The cave in Chauvet in France has the oldest paintings known, dating back 32,000 years. Filmmaker Werner Herzog's documentary was shown at a local museum last fall and again today in my documentary film class. Although I watched it on a smaller screen today, I did not have a three or four large heads between me and the screen, which makes a big difference. I often do not care if I discuss something I've seen with others but was the11th class this spring and we all know each other fairly well so the discussion was a good one; the people are thoughtful and sometimes humorous.
The cave allows very limited access, but Herzog filmed and interviewed several experts who are working to understand the cave. The paintings are very fine and don't seem any less artistic and moving than the paintings in the near-by Lascaux cave which is "only" 15,000 years old. The horses, bison, lion, rhinoserus seem very similar. 17,000 years with little change! In that amount of time the ice covering most of Europe north of the valley where the cave was found had melted but apparently the animals remained very much the same and the people as well.
I thought of having gone into the salt mine under Krakow, Poland which has been worked since about 900 BCE. But 1100 years are a mere instant. What if it becomes lost sometime in the next thousand years and is "discovered" 30,000 years from now? What will those future people -- if there are people left on Earth, and not just cockroaches as one person suggested -- make of a great salt mine what contains a cathedral with statues of saints and so forth, all in solid salt?
The art amazes us but the scope of time, it seems to me, is the least comprehensible aspect of this discovery. We feel so knowledgeable and scientific but if we are put in the middle of time -- making ourselves the center, of course, as we always do -- what do our artifacts say? What will the nuclear waste dumps say? Myriads of questions arise. Fine artists, as Herzog is, pose questions. They do not usually have answers ... nor do most of us.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!