The cave art of Homo neanderthalensis demonstrates what it is to be part of the human species

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baboon
The cave art of Homo neanderthalensis demonstrates what it is to be part of the human species
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baboon
The hind at la pasiega

A little more on the hind in the painting at La Pasiega: as I mention above the hind inside the Neanderthal painted "framework" is emerging from the surface, almost floating, as a spirit animal. In Upper Palaeolithic cave art the hind is often associated with magic. For example, there is a striking hind painted on the ceiling of Altamira, Spain some 17-21 thousand years ago, that is almost certainly representative of a sorceress. She is standing her ground and appears to be facing off several males, possibly warriors, in the form of bison who may or may not be from the same totem. She is surrounded by symbols that are closely associated with magic in this art (Picasso, who was very familiar with Spanish UP cave art, used the self-same symbolism in his Guernica painting, trying and ultimately failing to work his magic on the composition). The hind as a spirit animal passing from one world to the other is not uncommon and this appears to be one of the earliest expressions of it.

The association of the hind with magic goes right up to Medieval England where the appropriation of the forests by the aristocracy was also a particular act of ideological rapine by the lords of the earth against the peasantry in general and women in particular. Associations of the hind and deer with magic or transformation occur in all the major religions: Buddha was reincarnated as a deer; Christian mythology throughout Europe uses the deer as a religious symbol. In Hinduism the goddess takes the form of a deer; in Shinto the deer is a messenger from the gods and there are similar references in both Islam and Judaism. It would be interesting if all this had some origin in Neanderthal cave art.