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      La Marche - a Stone Age Academy

Superb quality, and crucially important revelations about life 14,000 years ago are not enough to make the art of La Marche famous. In fact, it lurks in obscurity. Why? Is it because scientific establishment does not like certain controversies?  La Marche has been iconoclastic since day one. Its discoverer - Stéphane Lwoff was the first to connect La Marche to the perennial issue of advanced prehistoric civilization.
My initial digging for information on La Marche was mostly a frustrating experience. Fortunately,  the University of Wisconsin had available for interlibrary loans the long established journal  "Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française", which had first published Lwoff's discovery.
This report's copy of the Athena engraving is from this Bulletin. It is relatively  distortion free, unlike examples found in popular literature. Of interest here is that Lwoff cites elaborate methods used in striving for highest possible precision in copying the images.
An amateur paleontologist, Léon Péricard had pioneered the discovery by luring a professional colleague of his, Stéphane Lwoff,  to the site of La Marche,  municipality of Lussac-les-Châ
teaux in the scenic Vienne region, some 220 miles south of Paris,  as a likely spot for prehistoric habitation. 

                Lwoff at the entrance to the shelter

The rock shelter of La Marche is at the bottom of a long gently sloping valley,  next to the small Petit Moulin river, whose far banks are traced by the state highway between Lussac and Montmorillon.  Apparently, in some places the river tunnels underground for a considerable distance along its westerly course through the limestone terraine. 
It surfaces into the valley near the deep cave Foncerin, and after a couple of kilometers passes by caves Ermitage, and Fadets. Half a kilometer downstream, it flows just an elk's leap away from the rock shelter of  La Marche. Just past this spot,  the river dives back underground, and out of further sight.
There, under the rock overhang, which once also hosted a wine cellar, the two scholars began digging in August of 1937. Soon, they were rewarded by a treasure trove of paleolithic artifacts - and a small pile of engraved tablets. Realizing that they had found a virtual Stone-Age gallery, Lwoff wisely summoned top authorities.  Abbé Breuil himself was a witness to the excavations from the clearly undisturbed prehistoric strata

   abbe Breui

But, when Lwoff had presented the La Marche discovery at the 1941 session of the French Prehistorical Society, he failed to mention the site's extensive verification. Without  dallying, Lwoff's colleagues had judged his report for themselves on the spot, and collectively upholding the tradition that the greatest Magdalenian Art discoveries be greeted with scorn and disbelief,  accused Lwoff of brazen fraud. 

The art was too modern, too sophisticated, too good - they said -  it was inconceivable that such art could be the work of Cavemen!

Indeed, La Marche breaks all kinds of Stone-Age art conventions. Unheard of for the art, La Marche treats us to human portraits styled as caricatures. Most male faces are clean shaven, but we also see stylish goatees, and moustaches.
These Magdalenians wore fashionably cut clothes. They had soled and heeled boots.  Lamall0.gif shows an appendage on Athena's boot, which in all likelihood depicts a real heel. The attire is sometimes topped by big hats, often helmet-like.

In demonizing Lwoff, his colleagues re-enacted a scene from the 1880  Prehistorical Congress in Lisbon, sixty-one years earlier, which had been attended by virtually every international authority, such as Rudolf Virchow, John Lubbock, and Emile Cartailhac. This academic event was marred by a virtual lynching of an innocent victim,  the Spanish magnate don Marcelino de Sautuola. His crime was the discovery - he had made together with his five-years old daughter Maria  - of the first of the magnificent Stone-Age art galleries,  the Altamira cave.

One by one, the outraged authorities at the Lisbon congress bespoke their indictment, pointing out sophisticated elements in the paintings,  which seemed to belie an academically trained hand. 

The art was too modern, too sophisticated, too good - they said -  It was inconceivable that such art could be the work of Cavemen!

The golden spike of the session was driven in by a Spanish archaeologist, who  announced dramatically, how through his own dilligent investigation in the field, he had learned that just before the discovery, a certain academic painter had actually soujourned a full year at Sautuola's castle Santillana!  At that moment the gathering erupted into catcalls of fraud,  shame, and so on. 
Forthwith, Sautuola endured public ridicule until his death. Not long after, it was proven that Altamira's art was at least 16,000 years old. 
'Sorry, we were wrong.'  said the culprit scientists while wiping Sautuola's honor off the soles of their shoes. - But, although culpable,  were scientists wrong in their spontaneus rejection of the initial news on both Altamira, and La Marche? 
Being privy to the sophisticated geometry behind La Marche and Nasca,  it is my duty to pick up the discarded standards of academic art. I feel that the savants were right in the first place, before their ungainly concensus flop.

The art is too modern, too sophisticated, too good - I say -  It is inconceivable that such art could be the work of Cavemen!  :)

The stories of La Marche and Altamira indicate that if not for overwhelming evidence of antiquity, these magnificent sites would still be considered bona fide forgeries. Instead, they are now seen as certified paradoxes, and as such they are shunned by scientists, and media, and witheld from the public eye.
Unbridled scientific curiosity is currently suspended in favor of vacuous evasiveness, with regard to La Marche. Even those, who lave praises upon the simpler Altamira paintings, save a much cooler appraisal for the complex Stone Age engravings found at other sites, and declare them to be random agglomerations of simple images. Traces of ochre clay on some tablets gave birth to the hypothesis that old images had simply been smeared over by a film of clay before new images were made. This could have been repeated over and over.  Furthermore, experiments have proven that the fine sparkling dust from  the process of engraving makes fresh lines clearly visible,  in contrast to the older lines.

Yet, such conjectures ignore similar "agglomerations" of images on the walls of caves, where nearby suitable surfaces had remained blank.

Besides, if the artists of La Marche did not wish to create permanent drawings, they could have used washable paints, instead of the engraving method. But, I have never heard of undecorated tablets (from which the paints wore off). 
If the artists wanted to permanently etch in the simple images,  and yet, they did not mind the quick disappearance of these images into other, older lines, then their objective may have been the overall effect of all the simple, and admittedly masterful, images together. 
Yet another objection that comes to my mind is that if the engravings were, in general, not treated as worthy of preservation, and the tablets were to be used over and over,
there would have been no need to clutter the shelter with 1,500 tablets.. A small stack of reusable tablets tucked out of the way somewhere in the corner would have sufficed.
Also, the tablets would
probably be scraped clean once in a while, to get rid of the deeper lines. A number of scrapings should improve the stone's flatness, and invite more engravings. Thus, some older tablets should be noticeably thin. 
It is easier to scrape a tablet clean, or to smear it with a smooth  layer of clay than it is to furnish a new one. And, who wants the discomfort of sleeping on stones scattered all over the earthen floor?
The fact that there were fifteen-hundred decorated tablets at the small La Marche shelter strongly suggests a process of accumulation. The art must have been treated as finished, and perfect. It was primed for successful survival through ages like so many cave paintings.
What black magic makes scholars unreceptive to such reasoning, and turns the exquisite panels into a mess in their eyes? Aptly, critics detect an element of Irrationality in the artists of La Marche. How else is one to explain that they would show great genius in their  work - and then proceed to obscure it by "senseless scribbles"? 
What else apart from some "strange madness of self-negation" drove them to scatter the finished tablets onto the floor, or even into the fire?
Let's pause for a moment, and imagine the shelter's space. No bigger than a living room - an unknown number of burly cavemen work there on the last batch of the fifteen-hundred delicate engravings, which litter the earthen floor.  In contrast, let us recall the difficulties French museums profess having with propping these engravings up for display.

What is wrong with the scene? 

It would take a lot of time to create all the engravings. Fifteen-hundred stones can tile the 20 square meters of the shelter's floor three times over. As they just lay there, most works would have been trampled into grit.
So, it is most unlikely that the 1.500 predominantly limestone tablets (some were quartzite) had littered the shelter's floor in accumulating debris, and dirt until they were left behind. A whole lot of these stones, which had survived the vagaries of destiny admirably well, gives evidence of  having had been in storage instead. The tablets were only strewn (arranged) around the shelter at the last moment. High quality limestone, and quartz do not take well to trampling, but they survive moisture in the ground very well. They are perfect for river bank sites like La Marche. This fosters my impression that the scene has been carefully staged. 

Too Good to Be True (For the last time)

Why do critics misinterpret ancient Science-Art?  _  Should the engravings' complexity be viewed as intentional, it would also have to be viewed as the result of superior skills. 
Since I have only a few reproductions of engravings from La Marche in my possession, I must have gazed at those a great deal more than others. In this case, familiarity breeds admiration, as so often happens with great art. The chaos in the engravings is illusory, and due to overloaded senses. The engravings are Science-Art.. 

© Jiri Mruzek
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©  Jiri Mruzek  Van, Ca
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