Solutrean Art (c.20,000-15,000 BCE)
Chronology of Upper Paleolithic Art
Late Stone Age Culture
In prehistoric art, the term "Solutrean" denotes a period of late Upper Paleolithic art and culture, named after the type-site of Solutre, in the region of Bourgogne in eastern France. Perhaps because of its advanced flint tool-making techniques, Solutrean rock art is most famous for its engraved pictographs and stone friezes - in particular the relief sculpture carved on blocks representing pot-bellied, short-limbed animals - as found, for instance, in the Devil's Oven cave at Bourdeilles (c.16,000 BCE) and at Roc-de-Sers (c.17,200 BCE). Indeed, the period witnessed significant progress in both the technique and expressiveness of drawing with stone tools. Cave painting was much less prevalent during this period, although Solutrean painters were active at Lascaux (first phase c.17,000 BCE) and Cosquer (second phase 17,000 BCE). Interestingly, only a handful of the dated images from this period are depictions of the dangerous species that dominated the earliest art at (say) Chauvet. Thus the preference for lions, rhinos and bears has been superceded by pictures of large herbivores, such as horses, aurochs and bison. Was Solutrean man growing less afraid of dangerous predators? Was it because of his skill at making blades for his javelins? Meanwhile, pictures of signs, symbols and other expressions of concrete art, remained popular, with some imagery being interpreted as evidence of an early knowledge of astronomy. Solutrean Stone Age art coincided with the coldest period (Last Glacial Maximum) of the Ice Age (c.20,000-17,000 BCE), and with the displacement of Neanderthal man by the new modern species of Cro-Magnon man and Chancelade man. As yet we have no clear idea how these factors affected either the parietal or the mobiliary art of the time, although continuing research will doubtless provide some answers.
Solutrean engravers and sculptors improved on Gravettian traditions of Franco-Cantabrian cave art in a number of ways. First, they injected much more realism into their engraved plaques, such as those depicting female deer and horses found at Parpallo in Spain. To strengthen this process, they introduced preparatory sketching for their engravings and reliefs, using charcoal drawings for some of their figures. Second, they engraved their animal figures in such a way as to exploit the light and morphology of the cave, using bas-reliefs to enhance the three-dimensional qualities of the work. Thus, the main artistic goal of sculpture - the interplay between form, light and movement - appears to have been fully understood. These advances culminated in the exquisite bas-reliefs carved out of limestone slabs, at Bourdeilles (Dordogne) and Roc-de-Sers (Charentes). In addition, Solutrean artists also produced a number of cave paintings and petroglyphs at the Tete du Lion cave in the Ardeche region. Unfortunately, around 15,000 BCE, after creating a number of stunning examples of cave art, Solutrean culture mysteriously disappears.
des Deux-Ouvertures (second phase) (19,000 BCE)
Cave (18,130 BCE)
Cave Art (c.18,000 BCE)
Cave Pottery (c.18,000 BCE),
Cave (c.17,500 BCE)
Cave Paintings (second phase 17,000 BCE)
Cave Engravings and Reliefs (c.17,200 BCE)
Cave Paintings (first phase c.17,000 BCE)
La Tete du Lion Cave (c.17,000 BCE)
Devil's Oven Cave (c.16,000 BCE)
Cave of La
Pasiega (c.16,000 BCE)
For more about art from the Upper Paleolithic, please see the following:
Castillo Cave Paintings (39,000 BCE)
Cave Paintings (Cantabria, Spain)
For more information about Solutrean arts and crafts, see: Homepage.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF STONE AGE