UP Gallery #1 Animals and Quaternions / n) Niaux Quaternion

Niaux, Black Salon. One group of animals from this extensive series of compositions. (c. 11-12,000 BC)

Comment: As I have argued (see Publications), by the time of the Magdalenian, there appears to be a religious symbol system in which four animal symbols, horse, bison, ibex and deer, are structured in a complementarity relationship or 'quaternion'. Once utilized in such a semiotic system, the animal symbols can function as a complex, multi-leveled mnemonic device, an 'encyclopedia' of Magdalenian social and naturalist knowledge and spiritual values. While straightforward representations of the fourfoldness are rare, this is an excellent instance. A hind is top left; three bison two with 'dart' signs; the dorsal line of the horse is in front of the top bison; and the ibex, also with 'dart' sign, is to the lower right.

Black and white photo, tinted © A. Weiden. Sieveking, A. (1979). The Cave Artists. London: Thames and Hudson, fig. 33.

Previous Home Next

n) Niaux Quaternion