“We are locked in history, and they were not” : Werner Herzog.
The blog by Jessica Accardi about cave art, which included an attempt at primitive art by her eight-year-old son jogged my memory of the story of the Chauvet Cave paintings that were discovered in 1994.
I remembered the story of an eight-year-old boy who 26,000 years ago entered Chauvet Cave, bare footed, carrying a burning torch. He slips around in the soft clay floor but walks forward in the dark raising his torch high. A brave boy, for I would never enter alone such a dark cave. With him are tracks of a wolf, perhaps an animal to keep him company? He stops half way in the cave, he cleans the torch against a wall, then proceeds. The cave comes alive, the sparkling cave, the bones of ancient cave bears scattered across the ground, the animals upon the walls dancing and changing as he raises his torch aloft.
The boy belongs to an era deep in the last ice age. A world of mammoths, dry, cold and the ice is at its maximum range. A world where the sea is 300m below its present level, and humanity co-exist with Cro-magnon, and perhaps Neanderthal. The boy is the last to enter the cave, for a rock slide seals the cave for 26,000 years, until discovered in 1994. The explorers discover the foot prints of the boy, and open to the world something awesome, thought forgotten.
The story of the boy is breathtaking, but that is nothing to what Chauvet Cave reveals. A documentary called the Cave of Forgotten Dreams was produced, and thus I was blown away as I watched it.
The story has given me dozens of new ideas and ways of looking at the world we live in. As an example the cave is a place of continuous activity spanning thousands of years, a people who lived with a world view that did not see time as we did. As Werner Herzog narrates in the documentary, we are locked into history, but to the people of Chauvet time does not exist.
Those who go into the cave feel as if they are being watched by the cave painters of long ago; there is something about the cave that strikes me as raw, wild and alive; it is worth 90 minutes of a life to watch this documentary.