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Here’s an interesting story at Seed Magazine discussing the 17,000-year-old cave art from Lascaux, France, through the lens of archaeoastronomy:

[Michael A. Rappenglück] noticed a group of six spots painted above the back of one of the aurochs in a part of the cave known as the Hall of the Bulls. Charcoal freckles surround the creature’s eye, which Rappenglück thought could represent the eye of the Taurus constellation embedded in the Hyades cluster. Astronomical calculations of when the Hyades cluster would have been visible to Northern Hemisphere observers during the season depicted in the image match well with the date range given by carbon-14 dating of the charcoal traces. He added a fresh layer of interpretation to the images with his conclusion that the cyclical appearance and disappearance of the Pleiades provided a celestial clock, used alongside carved-bone lunar calendars by hunters of the Magdalenian period or just before.

…Neurophysiologists such as William Calvin have suggested that the human ability to target a moving animal with a thrown rock developed into or coincided with the cognitive capacity for long-term planning. If the Lascaux cave-painters really had a precise time-keeping system, then these people actually scheduled their hunting—thus employing foresight well beyond where their rough-hewn weapons would strike an animal of prey—much as their descendants eventually planned their agrarian affairs according to celestial cycles. The in-heat, rutting season of the Magdalenian aurochs may have coincided with a celestial cue, allowing ancient peoples to track the gestation of these animals as the bovine with six bright spots rose high in the spring sky.

This certainly isn’t a new idea – Rappenglück’s theory was headline news a decade ago. For some reason, archaeastronomy still seems to be often shunted into the corner when discussing the motivations of ancient people, with archaeologists favouring theories tightly bound to power structures or sexual symbolism. As such, I think that in many cases one of the more obvious (and near-permanent) inspirations for artwork and building – the sky – remains ignored.