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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/839

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819
PREHISTORIC ART IN AMERICA.

teeth, the shoulder-blade of a reindeer, the long bones of deer, or on stones or beach-pebbles, and included the huge cave-bear, the mammoth with its heavy mane and upturned tusks, the seal, the crocodile, and the horse. These drawings, the first efforts of man, are crude in shape, but suggestive of vital action. One of the stag-horns, engraved with representations of reindeer and fishes, is a almost a masterpiece. The deer are following one another, and one of them has turned to look back, doubtless so as to see her fawn; the heads are all drawn in profile and without foreshortening, as in the Egyptian paintings and sculptures; sometimes the lines are light, at other times they are cut deeply to bring out certain parts. By a curious caprice the artist, after having completed his first design, has put fishes in all the vacant spaces, and they too are wonderfully truthful. M. Massenat has discovered, at Laugerie Basse, a piece of reindeer-horn about ten inches long, on which was plainly engraved an aurochs running from a young man who is about to shoot an arrow at it. The animal has its head down with its horns in a position of menace, expanded nostrils, and tail raised and curved, all being signs of terror and irritation. The man is naked and has a round head, with coarse hair, which is brought up over the top of his head, and an obvious beard on the chin. His whole physiognomy expresses joyousness and the excitement of the chase. The women have flat breasts and prominent hips. One of them, very hairy, is drawn between the legs of a deer, and wears a collar around her neck. Unfortunately, her head is wanting.

A considerable number of engraved stones and bones have been brought to light in the excavations of the cave of Thayngen, Switzerland. Among them is a reindeer, standing with its head inclined toward the ground, and drawn with a precision showing a really remarkable acquaintance with the form of the animal. The artist had attained such perfection that observers were at first tempted to ask if they had not been invited to look at one of the archaeological frauds that have unhappily become so common. But the excavations had been watched with unremitting care; the witnesses of the discovery were honorable men of science; the calcareous deposit of more than a yard thick had been taken up under their eyes; there were found in the cave reproductions of animals which had disappeared centuries ago—the musk-ox, for instance; and the engraving was so faithful that it could have been made only from nature. It was necessary, then, to surrender to the evidence. Away back in the quaternary ages, in the midst of the hardest conditions of life, of the struggle for existence, and of incessant conflicts against the great pachyderms, the bears, and the feline animals that swarmed around him, man already had the feeling or the instinct of art. He tried to draw the likenesses of the animals he saw and of the trees that shaded the cave he lived in; and the productions of his industry, found again after so many ages, are all the more interesting from the fact that the extemporiz-