Art in the Depths : The Sorcerer of Gabilou

Jun 1st, 2011 | By | Category: Art and Architecture, Featured Articles

Hybrid artforms from the upper Paleolithic Era is perhaps one of the earliest known forms of religious art. This cave painting of the half human, bison comes from the Gabilou Caves in Dordogne, France. The sorcerer is the name of this hybrid form of artistic figure, half man and half animal. This particular work of art is dated back to 14,000 BC and similar forms appear in southern France, notably with hyenas and and deers with antlers.

While some archaeologists consider the hybrid as evidence of pre-shamanistic practice, in reality there could be a much simpler explanation. Cro-Magnon man was an accomplished Hunter, with a great familiarity with animal carcasses. Wearing animal heads for a ritualistic purpose it is also another distinct possibility. Such animal–human hybrids were a common art form in the upper Paleolithic era.

Why are Palaeolithic ancestors descended into the depths of dark caves to scratch these figures into the walls is another mystery, because some of these caves are often not publicly accessible. It has therefore been considered likely that these depictions constitute a cultural heritage and were probably handed down from even earlier cultures. The possibility of these cave paintings being linked to rituals also cannot be ruled out, although in the Gabilou caves themselves there are a series of such a rock paintings, pointing out the possibility that it was one of mankind’s first art museums.

Implicit in these art forms there are several tantalising possibilities. Although commonly attributed to the depiction of shamans who perhaps played a central role in the religious life of stone age cave dwellers, the zoo-anthropomorphic forms have also been attributed to visions in trancelike states that are thought to have been a regular theme in folk religious practice. Hybrids have been noted in most cultures from a relatively early part of our prehistory, and can be thought of as a unitary part of our folk consciousness.

For a religious interpretation readers are directed to :
http://www.theosophical.org/publications/quest-magazine/1238 :

“Spirit and Art: and the Puzzles of Paradox”

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