Prehistoric Images and Medicines Under the Sea
by Jean Clottes, Jean Courtin, Luc Vanrell
· A number of small animal engravings - which had been seen in 1992 but had remained unstudied - are to be found on the slanting wall next to the big now submerged shaft, which we have called the Big Shaft. They are difficult of access because the water is quite deep at the foot of the wall. The lower level of the water during our second spell of field work in 2003 has enabled us to spend more time there and to take close-ups of those engravings and of the black hand stencils nearby. Contrary to what we had thought first, we found out that they had been done before the hand stencils, because one of those hand stencils was on top of these engravings. This means that part of the animals were done during what we called Phase 1 by the Gravettians, between 26,000 and 28,000 BP, which is an important new fact;
· In addition to the phallus already described (Clottes, Courtin, Collina-Girard 1996), other sexual symbols, both male and female, have been observed. In particular, a few natural hollows on the walls have been marked with black to transform them into female sexual organs;
· Among the rare objects found in the cave are a Pecten shell in which a big live coal had been put, a piece of clay which has been kneaded and bears distinct traces of fingers and nails, and also a flat calcite plaque which was worked and used as a makeshift lamp.
· A number of broken stalactites and stalagmites have been observed in numerous places. This is neither gratuitous vandalism nor a destruction meant to facilitate going from one place to the other, as most of them are in places where they could not get in the way. In most cases, the broken pieces have not been found. We have also carefully examined the stalagmites and stalactites located in the higher parts of the cave, in passages which remained unreachable to prehistoric people and where not a single trace or charcoal was ever found: those concretions have never been broken. This proves that the breakage we have noticed cannot have been due to natural causes like earthquakes;
· All over the cave, in the parts which remained above the water, the surface of the walls has been scraped and thousands of traces of the scraping are inscribed there (see photographs below). The red clay was used as a makeshift pigment to make the red hand stencils. The whitish mondmilch (degraded surface of the limestone walls) has been removed, sometimes as deep as one or two inches. From the superimpositions of engravings and paintings we can tell that these activities took place during the main two periods when the cave was frequented. At the foot of the walls or vaults where they scraped the surfaces, when the ground is intact, very few traces remain. One must conclude that they took the white mondmilch away for their own purposes.
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