The Lascaux Notebooks, Jean-Luc Champerret, ed./tr. Philip Terry (Carcanet Press)

Tears in the Fence

Whilst dedicated cavers continue to dive and squeeze further and further underground, mapping new networks and entering underground ‘rooms’ no-one else has ever seen, others have always preferred to consider archaeological and anthropological findings in depth rather than simply move on. Jerome Rothenberg has translated and anthologised texts under the term ethnopoetics; Clayton Eshelman has synthesized theology, psychology, creative writing and what would now be called eco-criticism to explore the ‘Upper Paleolithic Imagination’; whilst the first (and for a long time only) monograph about the Lascaux caves was written by Georges Bataille.

Much, of course, was made of the 20,000 year-old art found (or re-rediscovered) in 1940 at Lascaux and other caves in the Dordogne region. It fed into fine artists’ obsessions with ‘primitive’ cultures, as well as providing an argument that art had always been important, perhaps pre-dating spoken language, and allowed much conjecture about art as magic, celebration…

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