Saturday, April 29, 2017


On December 3, 2016, I posted a column about an article in the December 2016 issue of Scientific American magazine. Written by Julien d'Huy, and titled The Evolution of Myths, this article traced back the origins of the Greek Polyphemus myth to the Paleolithic of 30,000 to 15,000 years ago.

Therianthropic figure from bison
panel, Les Trois-Freres, France.

D'Huy then identified the therianthropic figure from the Les Trois-Freres bison hunt panel as the central (hero) figure in this Polyphemus myth.

Therianthropic figure from bison
panel, Les Trois-Freres, France.

Back on March 28, 2010, I had posted a column on RockArtBlog about this same panel titled Music At Rock Art Sites? In this posting I presented the possibility that this therianthropic figure was holding a musical bow, and that the panel perhaps represented a ceremony involving hunting magic. Given the difference in d'Huy's interpretation I wrote to him asking about his opinion on the possibility that the figure represented a Pied Piper figure, and whether that, if it were indeed the case, would fall within the Polyphemus myth family.

D'Huy's response to that question was: 
"In answer to Faris: Prehistorian Henri Begouen (whose sons discovered the cave) and archaeologist Henri Breuil proposed a connection between a musical bow and this therianthropic figure back in 1958! But to my knowledge, the Pied Piper of Hamelin tale type was found only in Eurasia; it also is probably very recent. Expanding the database to all the tales where a trickster took away a herd of animals might be a way to test the Paleolithic origin hypothesis." (d'Huy 2017)

So at this point any actual association of the Pied Piper myth with the Polyphemus family of myths is unknown. Thus, the actual identification of the therianthropic figure in this panel at Les Trois-Freres must also remain unknown. It does, however, seem that there is fruitful ground here in the interpretation of rock art. Cultures are generally steeped in their mythology, in a pre-scientific culture myths supply the needed explanations to the people about why the world works the way it does. I look forward to future studies of this sort. Additionally, I wish to thank Mr. d'Huy for his courteous and considered answer to my question.


Julien d'Huy,
2016  The Evolution of Myths, Scientific American, December 2016, Volume 315, Number 6, pages 62 - 69.

Julien d'Huy
2017 Response in Letters, p. 6, Scientific American, April 2017.

Faris, Peter
2010 Music at Rock Art Sites? March 28, 2010

Faris, Peter
2016 Mythology in Rock Art, December 3, 2016,

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