Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/727

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

we are forced to admit that in those ancient days, as in our own, there were not wanting bad artists; and, yet, amid a number of coarse designs, there are not a few which are truly worthy of note, and which betray an able hand, and an eye trained to observe Nature.

Designing undoubtedly preceded sculpture among the Troglodytes, and their figures in relief are much fewer in number and less perfect than their engraved sketches. These latter figures generally form the ornamentation of the bâton de commandement, or of the hafts of daggers; but sometimes they are found on stone slabs, or on plates of ivory or of reindeer-horn, which would appear to have been prepared

Fig. 7.
PSM V02 D727 Handle of a poniard.jpg
Handle of a Poniard.

simply to receive the engravings. Nearly all the designs represent objects in Nature, though some of them are simply ornamental lines, zigzags, curves, etc. Three small brank-ursines, engraved on a piece of reindeer-horn, would appear to represent a polypetal flower; but all the other figures represent animals. The reindeer occurs most frequently, the ox and the aurochs being more rare. These various animals are readily distinguishable in the engraved figures, their respective gait and motion being oftentimes reproduced with considerable exactness and elegance. Sometimes they are isolated, being represented, without any order, over the entire surface of some instrument; but, again, they are found grouped together, engaged in combat, etc. (Fig. 6). The engraving of the mammoth was found, in 1864, in the cave of La Madelaine. The head of the animal is given with remarkable exactitude. The Marquis de Vibraye has since discovered a bâton de commandement, with a mammoth's head sculptured on it. These two pieces are the only ones representing the mammoth which have come down to our time from the hands of the Troglodytic artists, but they suffice to show that the animal was not yet extinct.

Figures of fish are not rare, and they all, with one exception, represent the salmon. Élie Massénat found at Laugerie-Basse the shoulder-blade of an ox, bearing a rude sketch of a fishing-scene—a man casting a harpoon at some aquatic animal, a porpoise, apparently. This design has a special interest, as going to show that our Troglodytes fished with the harpoon.

In sketching the human figure (which they did but rarely), these