Reading 2 “Paleolithic Art”
From the moment in 1879 that cave paintings were discovered at Altamira, scholars have wondered why the hunter-artists of the Old Stone Age decided to cover the walls of dark caverns with animal images. Various answers have been given, including that they were mere decoration, but this theory cannot explain the narrow range of subjects or the inaccessibility of many of the paintings. In fact, the remoteness and difficulty of access of many of the cave paintings and the fact they appear to have been used for centuries are precisely what have led many scholars to suggest that the prehistoric hunters attributed magical proper¬ties to the images they painted. According to this argument, by confining animals to the surfaces of their cave walls, the artists believed they were bringing the beasts under their control. Some have even hypothesized that rituals or dances were performed in front of the images and that these rites served to improve the hunters’ luck. Still others have stated that the painted animals may have served as teaching tools to instruct new hunters about the character of the various species they would encounter or even to serve as targets for spears.
Related Posts maybe you like:
In contrast, some scholars have argued that the magical purpose of the paint¬ings and reliefs was not to facilitate the destruction of bison and other species. Instead, they believe prehistoric painters created animal images to assure the survival of the herds Paleolithic peoples depended on for their food supply and for their clothing. [A] A central problem for both the hunting-magic and food-creation theories is that the animals that seem to have been diet staples of Old Stone Age peoples are not tho^e most frequently portrayed. [B]
Other scholars have sought to reconstruct an elaborate mythology based on the cave paintings, suggesting that Paleolithic humans believed they had animal ancestors. Still others have equated certain species with men and others with women and also found sexual symbolism in the abstract signs that sometimes accompany the images. [C] Almost all of these theories have been discredited over time, and art historians must admit that no one knows the intent of these paintings. [D] In fact, a single explanation for ail Paleolithic murals, even paintings similar in subject, style, and composition (how the motifs are arranged on the surface), is unlikely to apply universally. The works remain an enigma—and always will—because before the invention of writing, no contemporaneous explanations could be recorded.
That me paintings did have meaning to the Paleolithic peoples who made and observed them cannot, however, be doubted. In fact, signs consisting of checks, dots, squares, or other arrangements of lines often accompany the pictures of animals.
Representations of human hands are also common. At Pech-Merle in France, painted hands accompany representations of spotted horses. These and the majority of painted hands at other sites are “negative,” that is, the painter placed one hand against the wall and then brushed or blew or spat pigment around it. Occasionally, the painter dipped a hand in the pigment and then pressed it against the wall, leaving a “positive” imprint. These handprints, too, must have had a purpose. Some researchers have considered them “signatures” of cult or community members or, less likely, of individual artists. But like everything else in Paleolithic art, their meaning is unknown.
The mural (wall) paintings at Pech-Merle also allow some insight into the reason certain subjects may have been chosen for a specific location. One of the horses may have been inspired by the rock formation in the wall surface resembling a horse’s head and neck. Old Stone Age painters and sculptors fre¬quently and skillfully used the caves’ naturally irregular surfaces to help give the illusion of real presence to their forms. Altamira bison, for example, were
painted over bulging rock surfaces. In fact, prehistorians have observed that bison and cattle appear almost exclusively on convex surfaces, whereas nearly all horses and hands are painted on concave surfaces. What this signifies has yet to be determined.
14. According to paragraph 1, the cave art was difficult to find because the artists
A. were probably trying to keep their work a secret from their tribe
B. could have begun their painting while they were confined in the caves
C. may have chosen a location deep in the caves to hold ceremonies
D. had to practice before they made images that more people could see
15. According to paragraph 1, Paleolithic people may have used cave art for all of the follow¬ing purposes EXCEPT
A. People may have danced in front of the images.
B. Hunters could have used the figures for target practice.
C. Leaders might have performed magical rituals in the caves.
D. Animals may have been kept in the caves near the drawings.
16. The word access in the passage is closest in meaning to
17. The word facilitate in the passage is closest in meaning to
18. The word those in the passage refers to
19. The word discredited in the passage is closest in meaning to
A. not attentive
B. not believed
C. not hopeful
D. not organized
20. Which of the sentences below best expresses the information in the highlighted statement in the passage? The other choices change the meaning or leave out important information.
A. It is true that the paintings were meaningful to the Paleolithic peoples.
B. Doubtless, the Paleolithic peoples were the ones who made the paintings.
C. There is no doubt about the meaning of the Paleolithic paintings.
D. Paintings that had meaning for the Paleolithic peoples are doubtful.
21. The author explains the term “composition” by
A. giving an example
B. providing a definition
C. contrasting it with motifs
D. referring to art historians
22. According to paragraph 5, why did artists leave a positive imprint of their hands on cave paintings?
A. It represents human beings in the cave paintings.
B. It could have been a way for them to sign their work.
C. It was a hunter’s handprint among the herd of animals.
D. it might have been a pleasing image without much meaning.
23. According to paragraph 6, why do scholars believe that the artists selected certain surfaces for their work?
A. The stone was easy to carve because it was very soft.
B. The animals in hunting grounds nearby provided inspiration.
C. The artists used the natural formations to create realistic shapes.
D. The location of the caves had a magical significance to them.
24. Which of the following statements most accurately reflects the author’s opinion about the purpose of cave paintings?
A. The cave paintings were part of a hunting ritual.
B. Artists were honoring their animal ancestors in cave paintings.
C. The exact purpose of cave paintings is not known.
D. Decoration was probably the main reason for painting in caves.
25. Look at the four squares [■ ] that show where the following sentence could be inserted in the passage.
At Altamira, for example, fauna) remains show that red deer, not bison, were eaten.
Where could the sentence best be added?
Click on a square [■] to insert the sentence in the passage.
26. Directions: An introduction for a short summary of the passage appears below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that mention the most important points in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not included in the passage or are minor points from the passage. This question is worth 2 points.
The purpose of the art discovered on cave walls is a topic of discussion among scholars.
A. The surface of the walls in the caves may have inspired some of the subjects, and handprints may have been signatures.
B. It is possible that the paintings were created as part of a magical ritual either to guarantee a good hunt or an abundance of animals.
C. At Altamira, excavations indicate that the protein diet of the inhabitants was probably deer rather than bison.
D. Perhaps the artists were paying homage to their animal ancestors by recreating their mythology in the pictures.
E. The art may be more recent than first assumed when the caves were originally discovered in the late 1800s.
F. It has been documented that almost all of the horses and hands were painted on concave surfaces at Pech-Merie.