An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
Paleolithic to Bronze Age Europe
[Added Christmas Day 2001]: From Archaeology Today comes a fascinating, engrossing page (illustrated) by UK archaeologist Aaron Watson: "Sounds of the Spirit World: Ancient Monuments Wrap Their Mysteries in Eerie Sound Effects."http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/arcnat/tautavel/en/index.htm... In a dramatic series of experiments, acoustics expert David Keating, formerly of Reading University in England, and I found that many Neolithic monuments possess unusual acoustic properties that give sounds strange, otherworldly aspects. We cannot know for certain if these acoustic properties were exploited thousands of years ago, but it seems highly likely that they were.I found especially engrossing the discussion of physical side effects caused by infrasonic frequencies in passage-graves. The author concludes:
And if they were, the effect must have been dramatic indeed. Even today, reproductions of the sounds of the monuments are stirring — and vaguely disturbing....... For people in prehistory, it is easy to imagine that such sensations seemed to originate in the supernatural realm.
We are only beginning to discover the potential of monuments to generate profound, multisensual experiences. The acoustic effects described here could not have been recreated anywhere in prehistory except at monuments, perhaps demonstrating the special qualities of these places.
These megalithic monuments of the distant past were certainly not the remote and silent places we visit today. Rather, they may best be understood as gateways through which people of the Neolithic passed to gain access to dimensions far beyond the reality of their everyday lives.
This site looks at the 450,000 year old skull of Tautavel Man found in southern France. The site is rich in photographs of excavating in Arago Cave, several reconstructions of the face of Tautavel man, the flora and fauna of his environment, his tools, and modern paintings of what life must have been like 450,000 years ago. Be sure either to click on all hypertext or else to follow the discreet navigational "forward" arrow at the bottom of each page.
[Link updated 23 December 2001]
This exciting and lovely website looks at Chauvet Cave, discovered in France in December 1994. The cave contains over 300 paintings and engravings dating from Paleolithic times (32,000-30,000 years ago); you'll find clickable color reproductions of some of these remarkable paintings. This unique art overturns longheld theories -- if you keep following the discreet forward-arrows at the bottom of each page, you'll discover more about the implications as well as a page offering general conclusions.
[23 December 2001: I can no longer find this section on the site.] If you click on "And Elsewhere" (in the top header-menu), you'll discover two more caves, including Cosquer Cave near Marseilles. There are thumbnails of this lovely cave; 27,000 year old hands painted on a wall; and a 19,000 year old painting of a deer (see above) -- click on these for beautiful enlargements (they'll each take about 3 minutes to load but are worth it).[1 November 1999 Update: unfortunately, the site I described above has been ruined sometime during the past year. Text is now imprisoned in tiny, irritating frames; confusing mouse-overs lead you in circles; navigation is hopeless. I could find nothing of what I described above last year! I've written the webmaster to complain but I doubt that it will help. This is a loss of significant content and beauty, sacrificed to technology run amuck.
23 December 2001 Update: the site has improved since I wrote in 1999 but it still isn't what it was originally. Opening pages are often cut off along the bottom and no direct links can be extricated from the main URL. It's still a lovely site -- and I was especially excited by the discovery in 2000 of a "Venus," but I miss what this site used to be.]
http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/app/eng/artprepy.htm"The thrilling hybrid figure of a man with antlered head, round eyes, a long beard, animal (lion?) paws instead of hands, the tail of a wild horse, and his sexual organ placed beneath the tail seems to be a more important personage than a 'sorcerer,' as he is called....Abbe Breuil was right to call him the 'God of Les Trois Freres'....[This Master of Animals and Forests is] shown moving, probably dancing."
Image and text from Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess,
Harper & Row, 1989, pp. 174-175.
[11/1/99: mercifully still unruined, but from the same source as the above site]: This site heralds a 1996 French exhibit, "Prehistoric Art of the Pyrenees" (17,000-11,000 BP). Of greatest interest are categories called "Summary" and, to a lesser extent, the brief data under "Itinerary" (skip the other categories).
"Summary" offers clickable thumbnails of stunning carvings: a horse, bison, ibex (amazingly carved on a sperm whale's tooth), a lovely energetic fawn, stags, reindeer, and two female figures engraved on bone. I found the "Summary" page quirky -- none of its thumbnails came through but at least their empty-squares were clickable; however, after I clicked on the first one and then hit my browser's back button, I found that all the little squares had vanished, leaving only the name of each animal, but no way to see them. There was, however, a garbled thumbnail at the top that was still clickable. When I clicked it and scrolled to the bottom of that page, I discovered that clicking on an otherwise meaningless category called "Next diapositive" would allow you to proceed to the next image. In this way, page by page, I saw all the wonderful images. Quirky or not, the site is worth the effort.[11/1/99 Update: the "Summary" page remains quirky but if you hit Reload, it may help; hit it a second time if it doesn't.]
From the Lascaux Cave
(see directly below)
[Added 23 December 2001: This handsome French site on the Lascaux Cave (15,000-10,00 BCE, re-discovered in 1940) is too high tech for me -- too many clever mouse-overs, no site map, pages cut off, & it's frame-trapped (thus no way to extricate direct links). It's a needlessly high tech site about glorious human creativity painted on cave walls in the simple light of dim little lamps. I found the contrast sad and frustrating. I wish they'd simply let the ancient art and contemporary writers speak for themselves.http://users.hol.gr/~dilos/prehis/prerm4.htm
Yet I have to admit that the photos of the art are gorgeous! Don't miss this one.
[Added 23 December 2001:This is a small online exhibit of human prehistory called "The First Human Creations." Text is entry-level but excellent. There are two huge, full-screensized photos from Lascaux depicting magnificent deer and horses. Then photos of two of the most famous "Venuses" or "Aphrodites" (named with great irony by an earlier generation of male scholars):http://witcombe.sbc.edu/willendorf/willendorfdiscovery.html...The Aphrodite of Laussel, one of the earliest reliefs, measures 44 cm in height and can be seen now at the museum of Bordeaux in France. The Aphrodite of Willendorf, now in Vienna, has been dated between 28,000 and 25,000 BC is made of limestone and measures about 11 cm in height. In both figurines the anatomical elements have been exaggerated showing that they were probably used as fertility fetishes....
Woman of Willendorf
(see directly below)
[Added 23 December 2001: This site from Chris Witcombe, professor of Art History at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, focuses specifically on the "Venus of Willendorf." In a series of five thoughtful, linked, well-illustrated pages, he looks at her history, antiquity, intricate hair-braids, the gender bias of calling her a "Venus," Greek and patriarchal attitudes to beauty, and possible interpretations of this little figure....As the earliest known representation, she became the 'first woman', acquiring an Ur-Eve identity that focused suitably, from a patriarchal point of view, on the fascinating yet grotesque reality of the female body and its bulging vegetable nature; an impersonal composition of sexually-charged swollen shapes; an embodiment of overflowing fertility, of mindless fecundity, of eternal sex, the woman from which all women descend....The five pages are: Discovery, What's in a Name?, Woman from Willendorf, Stone-Age Women, and Mother Goddess; there's also a good bibliography.
http://www.stonepages.com/[URL updated 11/1/99]
"Stone Pages," an impressive website run by Paola Arosio and Diego Meozzi (who does the splendid, mystical photography, which is clickable for gorgeous high resolution), looks at prehistoric stone circles, standing stones, dolmens, cairns, barrows and hillforts. It is, in their words, "the most comprehensive online guide to European megaliths and other archaeological sites." They cover six countries: England (35 sites), Wales (12 sites and growing), Scotland (34 sites), Ireland (21 sites), France (5 sites and growing), and Italy (6 sites and growing). Data is sound and usually includes information on folklore and pagan practices connected with these ancient sites. (Note: this site is double-listed on my Landscape: Sacrality & Lore page.)http://www.stonepages.com/Scotland/Inglese/ArcNews.html
This is Stone Pages' Archaeo News, a reliable page for worldwide archaeological news on prehistoric sites (mostly European but they also include other areas). You can give them your e-mail address and you'll be notified of all future updates. (Note: I've been on this update-only-list for a year now and have found it very useful -- updates come every month or two, so they don't overwhelm your e-mail.)http://www.britannia.com/wonder/wonder.html
This is Britannia Internet Magazine's "Earth Mysteries" website. It looks at many of England's prehistoric sites and offers good data with photos and reconstructions. It also includes a grab-bag of articles on such topics as Avebury, Glastonbury, druids, ley lines, dragons, and geomancy; for some of these, keep a grain of salt handy.http://members.aol.com/qwendi/standingstone/stone3.htm
This is the Standing Stone Photo Gallery by author/educator, Ernie Black. The site is a collection of Black's photos (with high resolution versions as well) of Stonehenge, Avebury, and lesser known prehistoric sites in England. Excellent factual data combined with evocative prose make this small site a pleasure. If you click at the bottom for the home page, you'll be led to some of Black's excellent work-in-progress stories set in the ancient world. The site is due for an update and Black promises more photos in the near future. (Note: this site is also double-listed on my Landscape: Sacrality & Lore page.)http://members.aol.com/qwendi/standingstone/stone5.htm
This is Ernie Black's "Standing Stones of Worship," an excellent collection of annotated links, mostly on Stonehenge but there are also some on other standing stones. Among the treasures here, I found the link to "Stone Pages" (see my listing above) -- but there are a great many more. Check out the site and enjoy browsing!
(Note: if you scroll down through his site, you'll find excellent links and bibliographies on comparative religions. Black, who writes fiction, poetry, and spiritual and philosophical articles, has an eye for the best. He's also a fine professional website designer -- and a generous e-mail correspondent on matters both aesthetic and technical.)
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Copyright © 1998-2001 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved unless noted.
Went online 13 November 1998.
Latest updates: 1 November 1999;
23 December 2001 [re-designed page, checked all links, added new ones]; Christmas Day 2001 (new link);
27 December 2001.