Let “this become that” within the transference of form through the spirit

Altamira, Lascaux and Chauvet caves indicate clearly that our ancient ancestors had a lot of something that they wanted to say.  There is no definitive explanation as to the motivation driving our ancestors to leave their marks on cave walls.  Some believe it was to control an animal’s spirit to ensure a successful hunt (i.e., the basic human desire to survive); or possibly to thank their deities for a successful hunt and thereby providing the basic necessities for survival; or, quite frankly, there is also the basic human need to communicate!  All of these motivations are most likely at play in varying degrees with the mark making that we see today after the passage of forty thousands or more  years.  What we do know with certainty is that these images left by our ancestors do contain a sustaining power that continues to resonate within us today.  Angela Cepeda taps into this latent power of our ancestors  in the following excerpts from her book Bird of Paradise:  How I Became a Latina:  “When we illuminate the road back to our ancestors, they have a way of reaching out, of manifesting themselves…sometimes even physically…Individually, every grain of sand brushing against my hands represents a story, an experience, and a block for me to build upon for the next generation.”  What are your initial thoughts on the cave images left by our ancestors and do you find Ms. Cepeda’s thoughts an accurate and insightful reflection on the connection we seem to be able to engage in with out ancestors?

Images from Alta Mira Cave

Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

18 Comments

18 thoughts on “Let “this become that” within the transference of form through the spirit”

  1. My first impression of cave images even before class was always that they were… Primitive, in the sense that they are not very developed or complex. Though, after actually looking at various cave paintings, I now feel that even though our brains may have gotten bigger over the years we are ultimately all connected. It is not that we have gotten immensely more intelligent over the years, it is that the knowledge our ancestors have left for us has enriched us to be able to reach farther. As Ms. Cepeda states, “(things left behind by ancestors are) a block for me to build upon for the next generation”, and I feel that these records, whether it be written record or cave painting, are the foundation for everything we have come to know and learn. Paintings for worship and hunt may not be of bears or handprints, but we see remnants of this attitude in paintings of religious figures and stencilled graffiti. It is a good reminder that even if tens of thousands of years pass, we will always still be human at the core.

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  2. I was immediately drawn to the images of our ancestors’ cave art as we explored these in class. However, watching the documentary about the Chauvet Cave really brought to life the power and emotion of these images – to see them in situ increased the intensity of this ancestral connection. For me, these cave art images demonstrate the enduring themes of the very nature of what it means to be a human being, we may have evolved in terms of civilization and technology, but our human soul and spirit endures. I have always been astonished at just how relevant the writings of Shakespeare are four hundred years after they were penned. The Chauvet cave art extends this notion another 40,000 or so years, incredible! Ms. Cepeda’s assertion about the latent power of our ancestors to reach out and touch us today rings true for me. Even though we only have a few clues about the lives of these ancient people, to see how they so accurately captured the likeness, body language, and spirit of the animals they were surrounded by, sends a strong emotional and intellectual message to me of their culture and what it meant to be human all those thousands of years ago.

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  3. Historical markings of the ancient past have left us with insight about our ancestors long ago. Countless questions still remain unanswered, however, as a group of like-minded individuals, historians, scientists, we have discovered a lot about human spirituality from centuries ago. In the quote from the blog, it seems necessary to look into our past to unlock the doors of uncertainty. This becomes important to us in that our deductions of history have led towards a better understanding of the things around us. The knowledge we have found physically, necessitating from these cave paintings significantly enhances our imaginative and rational experiences. Ms. Cepeda compares her life stories and recollects her experiences with the grains of time. This statement does hold assumption on the case that our ancestors from thousands of years ago may have managed to develop faculties of reason, philosophy, religious beliefs, and systems that govern man to innately survive in any such environment, or period of time.

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  4. Being able to see that these cave paintings exist is a privilege. To know that they markings of our ancestors still exist is incredible. I wish to one day be able to see these images in person. We are constantly asking ourselves what possessed our ancestors to create these forms of artwork. Could it be a result from deity worship? Or could it even be from wanting to depict their images to future generations. I personally do not think that they had either of those thoughts. Talking from my own experiences, whenever I go camping I take my watercolor palette and I like to capture what ever animal I spot. I don’t do this because I want to share this with future generations. I do this because I want to capture the beauty in that exact moment. I want to be able to look back and remember the emotions I was feeling in that exact moment. I do agree with Cepeda’s quote. We are able to connect with our ancestors in so many ways. To see these paintings is a bridge to their past lives. We just have to be willing to view it as an open door to their world.

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  5. My first thoughts as we explored our ancestor’s artwork were how the caveman and cavewoman created such stories, also creating the belief they can “control an animals spirit” or “thanking their dieties”, for example in the Chauvet Cave Documentary using burnt word as a “pencil” or leaving their “hand prints” sort of like a signature. After watching the documentary on the Chauvet Cave, it demonstrated how far as human beings we’ve come today “evolution”. “Every grain brushing against my hands represents a story” Angela Cepeda, there is a record which this world keeps of all our past ancestors, which a physical reaction tends to occur like history repeating itself. The cave paintings which were discovered helps us connect with our ancestors and view their past lives and beliefs.

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  6. I believe the marks were left behind as relatively sacred offerings for the animals and their spirits. These animals were depicted with great detail, and what I believe is that this was done out of the respect our ancestors had for these animals. If someone was to just try to send a message about animals through a visual interpretation, we could just assume that a simple image of an animal is a long horizontal body with 2 front and hind legs, but our ancestors did not do that. They took the time to make sure each image almost accurately represented the animals. Not only can we distinguish between the animal types but it’s almost as if as we can read the emotion that the animal has. From what was shown in the documentary I did not really see any of the animals really shown in despair or danger. Most of the markings showed the animals in an almost aggressive stance, I believe this was done to show the strength that these animals are capable of. In addition to that thought, it isn’t just one animal that is being depicted as being compelling, it’s all of them. This leads me to believe that these markings were done much more for appreciation than it was done for the purpose of delivering a message. I also find mrs Cepeda’s thoughts helpful toward my interpretation. Although I don’t believe these markings were directly intended to send a message, the subconscious message we can see is that we should pass down our appreciation of these animals from one generation to the next.

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  7. When I first saw those cave images, I will admit that I was shocked. The typical stereotype for cave paintings that are seen in movies and other pop culture is that of extremely simple images, stick figures and basic shapes. While simplicity is true in certain cases, most of the cave paintings we have seen certainly rise above that. I had no idea that our ancestors were capable of such relatively complex imagery. They were able to capture the shape of animals with great accuracy. The level of detail in some of the images shows that our ancestors paid very close attention to the natural world. Regardless of the reason for these images, it is clear that the cave-people had great respect for animals and treasured them as such. Since seeing these images, I realize that these cave-people are a lot closer to us than most people realize, especially after watching the documentary and seeing just how advanced they could get.
    I also happen to agree with Ms. Cepeda. Every person has a story. Each story is just as important as the rest. The purpose of history is to discover these stories and share them with everyone else. These cave paintings are the cave-peoples’ stories. The more we learn from these paintings, the more we learn about human history. From this knowledge, we see attributes of humans that span millennia, the true spirit of humanity. We may even find some of these attributes in ourselves and see how humans operate in general. The past has a way of speaking out and teaching us things. We just have to listen and we can learn.

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  8. Those cave painting one of the oldest example of art. The cave painting still shows beautiful colors, even though they were painted a long time ago. It is a good question why this early human painted on cave wall. They might have wanted leave their history to future generations or perhaps they simple enjoyed painting.

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  9. Cave paintings left by our ancestors are incredibly detailed. The first time I experienced the images blew my mind away. The complexity and animation in the Chauvet Cave paintings captivated me, even though I was only viewing them through the slideshow presentation and the documentary. To think that the Chauvet cave is actually the oldest of the cave paintings discovered shows how our ancestors had a sense of complexity and creativity. Ms. Capeda states that our ancestors “have a way of reaching out, of manifesting themselves…sometimes even physically.” With this, she accurately states the experience we have with cave paintings. For a moment, we are able to share the feelings our ancestors had when they finished their works of art. As we discover and interpret what the caves and the paintings were used for, we learn and become more in awe of what once was. Also, Capeda says, “Individually, every grain of sand brushing against my hands represents a story, an experience, and a block for me to build upon for the next generation.” Soon, this generation will be known as ancestors, and what we leave behind will leave an impression on future generations. The modern art, paintings, architecture that we have today will leave a mark and hopefully leave the future in awe, like the cave paintings have done for us.

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  10. My first thought on the cave painting was fascinating and beautiful looking at the art works that our ancestor has drawn whether it was it used for their own personal reason or as some kind of offering. There might be a reason why our ancient ancestor has painted the cave with different themes but even though the cave painting is very simple to look at, there might be more detailed information that we may not know that our ancestor wanted to show it to us. Our ancient ancestor have used different themes to leave us the “story” of their lives. It might be our luck as to find the creation that our ancestor has left us but after we found out about the cave arts, we will be able to find the connection and the idea for the future.

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  11. My initial thoughts on the various cave paintings that we talked about are amazement and a sense of connection. The feeling of purely natural urge of humans to create something, no matter what reason behind it, runs through our veins since the beginning of time. Some people draw, paint and create works of art without any proper training. Looking back when I was a child, I’m reminded of responding to my surroundings and having the urge to document what I see or experience. As an adult, I can relate to Ms. Cepeda in looking back to what our ancestors have created and looking forward to what we might leave behind for future generations to see. We create time capsules, carve our names on trees, and in our age of technology, upload our work online for the whole world to see. Our ancestors left something (maybe on purpose or not) for us to discover and it was very impactful to us; therefore, we want to do the same thing. The cave paintings touch something primal inside all of us and it shows how astonishing the human race is.

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  12. My initial thoughts on the cave images were the pure primitive cavemen using their primal tools doodling onto walls just as a child would with their crayons. I didn’t think cave arts could carry such deep meanings until prof. Tracy opened up my perspective. Just as how carving the wounded bison onto rocks was their way of saying thank you for a successful hunt or to ensure a successful hunt. The rounding of the bison suggested a faster movement of escaping; for instance, running away from a hunt. The hooves clicking resonates the palpable sounds just from looking at the drawing. It may not be the best-looking bison at first but at that moment, for the cavemen, without a doubt, it was something remarkable. However, Ms. Cepeda’s thoughts are debatable; I believe that the minds of cavemen weren’t as complex as ours today. We have developed a sense to analyze everything and anything, thus, it contributes to us by assuming that the ancient arts were meant for future generations to depict and make a meaning out of it. Perhaps, for our simple-minded ancestors, they just wanted to jot down what they saw onto the walls of their homes to appreciate. Humans constantly create; they make things to relive the memories off of their heads. Whatever treasures we have unraveled from our ancestors could be a connection we seem to be able to engage and relate, or it could just be a form of self-comfort to make us feel better in our generation.

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  13. I absolutely agree with Cepeda’s remarks describing the experience we can have when we try to reach into the past to understand and connect with our ancestors. When I first learned of the paintings found in the Altamira, Lascaux, and Chauvet caves, my initial thoughts turned to the people that made them. I wondered what their daily lives were like. What were their main concerns? what was the family and community units like in that time? What were their main concerns or fears, and what did they find joy or take solace in the most? It was when the information about the details and methods that went into these painting was reviled that I realized their art spoke to and reflected their lives. Just as art today can reveal the mindset and emotions of a single person, or a society, the cave art of our ancestors is capable of the same. The way they could see hidden lines on cave walls that represented important animals, and the way they could identify, understand, and translate the emotions or essences of these animals into paintings is amazing. It’s when we realize the thoughtfulness, and complexity of their outlooks on life, that we gain a deeper understanding for the foundations of our own inner workings and thought process.

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  14. I go back and forth with myself on the idea that there is a choice leading to deciphering what we leave behind; being of meaning or simply for our enjoyment, I believe that it is merely up to the beholder. In the case of the caves and the images that clothe their walls, during the time of their “artists’” lifetime, I feel as if they were made with intentions of being used for themselves. However, I think those intentions lent themselves to many purposes; whether they be to make a visual representation of a beast to tell a story or for unpretentious delight, etc. Now, centuries later we are more interested in placing concrete meaning behind all things we encounter, with that, we feel the need to say that our ancestors left these things behind for us— only can’t we say that they didn’t know they would have to leave anything for “us” just as easily as we say that they did?

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  15. The cave paintings/images left behind by our ancestors are thought provoking to say the least. It’s so intriguing in the way that we can never actually know what they meant to say, because we cannot go back in time and ask them ourselves. The cave images are a testament to our ned to communicate, and convey ideas, a trait of civilization that separates us from animals. I agree with ms. Cepeda’s thoughts, it’s a perceptive observation on the way we identify with those who came before us.

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  16. looking back at the use for art pre- skilled time frame to me they always seem like they are the stories that we use to motivate our young similar to that of Mother Goose rhymes and Grim fairytails. These images could be a story about a great hunt and how to be successful or just a story about bison and migration patterns.

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  17. My initial thoughts when is seeing the cave paintings is that it is amazing they have survived this long, thousands of years after they were made. It is interesting seeing what our ancestors were doing at the time of the cave paintings, and what they are telling us. This resonates with us because we as humans are always wanting to tell how our lives are going, what our thoughts are and what we want to accomplish. While in modern times we might not do cave paintings, we do however have street and graffiti art. Whether or not this art will survive is another matter but if it does, it would very interesting see how our descendants interpret this art.

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  18. I personally love the cave images that our ancestors made. I think that it shows that we were always in need of a creative outlet. Maybe not, no one know why they drew on the walls. In my opinion, it’s to tell a story. I think art in itself tells a story. I love looking at the cave drawings and he building upon one another. I love Chauvet’s cave. I want to be able to visit them so that I can look at them and take my own interpretation. It just looks amazing what our ancestors could do. I do agree with Ms. Cepeda’s thoughts because I feel like our ancestors left a story for us to follow. They left their story behind for us to see. It may not be so clear but we can feel a little closer to our ancestors. We can see that maybe the differences are not as major. It lets us see that people lived and created back then. It sparks more wonder into what were we really like before.

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