and patterns appear on the cave walls, scattered between the animal figures. It has been remarked that these non-figurative signs such as dots, rectangles, and lines often appear to be of equal importance.)
It is believed by some persons that attempts to demonstrate the astronomical knowledge of Paleolithic people has been successful. At least initially, the claim largely centred on rather simple arguments for the constellation Taurus and the Pleiades asterism being depicted in the Lascaux Cave. However, this is simply a case of wishful thinking. The "proofs" offered are hardly convincing. The tenuous and unverifiable nature of the evidence offered has not limited the types of claims made. Several persons now claim to offer evidence of a complex Paleolithic astronomy including a complete zodiac and "cosmovision." However, the social and religious context from which the art emerged will never be known. They are part of an unknowable cultural world - unless hubris as an investigative method is introduced. The material conditions of the production of the art is more within our understanding. The conditions of reception is not.
Several people pursued independent inquiries, at roughly the same time, regarding the possibility of the Hyades and the Pleiades being depicted among the bulls at Lascaux. In their respective publications, however, the authors develop the argument beyond simply a single array of dots. In Lascaux, for example, the argument for Taurus is extended by the V-shaped arrangement of dots on the face of bull/auroch #18 including a large dot which helps form the eye, which is marked by the bright star Aldebaran in Taurus. The group of six "Pleiades" stars is held to be just above the shoulder of bull #18, in a position analogous to the Pleiades in Taurus. (In his 1999 book Eine Himmelskarte aus der Eiszeit? [A Skychart from the Ice Age?] Michael Rappenglück discusses the extensive world-wide literature written on the topic of the possibility of a Palaeolithic astronomy, extending from the end of the 19th century up to mid 1999.) Rappenglück's book is considered the most comprehensive and the most disciplined on the subject.
The Spanish researcher Luz Antequera Congregado in her doctoral thesis Arte y astronomia: evolución de los dibujos de las constelaciones (1991 (though frequently given as 1992)) first set out the astronomical interpretation that the dots above the shoulder of the bull depict the Pleiades open star cluster and the dots on the bull's face depict the Hyades open star cluster. In her later paper "Altamira: Astronomía y religión en el Paleolitico" (1994) she interpreted the row of (what are) 4 dots to the left of Great Bull #18 as the stars of the belt of the constellation Orion. (Luz Antequera Congregado has also investigated Palaeolithic art in other European caves from an astronomical perspective. See her essay: "Practicas Astronomicas en la Prehistoria de la Peninsula Iberica y los Archichipielagos Balear y Canario" (1994).) This paper appeared in Arqueoastronomia Hispanica: Practicas Astronomicas en la Prehistoria de la Peninsula Iberica y los Archichipielagos Balear y Canario edited by Juan Antonio Belmonte Aviles. In this essay, which appeared prior to Frank Edge's article, Luz Antequera Congregado speculates on possible asterisms represented in the paintings in Altamira and Lascaux caves, including recognition of the Pleiades.
The American dentist and pseudo-nutritionist Weston Price (1870-1948) (at a date that I have not yet been able to identify) also made the identification of 10 painted dots on a Neanderthal cave painting with the Pleiades. (However, there is no indication of any firm methodology being used. His identification seems to be based on pattern recognition. The identification was linked to his assertions of the benefits of early human diets - keen eyesight being one of them.) Price did not mention where the cave painting is located. It has not been identified by any other investigator.
Some people believe that the #18 Lascaux auroch with the two associated sets of dots represents the constellation Taurus. This idea was firmly set out by the American college teacher Frank Edge in his 35-page booklet "Aurochs in the Sky" (1995) and later article "Taurus in Lascaux" (Griffith Observer, September, 1997). Ed Krupp, the editor of the Griffith Observer, restricted Edge's commentary to what were believed to be the most plausible assertions. (He began his studies in this area in 1991. His ideas were first published in Atlantis Rising; a magazine that has been described as making the magazine Fate look respectable.) Frank Edge holds that at least one of the Great Bull images (#18) in the "Hall of Bulls" in the Lascaux cave can be identified as celestial by the simple comparison of the associated dot markings with two particular star groupings as they were viewed on the horizon circa 15,000 BCE. Specifically that a group of 6 dots painted above the shoulder of auroch #18 represents the Pleiades open star cluster, and that another group of V-shaped dots painted on the auroch's face represents the Hyades open star cluster. (Edge states that he was particularly persuaded by the six dots above the shoulder of the bull, which he identified with the Pleiades.) It is Edge's position that the aurochs depicted in Figure 18 in the Great Lascaux Cave accurately depicts the constellation Taurus. It is Edge's belief that the image of the Taurus constellation has remained unchanged for 17,000 years. The ideas/identifications of Edge, who is not a professional astronomer as some persons mistakenly claim, arose from the casual application of pattern recognition.
The German scholar Michael Rappenglück, University of Munich, believes the art of the Lascaux cave not only involves the depiction of constellations but is also a cosmographic depiction by Palaeolithic shamans. His idea that the Pleiades were depicted in the Lascaux cave were first presented at an astronomy conference in 1996 and later published in his essay "The Pleiades in the "Salle des Taureaux" Grotte des Lascaux" (1997). (He has worked on the subject of "Paleoscience" since 1984.) His ideas that the Lascaux cave paintings depict shamanistic cosmography were first set out in his doctoral thesis Eine Himmelskarte aus der Eiszeit? (1998; published and in need of revision). (Michael Rappenglück has also investigated Palaeolithic art in other European caves from an astronomical perspective i.e., the Cueva di El Castillo in Spain. The art in this cave is dated circa 12,000 BCE.)
Another earnest proponent of constellations being depicted in Palaeolithic cave art (especially at Lascaux) is Jesper Christensen. See: his article: "Heaven and Earth in Ice Age Art: Topography and Iconography at Lascaux." (Mankind Quarterly, Spring/Summer, 1996, Volume 36, Numbers 3-4, Pages 247-259). Christensen adopts archaeoastronomy approach to the interpretation of Paleolithic cave art. Danish-born Jesper Christensen Ph.D. is an accomplished art historian with prehistoric art as a specialty. Ph.D. thesis, Svend Wiig Hansen (1922-1997) : the human figure in art after World War II (published, 1922). For decades he was on the staff of the University of Louisville. (His biographical details are sometimes confused with those of the Danish actor of the same name.) More recently Jesper Christensen wrote (Hastro-L, 18-4-2015): "Hastro-L subscribers with an interest in prehistoric astronomy may find it worth their while to read the extensive discussion of palaeolithic astronomy that I have posted on my website, iceageiconology.net. Chapter XI of that site traces the ancestors of the present Taurus, Capricornus, and Leo via systematic analysis of the images of aurochs bulls, ibexes, and lions in some major, well-dated, caves, notably Chauvet (about 37,000 years old) and Lascaux (about 23,000 years old). Some minor caves that are contemporary with these giants are considered as well. Visual representations of the three species are analyzed with respect to color, orientation (within caves), size, and juxtaposition/superimposition. The findings are discussed relative to the effects of precession and to the seasonal themes of the individual caves. A part of Chapter XI (to be posted later, this summer) will pursue the stellar imagery in half a dozen, fairly well dated, caves of the magdalenian age (between 18,000 and 12,000 years ago)."
A somewhat recent proponent of an astronomical interpretation of the Lascaux cave paintings is the independent French researcher Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez who has a PhD in Humanities. (Like all persons who make any type of study of this nature she is termed an archeoastronomer/ethnoastronomer.) Her investigations first began in 1992 with the Chalcolithic period cave engravings in the Vallée des Merveilles. In 1998, in partnership with Jean-Michel Geneste (Curator of Lascaux cave), she began studying the caves and Paleolithic ornamented shelters in France. The particular research study was conducted in 1999-2000. From this she believes she has uncovered evidence to demonstrate that the Paleolithic painters were astronomers. (Over a wider period of 7 years, Jègues-Wolkiewiez visited 130 cave sites featuring Paleolithic drawings, identifying believed solar alignments throughout the seasons, and leading to her claim that 122 of the 130 sites had optimal orientations to the solstitial horizons.) At the 2000 international conference on cave art in Val Camonica, Italy she made the claim that the people who painted the Lascaux cave were astronomers and that they also painted a zodiac on the walls of the cave. She has proposed that the Lacaux cave paintings record the constellations of a prehistoric version of the zodiac which also included solstice points and major stars. I think that Frank Edge also claimed that Lascaux's Hall of Bulls pictured the stars of the ecliptic. ("Lascaux, View of the Magdalenian Sky." by Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez (Symposium of Cave Art, Val Camonica, Italy, 2000.) The study was based on a series of astronomical measurements. They used astronomical software to recreate the night sky at Lascaux 17,000 years ago, and models of the modern Western constellations. They made measurements of the astronomical alignments of the cave paintings and also compared the outlines of the paintings in the Hall of the Bulls with the night sky in Magdelenian times. (For a (French-language) summary of her work and conclusions see: "Lascaux planetarium prehistorique?" by Pedro Lima (Science & Vie, Number 999, December, 2000.) Her central claim is the Great Hall figures comprise a prehistoric zodiac. (See also Appendix 1 below.)
Interestingly, during the first decades of the 20th-century the French prehistorians Marcel Baudouin and Henri Breuil speculated about the possibility of constellations being represented in prehistoric art. (To a considerable extent Alexander Marshack and his ideas of Palaeolithic lunar calendars (developed during the 1970s) fostered renewed interest in the possibility of Palaeolithic constellations.) During the last decades of the 20th-century they were followed by the Swiss engineer Amandus Weiss, the astronomer Heino Eelsalu, and the German art historian Marie König who considered the possibility of constellation representation in the Lascaux cave art. Also, the eccentric German ethnologist Leo Frobenius in his book Kulturgeschichte Africas (1934) conjectured that the animals painted in the Magdalenian caves of Southern France and Northern Spain represented stars. Largely forgotten are the proponents of astral theories, Morris Spivack (Morris J. (Redman) Spivack) (1903-?) (Cosmic Dance at Lascaux: New Theory of Paleolithic Art and Religion, 13-page hand-typed manuscript filed in the Library of Congress, 1961, but also published in French and English), and Elaine Mills (The Prehistoric Puzzle and the Key to Paleolithic Art, unpublished Junior Honors Project in Anthropology, May 1972 - August 1973, Sweet Briar College). However, the main proponents remain Luz Antequera Congregado, Frank Edge, and Michael Rappenglück (and more recently Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez). All were involved in independent and lengthy research prior to their first publications.
Luz Antequera Congregado, Frank Edge, Michael Rappenglück, and Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez converge on some similar ideas. However, each of them utilises a different level of speculation. Luz Antequera Congregado largely bases her ideas on the application of the art-historical approach and does not employ archaeological or astronomical analysis. Frank Edge also utilises art-historical and psychological approaches as well as simple constellation projections onto particular paintings. Michael Rappenglück applies a wider interdisciplinary methodology. Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez uses multiple methods of astronomical analysis (including astronomical measurements and constellation projection).
Michael Rappenglück presented his first paper about the Pleiades in the Lascaux grotto "The Pleiades in the "Salle des Taureaux," Grotte de Lascaux. Does a Rock picture in the cave of Lascaux show the open Star Cluster of the Pleiades at the Magdalénien era (ca 15.300 BC)" at the SEAC conference in Salamanca. It was published in 1997 in Actas del IV Congreso de la Sociedad Europea por la Astronomia en la Cultura, "Astronomía en la cultura." edited by C. Jaschek and F. Atrio Barandela. Rappenglück is investigating Lascaux from the viewpoint of a possible cosmovision of Paleolithic man. He believes the best evidence for this cosmovision at Lacaux is to be found in the so-called "shaft of the dead man." Rappenglück believes the rock panels there show a complete scene of the sky - somewhat like a panorama - as seen at the epoch 16,500 BCE. The second part of his book Eine Himmelskarte aus der Eiszeit? (his published PhD thesis) contains a long chapter about shamanistic cosmovisions combined with a totemistic worldview referring to the rock panel in the shaft of the Lascaux grotto. According to Rappenglück his analysis agrees with the recent published studies from Jean Clottes and Lewis Williamson about the topic, but he extends these in a broader field, including mythology and sciences of religions.
The German prehistorian (archaeologist) Marie Köenig (1899-1988) interpreted the horse in Paleolithic art as the symbol of the sun, and the bull as the symbol of the moon. According to Köenig the ascending young mares in the rotunda (hall of bulls) of the Lascaux cave show the morning sun, and the descending horses in the small cave area at the rear end of the axial gallery symbolize winter. (See: Köenig, Marie. (1970). "Etude des incisions repestres comme manifestation d'un stade d'evolution de esprit humaine." In: Anati, Emmanuel. (Editor). Symposium international d'art préhistorique: Valcamonica, 23-28 Septembre 1968, (Pages 515-530). (Further, Am Anfang der Kultur Die Zeichensprache der frühen Menschen by Marie Köenig (1973).) Also, New Perspectives of Prehistoric Art by Günter Berghaus (2004).)
The pre-historian and independent researcher Mary Settegast, who focuses on the Neolithic period, also adheres to the idea that constellations are depicted in the Lascaux cave. See her book, Plato prehistorian (1990). Settegast has a graduate degree in anthropology from Columbia University and a graduate degree in educational psychology from the University of California at Berkeley.
There are multiple depictions of bulls (aurochs) in the Lascaux Cave. What do all these other bulls (aurochs) have to do with the deemed astral bull (auroch)? Any answer can be nothing more than speculation.
The investigation of possible astronomy in Palaeolithic cave art has obviously been to search for sky maps in prehistoric imagery. Most investigators start with and stay with the method of comparing dot-by-dot mirroring between stars and images. It it with this method that Frank Edge, Luz Antequera Congregado, Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez, and David Bossard, etc. claim to find constellation configurations in select parts of cave figures. The prime example is the claim for Taurus. Hover, their results still remain contradictory. The method of dot-by-dot mirroring for parts of cave figures is also questionable. More likely - as in the case of the ancient Greeks - the figure encompassing a grouping of stars is the visual representation of the constellation.
To date none of the arguments attempting to show the existence of some sort of Palaeolithic astronomy can be considered convincing. No research into prehistoric European cave art has led to the definitive identification of astronomical information of any kind. All of the various hypotheses put forward identifying astronomy in prehistoric European cave art ultimately lack objective scientific evidence to support them. The positions of the cave drawings plus the numerous signs that exist do not appear to readily correspond to any particular stars or constellations. It is possible to 'prove' almost anything by selectively choosing sets of dots or a particular drawing. There are simply many sets of dots existing within European caves containing prehistoric art. "... the dots are just one example of an element in Lascaux art, and in all cave art .... [There is a] ... profusion of nonrepresentational [i.e., abstract] patterns. In addition to dots, there are grids and chevrons, curves and zigzags, and more. Many kinds of patterns are to be found, sometimes superimposed on animal images, sometimes separate from them. The coincidence of these geometric motifs with representational images [of animals] is one of the most puzzling aspects of Upper Paleolithic Art. (Origin's Reconsidered (1992) by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin)" Frank Swetz has conjectured (1994) "that such primitive patterns may have emerged as a visual analogue of sound patterns." It is more meaningful to look at the totality of drawings and signs within prehistoric caves and identify whether there are patterns which are repeated throughout different caves. There are numerous prehistoric European caves containing, overall, a large number of, and variety of, animal drawings and signs. In his recent book The Cave and the Cathedral (2009) Amir Aczel has emphasised: "It is important to adopt some form of statistical reasoning here; otherwise, anyone can claim almost anything. A systematic order must be evident in a majority of locations in order to have statistical and logical significance."
The problem of the enormous chronological gap and passage of knowledge quite accurately through some 600 generations and across cultures remains. Simply suggesting the continuity of (conjectured) constellation images from the Upper Paleolithic claims a remarkable conservation of imagery. Claims for unchanged constellation continuity from their origins in the Palaeolithic period to the Hellenistic period are nothing less than remarkable. More than likely they are untrue - especially the claims for the existence of a Palaeolithic zodiac. Simply, there is a lack of convincing evidence. Also lacking is any knowledge of when images appeared. This was most likely over a period of time - not 'immediately.' What then, was the sequence of their appearance?
The closest constellation in time to the conjectured Bull constellation in the Lascaux cave is the Babylonian Bull constellation GUD.AN.NA/gu4.an.na (Heavenly Bull/Bull-of-Heaven/the bull of Anu). The Greek zodiacal Bull (Latin, Taurus) has been identified with the Babylonian GUD.AN.NA. As this is most likely, the Greek Bull constellation is not evidence of supposed transmission from the Palaeolithic period. The Babylonian Bull constellation shared only a few stars with the Greek Bull constellation. The Babylonian Bull constellation encompassed the descriptors "Bright star of Bull of Heaven" and "Jaw of the Bull" = alpha Tauri (Aldebaran) and the Hyades. The Pleiades asterism has been identified with the Babylonian MUL.MUL/mul.mul (the stars/the hair brush). The early Greek Bull constellation was comprised of 18 stars: alpha Tauri and also beta Tauri (Elnath), the open clusters the Pleiades and the Hyades. The Hyades comprised the face of the Bull. The Pleiades marked part of the hind section of the Bull. In Michael Rappenglück's match of painted bull #18 in the Lascaux Cave with stars in the modern constellation Taurus (Latin: Bull) he has the Hyades forming the upper head/forehead of the Bull, and the Pleiades positioned over the Bull's shoulder. In some modern depictions of the main stars of Taurus matched with the animal's image the Hyades comprise the mid face area, the Pleiades are positioned on the shoulder, Aldebaran is an eye, and Elnath is at the tip of a horn.
In summary, some of the important problems with the various arguments which attempt to identify constellations amongst the Paleolithic cave paintings are: (1) The proposed constellation depictions are always separated from their contexts amongst the other painted figures surrounding them. The more numerous other figures forming the cave paintings are generally ignored. (2) Numerous depictions of aurochs are found in cave paintings with dots placed nearby. The claimed correspondences identified in the representations selected would appear to be more coincidental than intended. In the Lascaux cave, for example, there is another Auroch with 'Pleiades' type dots around one of its eyes. In Iberian caves ‘Pleiades' dots also appear. (3) Significantly, there is circa a 12000 year time gap between proposed Paleolithic constellations and the classical constellation figures of Western Europe. The assertion of constellation continuity is without any supporting evidence from similar depictions being identified from the Neolithic/Bronze Age. (4) It is simply assumed, rather than established, that determining and marking the equinoxes and solstices was significantly important in ordering the affairs of prehistoric communities. There is little evidence for such being important to the later Neolithic period or Bronze Age communities.
Problems also exist with non-astronomical explanations. Many researchers have believed that the animals painted by the Ice-age hunter-gatherers at Lascaux (the Magdalenian culture) were simply those that they hunted. Certainly the animals they depicted comprise the most dangerous in the world of the Ice-age hunters and were both prey and food. The painted dots are thought by some persons to be perhaps no more than a tally of hunting kills. However, the concepts of hunting magic and hunting tallies would seem to be wrong. The 'hunting magic' theory of the paintings, by the French archaeologist Salomon Reinach that was particularly promoted by the French pioneering prehistorian Henri Breuil, has been subject to increasing criticism since the early 1960s. This is primarily due to the discrepancy between the animals that were eaten and the animals that were depicted. The hunted animal remains on the cave floor were largely reindeer but reindeer are entirely unrepresented in the cave art. A single possible depiction of a reindeer is engraved in the mesh of lines in the Apse (vaulted recess).) However, there are scores of red deer images.
Some recent investigations suggest that beliefs involving connection to the spirit-world, through trance and hallucination, are perhaps the key to understanding the cave paintings (including the dot patterns). See especially the remarkable book The Mind in the Cave by David Lewis-Williams (2002). (David Lewis-Williams, born 1934, is Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg.) Perhaps the most currently prominent theory of Palaeolithic cave art presently belongs to Jean Clottes (a French paleontologist and cave art specialist) and David Lewis-Williams with their shamanic ritual/trance theory of Palaeolithic art. An important article is "Paleolithic Cave Art in France." by Jean Clottes (Adorant Magazine, 2002). (See also: The Shamans of Prehistory: Trance and Magic in the Painted Caves by Jean Clottes and David Lewis-Williams (1998).) Their Palaeo-shaman/trance theory is presently the prominent model. However, is is not without problems and critics. Their ideas have their effective critics in Derek Hodgson (2000) and Paul Bahn (most recently 2010). (Derek Hodgson is with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto; Paul Bahn is a British archaeologist.) Clottes builds on Mircea Eliade's concept of shamanism. Eliade's claim that shamanism was an early universal religion remains an unsubstantiated claim. Harvey Graham (1995) criticized Eliade's concept of shamanism (and Eliade's inventiveness that went with it) as poorly defined and historically incoherent. (Harvey Graham is with the Arts Faculty, Open University, Walton Hall, UK.) The existence of 'Palaeo-shamanism' has not been demonstrated. It has even been described as a "pseudo-scientific myth." An informed, solid critique of Clotte/Lewis-Williams and their theory is set out in Prehistoric Rock Art: Polemics and Progress by Paul Bahn (2010). Clottes is identified as being too conjectural-deductive in his approach. His ideas have been described as a "blind alley/dead end."
The only representation of a person is located in what is called "the Pit" or "the Shaft of the Dead Man" section of the cave. Painted on the yellowish mineral surface is what appears to be a bison, possibly injured from a hunt, attacking a stick figure representing a man, while a prehistoric rhinoceros is shown walking away nearby. Next to the man is a bird on a long stick. Of the over two thousand representations on the cave walls of Lascaux, this is the only one to clearly show a person.
The apparent avoidance of painting the human image is contradicted by 155 engraved human portraits found on the floor of a cave at La Marche in France. Professor R[ussell]. Dale Guthrie (Emeritus Professor in the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; and author of The Nature of Paleolithic Art) proposed in 2006 that the art was largely produced by adolescent males and is somewhat akin to modern teen graffiti. (Guthrie points out that considerable female sexual imagery appears.) Guthrie analysed the dimensions of the hands in European cave art, and compared them to 1000 photocopies of modern hands of men and women of different ages. His conclusion was men and women and boys and girls of all ages left their marks but, statistically, teenage males dominated. (Most of the footprints in Palaeolithic caves in France and Spain appear to be those of children.) Guthrie determined that female artists accounted for less than 20 percent of the cave art. Guthrie has also suggested that Palaeolithic people quite likely painted the majority of their paintings in accessible public (open) places. Only the paintings placed in inaccessible (protected) locations are the ones to have survived.
The notion of the recognition/use in the Palaeolithic period of conspicuous asterisms to track the season is not particularly remarkable. It is well established that nomadic hunters and gatherers such as the Australian Aborigines observed the sky and kept track of the seasons in terms of the appearances of key stars/asterisms. The Pleiades, however, have little importance in the constellations depicted by the ancient Egyptians - and these depictions on the ceilings of tombs are the most ancient we have with certainty. However, as Rolf Sinclair advised in exploring possibilities of Palaeolithic astronomy: "We must be careful lest we act out a Matthew Principle: "... seek and ye shall find .... he that seeketh findeth ...."" We are too distant in time and space, and too limited by the vagaries of archaeological discovery, to legitimately understand the thoughts of prehistoric people. Asserting what prehistoric people must have thought or meant is surely hubris.
Appendix 1: Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez
Chantal Jegues-Wolkiewiez insists there was a long cultural tradition of skywatching among the people of the Cro-Magnon Age of Europe (encompassing circa 30,000BCe to 10,000 BCE).
Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez is an independent French researcher who has studied at University of Nice Sophia Antipolis (France). Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez has a Docteur ès Lettres et Sciences Humaines, anthropology. Her doctoral research involved a decade of work studying rock engravings in the Valle des Merveilles, in the southern French Alps. In this area there are an estimated 35,000 rock engravings carved between circa 2500 BCE and circa 1500 BCE. According to one source she defended her thesis on 25 March, 1997 at the UNSA Ethnology Laboratory (Laboratoire d'Ethnologie de l'UNSA). This is also the date given when she presented her thesis at a seminar at the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azu. In part, in her thesis (under the supervision of J-Pierre Jardel and J-Michel Le Contel) Des gravures de la vallée des merveilles au ciel du Mont Bego (Dissertation, 1997, Laboratoire d'Ethnologie, UNSA), she attempted to compare the position of some engravings to the constellations of the bronze age sky and the visible paths of the Moon and of the Sun. She received her doctorate with special honours and the congratulations of the Jury. She also has a MA in psychology. After obtaining her PhD she then began to study the paintings in the Lascaux Cave. In 1999 and 2000 she conducted an intensive study at Lascaux.
Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez is a Paleolithic researcher who has now specialized in attempting to discover the time-keeping and astronomical capabilities of the people of Lascaux Cave in France. (Supporters tend to refer to her as a paleo-astronomer. However, this is nothing more than an informal popular title devoid of academic status.) Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez has theorized that the Lascaux murals are a celestial map of the night sky, no less than a zodiac. She believes there was a long cultural tradition of sky watching in the Upper Palaeolithic period. She holds that many of the Lascaux paintings of animals align with celestial positions essentially revealing a highly sophisticated map of the constellations. She proposes most of the constellations are represented by paintings of animals and these accurately depict their coloring and coats during the corresponding seasons of the year. Chantal Jegues-Wolkiewiez uses complex anthropological methods involving astronomical measurement and constellation projection.
Her theory is typically based on the discovery of numerous dots and tracings superimposed on the paintings of bulls, aurochs and horses at the Lascaux cave. She claims these correspond to the patterns of constellations/asterisms, the most notable of which are Taurus and the Pleiades and the stars Aldebaran and Antares. Her theory is typically based on the discovery of numerous dots and tracings superimposed on the paintings of bulls, aurochs and horses at the Lascaux cave.
Her 1st book (2011) is, Sur les chemins étoilés de Lascaux. She has more recently published, L'ethnoastronomie, nouvelle appréhension de l'art préhistorique (2012). According to Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez there existed a relationship between the way in which cave art animals were depicted and the time of year when the Sun shone on specific animals in caves. Over a period of 7 years, Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez has visited 130 cave sites featuring Palaeolithic drawings, making identifications of their solar alignments throughout seasons. According to her work, 122 of the 130 sites had optimal orientations to the solstitial horizons. Jègues-Wolkiewiez claims that her work shows that prehistoric cave painting sites in the region of southwest Europe were mostly selected because the interiors are illuminated by the setting sun on the day of the winter solstice. She also claims to have determined through computer modeling that the sun's setting rays during the summer solstice illuminated the painting of the Red Bull on the back wall of the Hall of Bulls in Lascaux 17,000 years ago. In her books and publications Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez asserts her conclusions that sky lore is essential to the interpretation of Palaeolithic cave art in Europe. According to Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez, hunter gatherers spent long nights observing the sky, calculating, and recording their discoveries either on the walls of caves or on animal bones. Their analyses enabled them to measure time and adapt to seasonal change. Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez concludes that prehistoric men chose their caves according to the orientation of the sun, created measuring tools such as a lunar calendar, and their wall paintings were the first maps of the sky and stars.
Appendix 2: The Strange Case of David Bossard
A more recent advocate of Palaeolithic constellations at the Lascaux Cave is David Bossard ("Astronomy at Lascaux Cave", unpublished article placed on the web).Abstract: "Two aurochs paintings in the cave at Lascaux, France form a single sky chart from 15,300 BC. The paintings depict the fall of Orion below the horizon as viewed from Lascaux, an event visible nightly between late June and December, and which may have been used to mark the solstices -- the beginnings of Summer and Winter. Internal evidence indicates that these aurochs were painted between 13,200 BC and 17,000 BC, nicely bracketing the radiometric estimate of 15,300 BC. This is the earliest known sky chart and earliest "naming" of the constellation Taurus, which implies that the association with a bull was already set in deep pre-history. The skillful execution of the paintings as sky charts, to an accuracy of 30 arc minutes, is evidence of highly developed technological skill." About the author: "Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, Hatfield, Pennsylvania. Bio: Dr. Bossard earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Dartmouth College in 1967 after a B.Sc. (Drexel) and A.M. (Dartmouth) in Physics. His thesis in probability theory was published in the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society (1971). He also earned a M.Div. from Biblical Theological Seminary in 1982. His primary work has been in scientific computer modeling and simulation, with emphasis on military applications. He has had a particular interest in ocean science, and this eventually led him to the H.M.S. Challenger Exploratory Expedition of 1872-1876, which was perhaps the most extensively documented deep ocean voyage of exploration. All of the reports of this Expedition are posted at the 19th Century Science website, which includes along with the Challenger reports, some contemporary accounts of this and similar voyages, in the HMS Challenger Library. From that work, he turned his attention to the development of the Geological Sciences in the 19th Century, and posted many of the prominent books from this era in the Golden Age of Geology Library. Dr. Bossard has had a lifelong interest in understanding the parts of the Bible that relate to science, and has used his scientific knowledge to explore that relationship. He believes that the Bible is inspired by God the Creator, and therefore it is accurate in the statements it makes of a scientific nature — understanding that the Bible was written for all people, not just for scientists, and that language by its very nature is metaphorical, so any scientific content can be expected to be explained in ways that could and can be understood in all ages by the typical intelligent person of the time, using the common language, figures of speech, analogy and other literary devices, to make the message relevant and clear (unless it is intentionally obscured), without mis-statements of fact. Many silly statements pointing out supposed scientific errors in the Bible, result when modern notions of accuracy, grammar and scientific expression are erroneously projected onto the Biblical writings." (Source: http://www.christianscientific.org/memberpages/david-bossard/) This is simply fantasy and hubris.
"The Purpose of this website. This website is my personal reconstruction of the Creation Narrative: how God created the Universe and Life, based primarily on the findings of Science. This narrative is a direct gift from God, the "Silent Speech" in Psalm 19, a miraculous record of his handiwork in creation, woven into the fabric of the natural world. As science has advanced in recent decades, it has revealed astonishing and totally unexpected insights into the actual ways that God carried out his creative work. This insight -- this speech -- was woven into the creation from the very beginning of time, and has been lovingly nurtured by God as a special witness to his glory and handiwork, a record preserved for its unfolding in these modern times. Who would have had the arrogance to expect that such a witness is possible? Or that God would grant special favor to the modern times in this way? Indeed, as this witness has unfolded over the decades and centuries, it has always been met with initial doubt and disbelief until its truth becomes overwhelmingly evident. Because of the totally unexpected and astonishing depth of understanding that it yields, I see this witness as a firm indication of God's intense desire to share his glory with humanity in these rudderless days. The remarkable scientific discoveries of the past 50 years—especially in genetics and astrophysics—have revealed more "signs and wonders" about God's handiwork in creation than has any comparable time in history, except when Jesus walked the earth. It makes me wonder what God has in store for humanity, why this unfolding of natural revelation at this time?" (Source: http://19thpsalm.org/) This is simply more fantasy and hubris.
Extracts from customer review by David Bossard: "... The fact is, there is all sorts of evidence for intelligent design in creation, and in life itself. Budding biologists have to be carefully trained to ignore this evidence, or be shamed into ignoring it. In the early 1800s, before the juggernaut of Darwinism stoked up, many scientists, and in particular geological scientists, acknowledged the overwhelming evidence for intelligent design: read the large selection of 19th century science books available on the web and in print, including early geologists such as Hugh Miller, Baron Georges Cuvier and Sir Charles Lyell. Because Dr. Miller is clearly respectful of Biblical religion, I would consider him a sympathetic participant in the evolution/religion debate. I loved his observation that even the Bible says that humans were created out of pre-existing material (the dust of the earth). I happen to agree with the implications of his observation. The Biblical creation of Adam and Eve involved two components: the dust of the earth and the image of God. Many Creationists seem to miss this and assume that the genes determine the human: not so -- the genes only determine the physical body; the image determines the soul. ..." (http://www.amazon.com/review/R30MRIBWS7HYMR) This is simply even more fantasy and hubris.
David Bossard Ph. D. Mathematics Dartmouth College is one of over 800 members of the scientific community who challenge evolutionary theory andhave signed A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism. The document's leading statement is: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." (Source: https://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120603165239AAoYVXG) As such, "David Charles Bossard Ph.D. Author and Lecturer. His Ph.D. is in Mathematics from Dartmouth College" is among those listed in the Creation Science Hall of Fame, "Honoring those who honored God's Word as literally written in Genesis." (http://creationsciencehalloffame.org/defenses/darwin-skeptics/)
Bossard refers to the planetarium program Cartes du Ciel for his precessional needs. However, he seems not to have assured himself that the program is reliable as far back as the last Ice Age. At least he supplies no details.
Bossard assumes the Lascaux cave paintings are an accurate map of stars comprising constellations. Based on this assumption he overlays such with the star maps obtained from Cartes du Ciel. The procedure is rather naive. It does not consider the random distortions from projecting onto the uneven surface of the cave wall. (It is worth noting that constellation/sky depictions from cultures that we know for certain preferred images instead of dots, etc. to represent stars i.e., New Kingdom Egypt and the Carolingian Aratea, these images cannot be accurately matched with planetarium software print-outs.) But if the conjectured Palaeolithic artists wanted to accurately map stars then why didn't they simply paint stars?
Bossard appears to misunderstand and misrepresent the effects of motion of the perihelion (perihelion precession). Also Bossard's assertion that previous studies produced wrong results because they did not take the motion of the perihelion into account is wrong. It is with this issue that Bossard is introducing key errors.
Appendix 3: Issues With The Interpretation of Palaeolithic/Neolithic Art
The interpretation of astronomy in Palaeolithic/Neolithic art is based on what people believe they can recognise as being astronomical depictions (i.e., multiple-rayed disks and crescents). Simplistically, some people believe they can interpret a direct link between these types of graphic depictions in Palaeolithic/Neolithic and astronomical objects (i.e., the multiple-rayed disk = the sun (solar disk), and the crescent = the moon (waxing/waning)). Note: Multiple-rayed disks or heads do not appear in the oldest Palaeolithic art. However, radiate figures do. Also, there is a so-called Palaeolithic "star" in Bernifal in the Les Eyzies region of Dordogne, France. All these types of depictions are relatively rare in Palaeolithic art. Whether representations of stars do or do not appear in Palaeolithic art, especially in the Lascaux Cave, is controversial. However, there is acceptance that Neolithic/Bronze Age art (including rock art (and including rock cup markings)) depict obvious star patterns involving the brighter stars. Some of the the oldest and largest open-air rock art sites in the world are to be found in Australia (Aboriginal) and South Africa (San (Bushman). The oldest reliably-dated rock art in Australia is 28,000 years old .However, engravings found in the Olary region of South Australia are dated as being more than 35000 years old, the oldest dated rock art on earth. Researchers assume that there are more than 100,000 significant rock art sites in Australia. The so-called Bushmen of the Kalahari (San or Basarwa) are amongst the best witnesses of the earliest known culture of homo sapiens. The San/Basarwa are the original modern inhabitants of southern Africa. For over half a century scholars have argued there is a cultural continuity between the San/Basarwa and African peoples living 30,000 or 40,000 years ago. (See: Anthropology and the Bushman by Alan Barnard (2007).) The Great Murals rock art on the walls and ceilings of natural rock shelters in the mountains of northern Baja California Sur and southern Baja California, Mexico comprises one of the largest prehistoric rock art sites in the world, spanning thousands of square kilometres. Based on an analysis of paint samples one site (Cueva San Borjitas) is dated to circa 5500 BCE. A few astronomical motifs have been identified. Anthropological/ethnographical studies of rock art in North America have shown that the astronomical symbols do not resemble the objects they represent (i.e., the rock art of the Luiseño Indians of southern California). Anthropological/ethnographical studies of Australian rock art shows the same. More importantly, there are very few graphic depictions that are recognisable as astronomical. The paucity of celestial symbols in rock art extends to the San in South Africa, the Aboriginals in Australia, to the Native American rock art sites including the Great Murals rock art sites and the rock art of the Luiseño Indians.
The chronology for the appearance of Palaeolithic period engravings/paintings on rocks and in the caves is impossible to establish. Interestingly, it is reasonably established that most of the Palaeolithic peoples lived far away from the caves where major art works appear.
The claim that 2 patterns of painted dots on the wall of the Lascaux Cave are representations of the Pleiades asterism and the Hyades asterism is based simply on graphic similarity. The "proof" does not extend beyond this point. Also, it is the "proof" that makes the particular bull (auroch) an "astronomical bull" = constellation. With this type of "proof" people are accepting what they should be proving. It is deprived of any evidence. The interpretation of prehistoric rock art/cave painting with the assistive knowledge of anthropology/ethnology offers some scope for understanding their meaning/purpose. The issue is: Can we really expect to reasonably understand the thinking of those people who created Palaeolithic rock art? The exact meaning/purpose of the Palaeolithic cave paintings that have generated so much modern interest is not known and is likely to remain unknown.
See for interest: Reading Rock Art: Interpreting the Indian Rock Paintings of the Canadian Shield by Grace Rajnovich (1994). Prehistoric Rock Art of Nevada and Eastern California by Robert Heizer and Martin Baumhoff (1962). Rock Art and Regional Identity: A Comparative Perspective by Jamie Hampson (2015).
Lascaux. Le geste, l’espace et le temps by Nobert Aujoulat (2004)
Somewhat overlooked is, Lascaux. Le geste, l'espace et le temps by Nobert Aujoulat (2004). Aujoulat's book is a re-examination of previous work and the result of his own 15 years of research. In May 1980, the French Ministry of Culture decided to create a team (Research and Technology Mission) within the Centre National de Préhistoire for the research and documentation of the many decorated caves and shelters in France. Norbert Aujoulat was appointed the team's Director since that date and his team began the investigation of Lascaux in 1988.
Some issues discussed in the book include:
Absolute dating of the Lascaux paintings is not possible because the pigment used does not contain charcoal. The range of radiocarbon dates from material contained within the floor, together with the analysis of the style of the paintings on the walls, continues has become the focus of dating efforts. The proposed dating of the Lascaux paintings range from the Solutrean (16,600 BCE), the Magdalenian (13,500 BCE), with consideration of the possibility of some other period which left no debris on the cave floor.
The iconography of the art does does not assist the dating debate in any conclusive way. As example: Françoise Delpech, Francoise Delpech, a French paleontologist at the Institut de Prehistoire et de Geologie du Quanternaire at the University of Bordeau, pointed out that there is little palaeontological evidence for the aurochs during the cold conditions of the Solutrean, However, it has also been argued that the climate may have experienced short and abrupt warm period during the Last Glacial Maximum (the Lascaux interstadial - circa 15000-14000 BCE), sufficient to permit the temporary migration of aurochs. See: Cave Art and Climate Change by Kieran O’Hara (2014).
Aujoulat devotes half the book to a detailed description and analysis of the art. Almost 2000 individual figures have been recorded and Lascaux remains one of the most richly decorated sites known, and also one of the most complex. Despite the casual impression that images are found everywhere throughout the cave, analysis shows that over half occur in the Apse (Abside), on only 6% of the total decorated area, closely followed by the large number within the Passage. (The Apse contains over 1000 often superimposed engraved "graphic units.") The most commonly represented animals are horse (60%) and deer (15%). Aurochs and bison are found in some of the most striking compositions but numerically represent only a small proportion (4.6% and 4.3% respectively). The animals and signs are not uniformly distributed - there is the contribution made by the natural relief to composition.
According to Aujoulat it is suggested from a study of the coats of the animals depicted that a sequence of horse-aurochs-deer reflected a biological cycle of spring-summer-autumn. Aujoulat concludes that the complementary nature of these themes (‘an ode to life’) provides unity in the compositions. The French prehistorian Abbé André Glory (1906-1966), who carried out researches at Lascaux between 1952 and 1963, considered that there were six major phases of work at Lascaux but Aujoulat calls into question by the analysis of the friezes. Because of the cohesion of the compositions Aujoulat concludes that the principal decoration was produced in a limited time, perhaps a single generation.
Appendix 4: The Pleiades
It is perhaps unlikely that Palaeolithic people were already depicting various constellations in their artworks (the Pleiades, for example). Considering that the various constellations, including especially the Pleiades, are all but absent from such early works as the Egyptian Pyramid Texts - the most ancient body of religious texts in the world, and renowned for their astronomical content - it seems unlikely that Palaeolithic people some 10,000 years earlier were already drawing the Pleiades. It is doubtful whether there is a single unequivocal depiction of the Pleiades from anywhere in the world prior to 2000 BCE. Six or seven dots on a cave face does not readily indicate the depiction of the Pleiades. In Neolithic rock art, depictions of stars seems certain. Also, sun-like objects (i.e., at Dowth). It seems there are no Palaeolithic representations of sun-like objects. The point being: If there is little or no evidence that Palaeolithic people were representing the sun or other familiar celestial objects, how likely is it that they were depicting the Pleiades and other asterisms/constellations?
Appendix 5: Big Dipper Constellation Possibly Represented on Prehistoric Amulet
From Maud Makemson's 1954 article.
From Marcel Baudouin's 1921 article.
There is perhaps archaeological evidence that the big dipper stars were anciently recognised as a constellation. In her 1954 article on "Astronomy in Primitive Religion." (The Journal of Bible and Religion, Volume 22, Number 3, July, Pages 163-171) the noted astronomer Maud Makemson reproduced a drawing of what she also believed was a representation of stars in Ursa Major and Boötes incised on a fossilised and silicified sea-urchin (Echinus), on an amulet from stone-age northern Europe. The drawing used by Makemson was likely taken from a detailed article ("Luminosities, Colors, Diameters, Densities, Masses of Stars.") relating to the history of stellar astronomy by the Swedish astronomer Knut Lundmark (who had migrated to the USA but after a few years returned to Sweden). Lundmark's article appeared in Handbuch der Astrophysik, Volume 5, Part 1, Chapter 4, 1932, Pages 209-697 (Appendices to Chapter 4 in Volume 5, Part 2, Pages 1077-11501). On page 221 there are 2 figures of the amulet (figure 5 and figure 6). Makemson has reproduced figure 5 as figure a and also adopted Lundmark's discussion of the amulet. Marcel Baudouin also thought he had identified the constellation Ursa Major on a number of palaeolithic bones and rocks (as well as the amulet). Makemson is apparently relying ultimately on the work of the pioneer French archaeoastronomer Marcel Baudouin (1860-1941, Secretary of the Societe Prehistorique Francaises). Baudouin's work with the fossilised and silicified sea-urchin (Echinus) was published in 1921 (Baudouin, Marcel. (1921). "La Grande Ourse et le Phallus du Ciel. [Spongiaire phalliforme à gravures]." Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française, Tome 18, Number 11, Pages 301-308). Baudouin has made the original constellation identifications. It is likely that Makemson never sighted Baudouin's original article. Through at least Lundmark's article she endorsed the interpretation of the amulet that included: (1) that the engraver had taken care to indicate the differences in brightness of the stars by varying the sizes of the cavities, and (2) the depicted configuration of the big dipper stars indicated a high age for the origin of the amulet. Discussions of the amulet and its possible astronomical interpretation are rare. The obvious question is: If the amulet is correctly described by Marcel Baudouin then is the astronomical interpretation reasonable on the evidence? The mention of the amulet by Elizabeth Baity in 1973 likely relies on knowledge of the relevant publication by Maud Makemson and nothing further. Arjan Smit (January, 2011) kindly informed me where Makemson's article can be accessed on the internet. I finally sighted Baudouin's article in April, 2011. (Baudouin also believed that 1 group of 7 cup marks (out of a total of 18) on a stone excavated from Aurignacian cultural deposits at La Ferrassie, France, was a representation of the Big Dipper (= Big Bear) constellation.)
Appendix 6: Cup marks on Stones as Possible Prehistoric Representations of Constellations
Source: Schütte, Gudmund. (1920). Primæval Astronomy in Scandinavia. (Off-print of his article "Primæval Astronomy in Scandinavia." from The Scottish Geographical Magazine, Volume XXXVI, October, 1920, Page 244-254.)
Throughout parts of Europe and Asia (also Africa, the Americas, and Australia) many rocks and stones – mostly exposed – are decorated with prehistoric hollowed cup markings. A cup-mark is a roughly circular depression produced by human hand into a stone or rock. They appear singly, in lines, or as the basis for further patterns, called cup-and-rings, so as to cover a whole or portion of rock. Almost all cup marks are between 1.5 and 10 centimetres in diameter and their average depth is between 10 and 12 millimetres. They occur on horizontal, sloping, or vertical stone/rock surfaces. The occurrence of single cup marks is unusual. They typically occur in groups, often numbering up to 200 (or even 1000) in a single location. They would likely have been made using a hammer and chisel type instrument. Archeologists have studied the cup markings for over 100 years. New ones are also constantly being discovered during the course of survey work, etc. The reason, or reasons, behind these carvings is unknown. Various suggestions have been put forward since early antiquarians identified them as prehistoric; including maps of the world, maps of the stars, sites where fat was set alight for religion (or to replicate the night sky), records of ownership or boundaries, etc. Despite the multiplicity of the suggested ideas there are common features in the setting of the 'art' forms - they are usually on highland overlooking open land. The cup marks are very difficult to date. They bear no direct relation to known prehistoric settlement sites. It is believed that cup markings were made during all three eras of the Stone Age - Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic. However, dating remains debatable - both Neolithic and Bronze age dates being suggested. Cup marks seem to have lost favour in the middle Bronze Age. Similar cup markings appear on stones and rocks hundreds of kilometres apart and with no obvious connection. Archaeologists view cup marks as an abstract form of art, because there are never any representations recognisable as animals or people. Despite many vigorous arguments their meaning, dating and placing is likely to remain a puzzle. Cup marks are now interpreted as a pattern of behavior throughout the prehistoric world. Most current theories associate cup marks with fertility rites. For instance, the archaeologist Robert Bednarik cites a report by the eminent amateur Australian archaeologist/ethnologist Charles Mountford who witnessed the making of cup marks in Central Australia in 1948 as an 'increase ritual' for the pink cockatoo. The term "cupule" was invented recently (2003) by the archeologist Robert Bednarik, in an attempt to provide a consistent name for a phenomenon.
Since the early 20th-century attempts have been made to interpret the distribution of these cup marks as the patterns of constellations. Perceived patterns of these cup marks have frequently been compared to constellations. Some researchers, both academic and amateur, believe that prehistoric cup marks on stones are grouped together in the shape of well-known constellations. During the late 19th-century and early 20th-century several academics attempted to identify patterns among the cup marks on stones in Europe (especially Sweden) that they believed corresponded (or could correspond) to constellations. (The Big Dipper was a common constellation identified.) However, there is still no consensus about their meaning. The debate whether prehistoric cup marks on stone in Europe can be interpreted as representations of ancient constellations is not yet settled. However, recent interpretations are not supportive of this view. Three early academics who attempted to demonstrate that prehistoric 'astronomers' used cup marks to represent individual constellations on rock and stone were Gudmund Schütte (1920), George Browne (1921), and Marcel Baudouin (1926). Gudmund Schütte (1872-1958) was Danish philologist and historian, George Browne (1833-1930) was a British clergyman and archaeologist, and Marcel Baudouin (1860-1941) was a French historian and pioneering archaeoastronomer. Basically, Browne and Baudouin only 'identified' instances of single constellations. Schütte believed he could identify examples (stones at Venslan, Denmark, and Dalby, Denmark) of 'star maps' (= multiple constellations/groups of constellations) portrayed on stones and rocks. One of the earliest proponents of prehistoric astronomical theories (focused on Scotland) was the Scottish medical doctor and amateur archaeologist George Moore (1803-1880(?)) (Ancient Pillar Stones (1865)). One of the most enthusiastically persistent early proponents of prehistoric astronomical theories (focused on Scotland) was the Scottish amateur archaeologist Ludovic Mann (1869-1955) (Archaic Sculpturings (1915)). In 1930 Mann reported in the science journal Nature he had interpreted markings on two stones at Langside and Cleuch (near Glasgow), as having astronomical significance. The markings he interpreted consisted of a series of rings, arcs and cup mark depressions. According to Mann some of the groups of cup marks resemble the Sickle in Leo and (more doubtfully) a star-group in Scorpio. Mann also claimed he calculated that there had been an eclipse on March 28, 2983 BCE from markings on the stone itself. He stated that afterwards he found from German astronomers that there had been an eclipse on that date. According to Mann he obtained the year by his interpretation of the system of wheel-like markings on the stone, which he interpreted to be cycles of years. In spite of the difficulties of interpretation - such as the difficulties due to the effects of weathering and aging being able to create cup marks, and also the frequent looseness of the matches made - the belief still exists that prehistoric 'astronomers' used cup marks engraved on rocks and stones to represent individual constellations.
Moore, George. (1865). Ancient Pillar Stones of Scotland: Their Significance and Bearing on Ethnology.
Mann, Ludovic. (1915). Archaic Sculpturings: Notes on Art, Philosophy, and Religion in Britain 2000 BC to 900 AD.
Schütte, Gudmund. (1920). Primæval Astronomy in Scandinavia. (Off-print of his article "Primæval Astronomy in Scandinavia." from The Scottish Geographical Magazine, Volume XXXVI, October, 1920, Page 244-254.)
Browne, George. (1921). On Some Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Dunecht House, Aberdeenshire.
Baudouin, Marcel. (1926). La préhistoire par les étoiles: un chronomètre préhistorique.
Brunod, Giuseppe. (2002). "The visibility tunnel: survey method of astronomical oriented cupmarks." (Proceedings of the International Meeting: Archaeoastronomy, a Debate Between Archaeologists and Astronomers Looking for a Shared Method. (Pages ?-?). [Note: Held Genoa and Sanremo, February 8-9, Genoa and November 1-3, Sanremo.]
Dimitriadis, Giorgio. (2002). "Cupmarks: a time system annotation. Geometric analysis of configuration." (Proceedings of the International Meeting: Archaeoastronomy, a Debate Between Archaeologists and Astronomers Looking for a Shared Method. (Pages ?-?). [Note: Held Genoa and Sanremo, February 8-9, Genoa and November 1-3, Sanremo.]
Martini, Sergio. (2002) "Constellation perception and rock art: methodological problems." (Proceedings of the International Meeting: Archaeoastronomy, a Debate Between Archaeologists and Astronomers Looking for a Shared Method. (Pages ?-?). [Note: Held Genoa and Sanremo, February 8-9, Genoa and November 1-3, Sanremo.]
Bednarik, Robert., Consens, Mario., Muzzolini, Alfred., Seglie, Dario., and Sher, Yakov. (2003). Rock Art Glossary: A Multilingual Dictionary.
Lewis, Roy. and Bednarik, Robert. (Editors). (2010). Mysterious Cup Marks: Proceedings of the First International Cupule Conference.
Appendix 7: Neolithic Whorl Markings
The abundance of whorls as a decorative motif on stones and pottery during the Neolithic period may simply derive from the importance of hand-spindles (spindle whorls) for weaving. Spindle whorls were usually made of stone or clay. In China, however, Deborah Porter (From Deluge to Discourse (1996, Pages 96-97)) suggests the decorative whorl may indicate an early association between weaving and its metaphorical application to cosmology.
Appendix 8: Some Issues Regarding the Possibility of Paleolithic Constellations
From Alan Salt's webpage, Ancient Science and the Science of Ancient Things (http://alunsalt.com/2011/11/14/the-earliest-astronomers/):
"Hayden & Villeneuve examined many ethnographies and found almost all peoples had a concept of the extreme limits of the Sun, the solstices. They also tied lunar cycles to environmental events, like the appearance of first berries. In some ways this is similar to Hesiod's astronomy which is a factor in a wider cosmological view that ties astronomy, weather and nature into one whole cosmos to be observed. They also — and this is big — found no evidence of observation of the equinoxes, except for one group. This ties neatly with the Clive Ruggles paper "Whose Equinox?" where he has argued that looking for equinoxes in pre-Greek astronomies is an anachronism. Solstice observations could be accurate, but they say the observations used "trees, posts or rock alignments" they give an example of a man sitting on a certain stump watching the shadow from a specific tree, and we know this astronomical activity happened because an anthropologist was there recording it, but what debris did it leave? If people used a similar technique in the Palaeolithic what would you look for in the archaeology? Hayden & Villeneuve reflect on how these special places and the techniques for using them translate into social relationships. They argue that it leads to what is effectively a 'secret society' of people with astronomical knowledge. Archaeologically this raises the possibility of equipment being stored in secret spaces, that might be marked with art for those in the know. A secret society implies specialist knowledge, but that creates a problem. If you don’t have writing how to you transmit knowledge? This is a major topic for the paper. One way is to embed tales in constellations. A survey of 26 modern hunter-gather groups revealed 18 constellations, with some complexities. The interesting findings are that surprisingly few constellations or stars were recognised by more than a third of peoples. Orion was known to 16 groups, Venus 15, the Pleiades 12 and the Milky Way and Ursa Major 10. There's a long tail of other stars with many being important to only one or two groups. That, to me, suggests that astronomical knowledge is often local and specific." (Hayden, Brian. and Villeneuve, Suzanne. (2011). "Astronomy in the Upper Palaeolithic?" (Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Volume 21, Issue 3, October, Pages 331-355.)
Appendix 9: Astronomy and Cosmology In The European Neolithic
The Arles-Fontvieille Megalithic Monuments: astronomy and cosmology in the European Neolithic by Morgan Saletta (PhD thesis, University of Melbourne, 2014) (Url: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/55083)
Abstract: "This thesis is an archaeoastronomical study of a group of megalithic sites in the south of France, the Arles/Fontvieille monuments, as well as a historiographical and epistemological study of the context of these sites within megalithic studies more generally. The Arles-Fontvieille monuments were deliberately aligned to the setting sun so as to be illuminated at important times of the year for cosmological and seasonal, ritual purposes. I have documented this seasonal illumination at three of the 4 intact sites and used 3D modelling to demonstrate the illumination in the fourth monument, the Grotte de Cordes. My archaeoastronomical research and interpretation of these monuments intervenes in debates concerning Neolithic and late prehistoric astronomy, cosmology and the origin, diffusion and evolution of megalithic monuments in Europe. Firstly, the similarity between the illumination at the Arles-Fontvieille monuments and the well-known illumination of monuments such as Maeshowe in Scotland and Newgrange in Ireland converges with a growing body of archaeological evidence suggesting that cosmological principles and practices, including those related to megalithic architecture such as passage graves, diffused in Western Europe by way of long distance contact and exchange networks during the late 4th and early 3rd millennia BC, a period which saw the florescence of major monumental centers in Atlantic Europe as well as at Arles-Fontvieille. Secondly, there is a growing amount of archaeological evidence suggesting that megalithic monuments were conceived of as 'houses of the dead' and were symbolically and cosmologically related to the houses of the living, a connection that is also strongly supported by ethnographic analogy. Building on this, I argue that the solar orientation of megalithic monuments in late prehistoric Europe- which is strongly suggested by statistical surveys- had its origin in the functional orientation practices, cosmological symbolism and lived experience of domestic architecture. Thirdly, the discovery of previously unknown seasonal illumination events in a major group of monuments suggests that illumination may have been a predominant factor in the orientation of many more, perhaps even the majority, of chambered megalithic monuments. I argue that archaeoastronomers need to think more like architects and anthropologists in their interpretation of the relationship between monumental orientation, astronomy and cosmology. For many megalithic monuments, seasonal illumination for cosmologically symbolic and ceremonial purposes offers a much stronger interpretive framework than the paradigmatic assumption that chambered megalithic monuments are targeting the position of a celestial body on or near the horizon. Solar illumination, and/or the creation of zones of light and shadow within monuments, was cosmologically symbolic and exploited for cyclical ceremonial practices linked to the social dynamics, temporal rhythms and beliefs about life, death and ancestry of the people that built and used them."
Appendix 10: Archaeoastronomy
Archaeoastronomy(/archeoastronomy) is generally defined as the study of how people in the past "have understood the phenomena in the sky, how they used these phenomena and what role the sky played in their cultures." Clive Ruggles, a distinguished authority on the subject, states that it is misleading to consider archaeoastronomy to be the study of ancient astronomy, as modern astronomy is a scientific discipline, while archaeoastronomy considers symbolically rich cultural interpretations of phenomena in the sky by other cultures. It is usually/frequently twinned with ethnoastronomy, the anthropological study of skywatching in contemporary societies. Archaeoastronomy is also closely associated with historical astronomy, the use of historical records of heavenly events to answer astronomical problems and the history of astronomy, which uses written records to evaluate past astronomical practice.
Archaeoastronomy uses a variety of methods to uncover evidence of past practices including archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, statistics and probability, and history. Because these methods are diverse and use data from such different sources, integrating them into a coherent argument has been a long-term difficulty for people termed as 'archaeoastronomers.' Archaeoastronomy fills complementary niches in landscape archaeology and cognitive archaeology. Material evidence and its connection to the sky is used to reveal how a wider landscape can be integrated into beliefs about the cycles of nature, such as Mayan astronomy and its relationship with agriculture. Other examples which have brought together ideas of cognition and landscape include studies of the cosmic order embedded in the roads of settlements.
Archaeoastronomy can be applied to all cultures and all time periods. The meanings of the sky vary from culture to culture. However, are scientific methods which can be applied across cultures when examining ancient beliefs. The need to balance the social and scientific aspects of archaeoastronomy likely led Clive Ruggles to describe it as: "...[A] field with academic work of high quality at one end but uncontrolled speculation bordering on lunacy at the other." Archaeoastronomy owes something of this poor reputation among scholars to its occasional misuse to advance a range of pseudo-historical accounts.
During the 1930s, Otto S. Reuter compiled a study entitled Germanische Himmelskunde [Teutonic Skylore]. The astronomical orientations of ancient monuments claimed by Reuter and his followers would place the ancient Germanic peoples ahead of the Ancient Near East in the field of astronomy, demonstrating the intellectual superiority of the so-called Aryans (Indo-Europeans) over the Semites.
Since the 19th-century, numerous scholars have sought to use archaeoastronomical calculations to demonstrate the antiquity of Ancient Indian Vedic culture, computing the dates of astronomical observations ambiguously described in ancient poetry to as early as 4000 BCE. However, David Pingree, a historian of Indian astronomy, condemned "the scholars who perpetrate wild theories of prehistoric science and call themselves archaeoastronomers."
More recently Gallagher, Pyle, and Fell interpreted inscriptions in West Virginia as a description in Celtic Ogham alphabet of the supposed winter solstitial marker at the site. The controversial translation was supposedly validated by a problematic archaeoastronomical indication in which the winter solstice sun shone on an inscription of the sun at the site. Subsequent analyses criticized its cultural inappropriateness, as well as its linguistic and archeaoastronomical claims, to describe it as an example of "cult archaeology."
Archaeoastronomy is sometimes related to the fringe discipline of Archaeocryptography, when its followers attempt to find underlying mathematical orders beneath the proportions, size, and placement of archaeoastronomical sites such as Stonehenge and the Pyramid of Kukulcán at Chichen Itza.
Appendix 11: Homo Migration Out Of Africa And Into Europe
By the late 20th-century a combination of genetic and paleontological techniques allowed scientists to confirm that our own peculiar species originated in Africa. Anatomically-modern representatives of Homo Sapiens originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago, and populations of our species began to disperse out of Africa by circa 70,000 years BCE. Much remains to be discovered about human evolution during the past 500,000 years. Modern evidence indicates that multiple human lineages left Africa and dispersed throughout Europe and Asia. A combination of fossil and genetic data has given significant support to the theory that many of these disparate populations interbred with each other.The earliest remains of modern humans in Europe date to circa 45,000 BCE. The single skullcap (dated circa 55,000 BCE) evidence from the Manot Cave (discovered 2008) in northern Israel indicates that humans left their evolutionary cradle in Africa and passed through the Middle East on their way to Europe. Prehistoric humans left Africa far earlier than circa 70,000 BCE but these migratory populations appear to have eventually become extinct. (Circa at least 250,000 BCE small groups of Homo heidelbergensis, an early human species, migrated across Africa and into Europe.) At the Qafzeh cave in Israel ochre was used by hominins there circa 80,000 BCE. (Hominins = members of the human clade/species (all the evolutionary descendants of a common ancestor).) The recently found Qesem Cave teeth (4 of) in Israel and the identification and origin of the Quesem Cave humans remains unclear. The teeth are presently dated to circa 300,000 BCE. Genetic studies relating to the evolution of Homo sapiens are summarised in "A new view of the birth of Homo sapiens." by A. Gibbons (Science, Volume 31, Pages 392-394). The ancestors of modern humans emerged in Africa circa 200,000 years BCE. Some migrated from Africa. Later, Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa several times in the past circa 100,000 years BCE. A substantial dispersal of Homo sapiens occurred circa 50,000 BCE. Homo sapiens interbred with Neanderthals and also with Denisovans in Asia. (Denisova hominin is an extinct species of human in the genus Homo that lived in eastern Eurasia.)
During the last glacial maximum the west European landscape was mainly covered by cool steppe vegetation. There is some evidence for forest stands in the Mediterranean region and tundra shrubs in France. (A forest stand is a close community of trees having a common border that distinguishes it from adjacent communities of trees. A forest is a "collection of stands." A tundra shrub is a dwarf shrub. Temperature warming turns tundra shrubs into trees.) After the end of the last glacial maximum the mean temperature increased and there were progressively larger woods and forests. See: Peyron, O. et al. (1998). Climatic reconstruction in Europe for 18000 yr B.P. from pollen data." (Quarternary Research, Volume 49, Pages 183-196).
[I am indebted to the German researcher Michael Rappenglück for some early corrections and for generously sharing his biographical knowledge of the earliest persons to speculate on the possibility of Palaeolithic constellations, and also constellations being represented in the Lascaux cave art.]
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