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any ancient representation on the walls or ceilings of caves, on exposed cliff surfaces, or on individual rocks. Petroglyphs are known throughout the world and date from various times from the Paleolithic Period to the Middle Ages.
Paleolithic petroglyphs can be seen in the caves and grottoes of southern France (Les Combarelles, Montespan, Lascaux) and northern Spain (Altamira, Castillo). Most often depicted were animals of the hunt, including the bison, horse, mammoth, and rhinoceros; beasts of prey, such as the bear and the cave lion, were less frequently represented. In the USSR, Paleolithic petroglyphs have been discovered in Kapova Cave in the Urals and on the cliffs near the village of Shishkino on the Lena River. Geometric drawings have been found in the Mgvimevi grottoes in the Caucasus.
Most scholars agree that petroglyphs had a magical significance. The representations were made in diverse styles and by various techniques. They range from contours delineated by a monochromatic line to bas-reliefs and polychromatic paintings done with mineral pigments. Petroglyphs became widespread in the late Paleolithic, in the Mesolithic, and, especially, in the Neolithic. Paintings found in eastern Spain, southern Italy, northern Africa (Tassili-n-Ajjer), the central and eastern Sahara, and southern and eastern Africa consist mainly of intricate hunting, war, and religious scenes. Particularly distinctive are the petroglyphs of Neolithic hunting and fishing tribes of the north (in northern Scandinavia, in Karelia, and in Eastern Siberia);
dynamic hunting scenes and representations with a mythological meaning were engraved or painted with ocher on granite cliffs.
Petroglyphs developed further and became even more widespread during the Bronze Age and, especially, the early Iron Age. Examples from this period exist in many countries. In the USSR, they are found in the northern European part and in Siberia (on the Enisei and Lena rivers), Tuva, the Caucasus, the Crimea, the Far East, and Middle Asia. Sometimes, hundreds and thousands of pictures, often dating from different epochs, cover entire rock surfaces; often, ancient drawings are covered with more recent ones (for example, Kobustan in the Azerbaijan SSR, the Pisannaia Mountain in Khakasia, Kobdo-Somon in Mongolia). During this period, in addition to representations of wild animals, hunting scenes, magical symbols, and other images typical of other epochs, there are depictions of domestic animals, dwellings, entire settlements, religious rites, boats with rowers, the hoeing of land, battles, and plundering raids.
Petroglyphs reflect in artistic form the economic and spiritual life of a people during a particular era. They constitute a very important historical source.
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Z. A. ABRAMOV