Room 4
Human Prehistory: An Exhibition


Deer from Lascaux

The caves at Lascaux in France were discovered accidentally in 1940. The paintings in those caves are regarded as the most outstanding of all known prehistoric art.
The Lascaux caverns had served as subterranean water channels, a few hundred to some 4,000 feet long. Far inside these caverns the hunter-artists engraved and painted on the walls pictures of animals such as mammoth, bison, reindeer, horse. For light, they used tiny stone lamps filled with marrow or fat, with a wick, perhaps, of moss. For drawing, they used chunks of red and yellow ocher; for painting, they ground these same ochers into powders that they blew onto the walls or mixed with some medium, such as animal fat, before applying. A large flat bone served as a palette; they could make brushes from reeds or bristles; they could use a blowpipe of reeds to trace outlines of figures and to put pigments on out-of-reach surfaces; and they had stone scrapers for smoothing the wall and sharp flint points for engraving. [Source: Horst de la Croix et al. eds Gardner's Art through the Ages, 9th ed. (Fort Worth: HBJ, 1991, pp. 28-29]

Horse from Lascaux

The first humans were also skilled in producing clay sculpture such as the bisons from Tuc d' Audoubert in France. The two bisons are made of unbaked clay and measure each about 60 cm in length. They have been dated between 13.000 and 8.000 BC.

They also made figurines of fertility that we call them "aphrodites". The Aphrodite of Laussel, one of the earliest reliefs, measures 44 cm in height and can be seen now at the museum of Bordeaux in France. The Aphrodite of Willendorf, now in Vienna, has been dated between 28,000 and 25,000 BC is made of limestone and measures about 11 cm in height. In both figurines the anatomical elements have been exaggerated showing that they were probably used as fertility fetishes.

Aphrodite of LausselAphrodite of Willendorf

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D. I. Loizos, 1996-2003