Earth, Moon, and Planets

, Volume 85, Issue 0, pp 391–404

Palaeolithic Timekeepers Looking At The Golden Gate Of The Ecliptic; The Lunar Cycle And The Pleiades In The Cave Of La-TETe-Du-Lion (Ardéche, France) – 21,000 BP

  • Michael A. Rappenglück

DOI: 10.1023/A:1017069411495

Cite this article as:
Rappenglück, M.A. Earth, Moon, and Planets (1999) 85: 391. doi:10.1023/A:1017069411495


Decades of research work done by several scientists all over the world since the beginning of the 20th century confirmed the idea, that Palaeolithic man looked up to the starry sky and recognized prominent patterns of stars as well as the course of the celestial bodies. Though sometimes highly speculative, the investigations made clear, that time-factored notations played an important role in the archaic cultures of Palaeolithic epochs (from 33,000 to 10,000 BP).

There are some distinct and detailed examples of lunar-, solar- and lunisolar-calendars sometimes combined with pictures of seasonality, mostly discovered on transportable bones and stones, but also on the fixed walls of certain caves. The investigations showed that in Palaeolithic epochs time-reckoning, in particular the lunar cycle, had been related to the pregnancy of women too (Figure 2a–d).

Recently I showed, that in the Magdalenian time (16,000–12,000 BP) man also recognized single and very complex star patterns, including the Milky Way: the Northern Crown in the cave of El Castillo (Spain), the Pleiades in the cave of Lascaux (France) and the main constellations of the sky at the same location.

They were used by the Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers for orientation in space and for time-reckoning. These star patterns also played an important role in the cosmovisions of archaic cultures. Together with the depictions of the course of the moon and the sun, they helped to organize the spatiotemporal structure of daily and spiritual life of Palaeolithic man.

Now I present a rock panel in the cave of La-Tete-du-Lion (France) that shows the combination of a star pattern – Aldebaran in the Bull and the Pleiades – with a drawing of the moons cycle above. This picture comes from the Solutrean epoch ca 21,000–22,000 BP. It shows not only a remarkable similarity with the representation in the Lascaux cave, but clearly connects the star pattern with a part of the lunar cycle.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael A. Rappenglück
    • 1
  1. 1.vhs GilchingGermany

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