Chauvet som förhistoriskt klassrum?

First Things låter Maureen Mullarkey sig svepas med till Chauvet, och dess 35 000 år gamla grottmålningarna. Motiven förklaras ofta vara religiösa, och det kanske de är. Men Mullarkey tillåter sig fantisera om att det kanske helt enkelt var ett förhistoriskt klassrum.

Målningarna som sin tid power-points?

I love this bear. It was drawn with regard, even tenderness. Snuffling for berries or tubers, it does not display the posture of an object of veneration. Whatever else it might have represented in the day of its making, it comes to us as mortal, eking livelihood from a hardscrabble world:

It is not just whimsy that makes me wonder if prehistoric drawing had a possible tutorial function, among others. Chauvet, with its chambers, fireplaces, and—so crucial—solid roof, would have served beautifully as a classroom. We moderns project PowerPoint presentations onto walls or proxies for them. Aboriginal instructors had no screens, no blackboard. They worked straight on the wall. Imagine a huddle of little boys being initiated into the hunt before joining adults on the risky business of a kill. (A young boy’s footprint survives on the floor of Chauvet.)

A fantasy, perhaps. But I am fond of it. One reason it appeals to me is that it offsets, without evicting, unquestioned insistence on religious function alone. Dominant association of the primitive with the religious yokes the two together in facile accommodation to secular self-congratulation. Religion is for cavemen. We are past all that now, thank God.


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