Saturday, July 22, 2017


Bust of Francois de Belleforest,
Wikipedia. Public domain.

On July 1, 2017, I published an article that I called NIAUX CAVERN - AN EARLY VISITOR'S GRAFFITI, in which I wrote about Ruben de la Vialle who visited Niaux and left his name and the year 1660 on the wall.

Another early visitor to a painted cave in France was the French writer Francois de Belleforest who wrote about Rouffignac and mentioned the "paintings" he found within, in 1575.

Map of Rouffignac cave,
entrance at lower right.

"The original entrance is still wide open today. It was a popular place to explore, particularly in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, as we can see from the numerous inscriptions on the walls. There are names and dates that cover four centuries. No one in those days knew about the existence of Paleolithic culture, so it is understandable that the art was ignored, even though some drawings were quite visible. In fact, as early as 1575, Francois de Belle-Forest wrote about the wonders of this cave and mentioned the 'paintings,' adding that he thought the place to be one of idolatry, possibly with sacrificial rituals dedicated to Venus or some other 'infernal' pagan deity. His interesting manuscript provides supplementary evidence for authentication of the art. Indeed, as prehistoric art was unheard of until the mid-1800s at the very earliest, no fake 'prehistoric' depictions could have been done before then, certainly not in 1575." (Rothenberg 2011:98-9)

Mammoth and ibexes, Rouffignac.
Public Domain.

Close-up of mammoth and ibexes, 
Rouffignac. Public Domain.

I am unable, obviously, to determine exactly which paintings Belleforest might have seen (although I assume they were the ones nearest the entrance). Rouffignac is, however, called the "Cave of 100 Mammoths" for its large number of portrayals of that creature, so perhaps he saw mammoths.

Mammoth frieze, Rouffignac.
Public Domain.

Rouffignac is decorated with 158 mammoths, 28 bisons, 15 horses, 12 capricorns (ibexes), and 10 wooly rhinoceros. Seventy-eight percent of all the animals depicted are mammoths. (Wikipedia) We must regret that Belleforest did not delineate further what he saw, to allow us to identify the specific images, but we should certainly celebrate him as an early visitor to a cave art site.

NOTE: The images in this posting were retrieved from the Internet with a search for Public Domain images. If they were used inappropriately and are not intended to be Public Domain I apologize to the owner of the picture's rights. If this is the case please inform me.


Rothenberg, David,
2011 Survival of the Beautiful, Art, Science, and Evolution, Bloomsbury Press, New York.


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