Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oh look, another yurt!

This holiday turned out to be all about yurts...First there was the pastoral yurt, on its platform with its vegetable garden, high up on the south-facing hillside.
Then that night there was the festive yurt, which was actually a base for face painting.
And on last Friday we encountered the prehistoric yurt, at the Pyrenees Prehistory Park.
I've had a decades' long fascination and reverence for prehistoric art. In my teens I spent hours perusing books and magazine articles on the cave paintings of southern France and northern Spain, and when we arrived in the area I suddenly discovered familar placenames to our south - many of the internationally-known sites are in the Ariege!Look at the ancient horse. Who drew it and why? How did these paintings survive, and how many other wonders have been lost, or are even yet to be found?
The two paintings above are from the cave at Niaux, which we toured several years ago with Ben's parents. It's one of the last really spectaular caves you can actually visit, without too much fear of damaging the paintings. But because of the incredible prehistoric heritage of the area, and to avoid too much pressure on the actual sites, the French government set up this prehistoric park not too far from Niaux, at Tarascon sur Ariege. Here, children can paint their own prehistoric paintings on the wall...... or direct their father to do it for them, if the only available space is too high up!
The finished baby mammoth. I'm so glad they didn't ask me to paint it...
Some prehistoric cleaning facilities for early painters.
You can also learn to use a prehistoric spear thrower (it makes the spear go much further).
Once again, dad was the star (I think he was the only one to actually hit an 'animal').
Son 1 demonstrates the technique.
Son 2 was more motivated by exploring a 'cave system', where he found this bear's den.
And I liked the herds of bison and mammoth which roamed this part of the park in a statuesque manner.
The final highlight of the day was when this very dedicated animateur showed us how to knap flint to make tools, and demonstrated how prehistoric people could have made fire.
Striking two flints together is a myth, aparantly. You get light, but no heat. Flint against iron pyrite, sparking into the dried flesh of a certain common tree fungus, is the thing, we learned. In the areas where you can't find iron pyrite, then a bow to rub a stick into a piece of wood does the trick nicely. It's surprising how books (even excellent ones) have bred ignorance about this kind of thing. Only experimental archaeology has shown them how it realistically would have been done. What an informative day.


silverpebble said...

Wow, it's amazing to see those prehistoric paintings - I love their style and simplicity.

Lyn said...

What a great place to learn and have fun!

Autumn Mist said...

That looks like a fantastic place - your husband is a man of many talents! These Yurts look like something from Mongolia, don't they? And thankyou very much for your kind comments on my blog - they are much appreciated.

Sherri B. said...

We have places in the Pacific Northwest where you can rent Yurts like you would cottages and they can be primative or quite nice in all sorts of settings...What a good learning experience for the family and how fun to be able to do your own primative art. I would love the painters washbasin in my yard!

Joy said...

I love yurts. I didn't realize they would be seen so much in those parts. When my girls did Girls in Action (GA's), we studied Mongolia and learned a lot about yurts. Now I'm finding out people here in the States build house based on them. Very interesting.
I learned so much from this post and enjoyed your trip right along with you. Wow Dad has some artistic abilities. Great Mammouth.
♥ Joy

BadPenny said...

Wha a wonderful place. Yurts are very popular on the Isle of Wight for holiday accommodation now.
The cave drawings are facinating hat stories they tell.

Lorrie said...

Next time I visit France/Spain I want to go to some of these archeological sites. Since taking a course on human archeology I've been fascinated. How wonderful that you can take advantage of living so close.

sharie said...

I love this sort of stuff and am so envious of you.
I've written a story based on a woman time travelling to the stone age and seeing spear throwers etc in action, not to mention learning how to fit in with their culture. (Got to polish it off and find a publisher for it yet) I have rafts of books on this subject too and the DH reckons I have a thing about Neanderthal men!

So I love this post of yours. Thanks for putting it up

Betty said...

I love the cave man wall art... my younger brother took his wife on honeymoon for a week to stay in a yurt! (they are sort of hippies - he used to work in a human circus as a fire eater - hard to believe I know but it's true... would have fitted in well at the night market you went to!).

Jeannette StG said...

Great that your sons could do their own prehistoric painting! Looks like a vacation full of activity! You'll need a rest by the end of it:)