The Upper Paleolithic cave murals in Lascaux depict humans, animals, and also human hands, patterned lines, grids, and dots (see images below). The rows of dots, usually red or black, often appear in groups of seven, and are placed at various locations throughout the cave complex. They are not intergrated into the paintings as a design element, and so appear to differ in function from dots in prehistoric Australian aboriginal paintings.




It has been suggested that the painting-dots are the result of dots or spots before the eyes of the original artists. If we assume that the artist painted what he saw, it also seems natural to assume that he would have painted the dots that appeared before his eyes (whatever the cause). We may envisage Cro-magnon man, 15,000 years ago, taking a special interest in opacities floating in his visual field. They may have been thread-like strands, squiggly lines, halos, spots or dots. He must have been quite curious about them! So curious, in fact, that he painted them.

The philosophical issue, therefore, is not merely the assumption that Cro-magnon man painted what he saw; but that what he painted held importance to him and his kind. He wasn’t doodling. The dots are not random markings, not grafitti. They mean something. The meaning is the object the dots correspond to – in this case, the various visual opacities or ‘floaters’ in the visual field. But, it can be asked even of so-called primitive art whether every depicted object must correspond to a thing, and whether primitive man must paint because he perceives an object of experience.

In other words, we assume that Cro-magnon man painted because he was compelled to depict experiential objects. Here is the object. There, the depiction of the object. We feel that the world is portrayed all over the Lascaux caves. But is it? For, not every thing refers to some other thing. This is what we are required to explain, not assume.