Hunters and shamans, sex and death: relational ontologies and the materiality of the Lascaux 'shaft-scene'

Wallis, Robert (2021). Hunters and shamans, sex and death: relational ontologies and the materiality of the Lascaux 'shaft-scene'. In: Moro Abadía, Oscar and Porr, Martin eds. Ontologies of Rock Art: Images, Relational Approaches and Indigenous Knowledge. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 319–334.

URL: https://www.routledge.com/Ontologies-of-Rock-Art-I...

Abstract

The ‘scene in the shaft’ (la scene du puits) of the cave of Lascaux in the Dordogne region of France is one of the most enigmatic and well-known in the cave art corpus, located in perhaps the most iconic of caves. In this chapter I offer a sustained examination of the artwork following the ‘archaeology of art’ proposed by Jones and Cochrane who argue that ‘any approach to archaeological art must begin with the material from which the artwork is composed’ (2018, 21). I begin by a process of induction with a formal analysis, considering the use of pigment and paint, techniques of production, and the way in which artist and materials were involved in a process of ‘intra-action’ and ‘affect.’ I also take account of natural features of the rock surface and how the tangible relationships between image and surface indicate an active dialogue between them, and therefore between the maker, the artwork, and the process of making. Further attention to the location, morphology, and archaeology of the shaft enables discussion of the intra-action between artist, image, rock surface, objects, and the cave locale. This assemblage of visual and material elements presents a range of possible affects which I explore in terms of ethnographic data on hunter- gatherer communities, drawing upon Willerslev’s (2007) ethnography of the animist Siberian Yukaghir.

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