This post begins a timeline to discuss the various eras traveled in “Eclipsed by Shadow,” and the rest of “The Legend of the Great Horse” trilogy. The first era is Pre-History.
Man’s long, colorful relationship with the horse is revealed in one of humanity’s oldest creative impulses: Art. The equine image has adorned virtually every medium of artistic conception throughout history, from prehistoric caves and pottery to paintings, sculpture, music, and literature. Even in our modern automated age, horses have made the successful leap to electronic “new media” of teevee, film and video games.
From a historical perspective, it is fascinating to realize how much retained knowledge of our past is owed to art. The consciousness of a culture is embedded in the art it leaves behind, and artwork is painstakingly preserved for posterity. Horses have stirred human imagination since before recorded history, so art tells the story of horsemanship—and civilization—in a comprehensive visual thread.
The earliest art is the cave painting, and horses are a predominate theme. These prehistoric images give bright glimpses into the shadows of humankind’s veiled beginnings—surviving samples date back over 30,000 years. “Rock art” is famous for depictions of horses and other animals central to the world of primitive man, and some of the prehistoric images reveal genuine artistic quality. The purpose for these drawings is unknown, but various possibilities include the recording or transmission of information, religious ceremonies or superstitious “magical” rites. Whatever the explanation, cave art represent first rays of creative light peering out before the dawn of civilization.
Most cave paintings are crude, but there exist works that rise above mundane scratchings. The most sophisticated and “sublime” cave paintings transcend time, revealing an artistic spirit already intact in pre-historic man. It is as if art truly does touch upon some indefinable and ageless spark of the cosmos. As Pablo Picasso himself said upon viewing the famous Lascaux caves, “We have discovered nothing.”
Copyright © 2008 John Allen Royce, Jr.