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The cave paintings of Lascaux (in southwestern France) date to around 15,000 B.C.E. and are among the finest examples of prehistoric art known. Ever since the paintings were discovered, scholars have puzzled over their purpose. According to one widely discussed interpretation, the paintings were made to ensure a successful hunt. Several considerations support this view.
In the first place, there is the animal subject matter of the paintings. The cave images are almost exclusively of large mammals. These animals include bison, wild horses, and now-extinct aurochs (wild cattle), which are known to have been hunted by the Paleolithic people who created the paintings. A number of the animals are shown wounded by arrows and spears. There are also depictions of what appears to be the seasonal migrations of these animals that would have been very important to prehistoric hunters.
Second, the depictions of humans in the cave paintings include human figures that appear to have animal heads. These could be hunters: hunters in some traditional cultures are known to disguise themselves with animal heads so that they are not recognized by the animals they are hunting.
Third, many cultures hold the belief that by depicting an event one can bring about its reality. Throughout history – prehistoric, ancient, and modern – images have been regarded as more than mere decorative representations; they are seen as having magical power to affect reality. Thus, it is reasonable to suppose that the hunters who created the Lascaux cave paintings believed that by painting successful hunts, they were ensuring that real hunts would be successful.
The reading passage proposes three reasons to support the view that the cave paintings of Lascaux are to confirm successful hunting. The lecturer, nevertheless, disputes the explanations proposed by the author and provides a counter-argument as to why the reasons presented by the reading are invalid.
First, according to the reading, paintings contain animals and wounded animals, which show hunting. However, the lecturer mentions that paintings have animals, but some of them, like cats, were not hunted. Also, according to some documents, reindeer was the most popular animal to hunt, but reindeer was not painted. Another reason to mention is that a small percentage of painted animals were wounded, so this cannot be good support that these paintings are about hunting.
Second, the author puts forward the idea that paintings contain humans with animals’ heads and takes it as a sign of successful hunting. In contrast, the listening states humans in the figures were painted horizontally, which means they are not standing up. Also, there are no other images to have a better interpretation of them. Therefore, we cannot consider them as evidence of successful hunting.
Finally, the passage goes on to mention that images empowered with magical powers affect reality. Hence, with paint successful hunting, it will become real. The lecturer, although, asserts that the belief that images have magical powers does not essentially mean the purpose of paintings was to reach successful hunting. Moreover, the professor points out that people in this culture believe that the spirit of their dead ones are alive in the shape of the animal, and they want to interact with animals in ceremonies. Animal paintings may represent this magical belief.