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No. 134: MAR-APR 2001

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Incroyable?

"Incredible?" Yes, if what paleoastronoer C. Jegues-Wolkiewiez claims is borne out by further study. The venue here is the Lascaux Cave in France where, some 17,000 years ago, Cro-Magnon artists drew incredibly expressive portraits of animals in the glare of torches. Its is in this cave's dark recesses that Jegues-Wolkiewiez sees two phenomena that could overturn our view of the Cro-Magnon culture.

First, he claims that some of the animal paintings are really based upon star configurations. In effect, humans 17,000 years ago were constructing a zodiac of sorts. This was about 10,000 years be-for the ancient Babylonians laid out their first zodiacs.

For example, Jegues-Wolkiewiez asserts that the painting of a bull in Lascaux is drawn and positioned such that it mirrors a group of stars in the constellation Scorpio. He identifies several other like "congruences." Cro-Magnons, it seems, were astute observers of the heavens and attempted to make some sense out of the star configurations they saw.

Cro-Magnon artist painting a zodiac figure on cave ceiling. His assistant holds a star map to guide him.

The second claim of Jegues-Wolkiewiez notes that on the summer solstice the last rays of the setting sun penetrate the cave and illuminate a bison painted in red. He believes this is no accident, and that, 17,000 years ago, humans already appreciated the changing length of the days and the seasonal movements of the sun. This is precocious astronomy by any measure.

(Lima, Pedro; "L'Incroyable Découverte d'une Paléo-Astronome," Science et Vie, p. 77, December 2000. Cr. C. Maugé.) Comments. C. Jegues-Wolkiewiez is identified as an "independent" paleoastronomer," which seems to mean that he is not part of the French scientific establishment.

It should he remarked that about 5,000 years ago, the New Grange passage grave in Ireland was constructed with a special channel to admit light to the central chamber only at sunrise on the year's two equinoxes. A stone chamber in the Gungywamp Complex, in Connecticut, possesses a similar light channel.

(See MSU1 in Ancient Structures.) Evidently human minds far-separated in time and geography have similar ideas.

From Science Frontiers #134, MAR-APR 2001. © 2001 William R. Corliss

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