Prehistoric Bison at rest, from Altamira cave, Spain. Digital painting.
The bison in Altamira are beyond any doubt amongst the most exquisite paintings of the Paleolithic. It is difficult to find bison of similar delicacy in Lascaux, Chauvet or Niaux, or Ekain, to mention some of the most amazing caves so far discovered.
These crouching bison, known as "bisontes encogidos" were painted in this position to adapt the images to, or inspired by, the natural bulges of the ceiling, thus conferring them a magical third dimension. The effect, under electric light, is simply breathtaking. How it would be to see these images as they were meant to be seen, under firelight, with all those elegant mammals alive in the flickering flame... I wish I could.
We do not know what our ancestors painted for. We will probably never know. It is believed they did not paint what they actually hunted. The most accepted theory is that they had some shamanic, spiritual, purpose. The paintings on the cave walls would come to life under the firelight, in some sort of mystical communion with the humans. I have tried, in a way, to represent that by adding some sense of fur to my painting through the brush-stroke: The great bison coming to life.
The paintings in Altamira date from the Magdalenian age, about 15-17,000 ybp.
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