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Allie Eby

Many people claim that prehistoric imagery is abstract or abstracted. How do you react to this? Use examples.

Like most things in regards to prehistoric art, I believe it is very difficult to speak in absolutes, especially considering that I lack the context to properly understand the purpose of the art’s creation. While it seems true that some of the art is abstract/abstracted, other pieces within the same medium and category of work don’t seem to be. For example, some of the earliest art pieces found are cave paintings. While some like the paintings in the Chauvet Cave seem almost to function like encyclopedias that could serve to show lifelike representations of local animals, which I would not consider abstraction, others like the Lascaux Cave paintings show what I interpret to be a fictional creature, which could be considered abstract. I draw a similar comparison between the carvings depicting humans in believable poses and scenarios like the Man and Woman from Cernavoda vs. depictions of fictional figures like the Lion-Human. Overall, I believe that without proper context of the culture and time in which a work was created, the abstract nature of prehistoric art can only be speculated.