Cervidés et serpents dans la mythologie funéraire du mégalithisme ibérique


fr Anthropozoologica 41 (2) - Pages 85-102

Published on 31 December 2006

This article is a part of the thematic issue Painted and engraved animals: from the form to the sign. Animals in post-Palaeolithic graphic art in the western Mediterranean

Deer and snakes in the funeral mythology of the Iberian megalithic

The research project on Megalithic art developed since the end of the 1980s has led us to examine a wide range of questions, from the methodologies used for the data to the thematic and technical analyses. The results are applicable to Iberian schematic art as a whole, because the representations found on the megaliths have a direct link with the open-air paintings and engravings. The megalithic decorations are a specialisation in funeral contexts of schematic art. The role of the anthropomorphic figures in the funeral contexts is very clear. These are paintings and engravings on stone slabs and representations which are sculpted or on objects that occupy very significant spaces in burial zones. In most cases, the anthropomorphic figures are not alone. They appear to be associated with other themes. The animal figures especially have a role of accompaniment to the human figures in Iberian megalithic art. An initial analysis of the variety and the quantity of these animal figures indicates a clear selection of these themes. If we compare the animals represented in schematic art and in megalithic art, the quantity is noticeably less in the context of funeral art, which concentrates on two species: deer and snakes. These species never appear alone but in scenes in which they are clearly protagonists of the human individuals. The deer occur often in the hunting scenes; at the side of men and suns, they evoke a mythical image of the ?hunt of the ancestors?, more and more widely recorded in Iberian megalithic art. However, the snakes do not appear to be integrated into concrete scenes, but are represented in proximity to individuals, perhaps to confer special powers. The example of the stele of Navalcán is very explicit. Thus, deer and snakes, species that accompany the human figures, are different symbolically.


Megalithic Art, Iberian peninsula, Neolithic, Calcolithic, anthropomorphic representations, deer, snakes.

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