• Chrissie Calvert

Behind the Cave

Why a Cave?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how humans today are basically the same physiologically as the first Homo Sapiens who lived in caves. There are minor differences for sure. We are slightly taller on average thanks to natural selection for one. We also have a smaller genetic pool thanks to major catastrophes that have occurred.

"Sometime between 195,000 and 123,000 years ago, African Homo sapiens populations plummeted, thanks to cold, dry climate conditions that left much of the land uninhabitable. Everyone alive today is descended from people from a single region who survived this catastrophe." https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-the-sea-saved-humanity-2012-12-07/

There is one cave which humans consistently inhabited for 78000 years. "Excavations in Panga ya Saidi suggest technological and cultural change came slowly over time and show early humans weren’t reliant on coastal resources" https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/people-lived-cave-78000-years-180969051/

78,000 years in a cave. Think about how much technological advancement has happened in the last 100 years. It took our ancestors tens of thousands of years to make their homes away from caves such as the one mentioned above. Think about all those generations of sitting around a campfire, looking to the stars for entertainment. Wearing jewellery made of shells, clothes made of animals you hunted. Food spiced with whatever you could gather. Think of yourself doing this as you are. Physiologically the same. Laughing in the cave. Talking about your day to your cave lover. Fighting in the cave. Celebrating in the cave. We are the same, but our environment isn't.

"It is 30,000 years ago. A man enters a narrow cave in what is now the south of France. By the flickering light of a tallow lamp, he eases his way through to the furthest chamber. On one of the stone overhangs, he sketches in charcoal a picture of the head of a bison looming above a woman’s naked body.

In 1933, Pablo Picasso creates a strikingly similar image, called Minotaur Assaulting Girl.

That two artists, separated by 30 millennia, should produce such similar work seems astonishing. But perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. Anatomically at least, our brains differ little from those of the people who painted the walls of the Chauvet cave all those years ago. Their art, part of the “creative explosion” of that time, is further evidence that they had brains just like ours."


I am fascinated with this subject, and that fascination is driving the subject matter of my paintings.


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