Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Is this a bird headed man? Is this a wounded bison? Lascaux Cave

Lascaux Bird Headed Man with a Wounded Bison?

Iconographic Analysis
Very rarely do we actually see the human form in Paleolithic cave painting. There are two examples of this that I’ve been able to find, one from Altamira in Spain, there is a mention of one in Cantabrian cave of Addaura in Sicily and the other at a site called Lascaux. In all instances the figure has a recognizable beak and the body and arms of a person.


There are some similarities between the drawings, these are the only representations that we have left from Altamira because the others faded away and the only scene we have intact are from Lascaux France. We don’t know what these bird headed men mean and we also don’t know why they seem to have erections and a bird head. To further complicate our analysis the one from Lascaux is located near what looks to be a bison with its intestines falling out. It also looks like there are several arrows and a bird headed staff or stick is also on the left-hand side. We really have no context in which to judge these works of art for what they represent other than looking at some similar cultures that are more historic. For example, many ancient but historical cultures have similar looking objects.

Many cultures have ceremonies in which people wear masks and do dances. That would account for ritual in which someone would wear a mask. However, there are many cultures that also depict compound creatures that have the heads of birds and the bodies of people.
It would be easy to make a step assumption that what’s described here is some sort of man who is confronting a wounded bison and that there are arrows scattered around the ground. But we don’t know if it’s actually a scene because we don’t see complete scenes in prehistoric wall paintings from Altamira Lascaux and the Chauvet Caves. To deduce meaning is really hard to do. Here are some of suggestions of meanings that I’ve gathered over the years; I don’t trust any of them.




Some people of suggested that the bird headed man is some sort of shaman, priest, or hunter. The erect penis is some sort of penis sheath that some people were aboriginals from New Guinea wear. We simply do not know if all the parts of this picture go together and or what is represented beyond this. We do not even have artifacts that look like any of these elements except for the arrow tips. We do however have many artifacts that are also not represented in cave paintings such as figurines of women.