The Caves of Altamira
About 14,000 years ago in northern Spain, a prehistoric people known as the Magdalenians left behind a series of images that continue to astound us today. Using natural pigments derived from iron and manganese dioxide (and “fixed,” according to one source, with “blood, animal fat, urine, and fish glue”), these ancient artists drew stunning representations of bison and boars on the walls and roofs of what are now known as the Caves of Altamira. Why?
Because hunters were the first storytellers-and like all those that have come after, the Magdalenian hunters felt compelled to talk about the hunt and honor the spirit of that which they hunted. This art, as well as the stories that were first told around a fire ring, are important traditions that have always been a part of Field & Stream, now entering its 107th year of continuous publication. I can think of no better way to celebrate our “birthday” than by directing your attention to two remarkable stories found in this issue.
First is “Inuit” (page 72), by contributing editor John Barsness. Barsness has hunted many times with the native people some folks call Eskimo. (Inuit _means “the people” in their language. _Eskimo is a corruption of a Cree Indian word that translates into “eaters of raw meat.”) He is fascinated at how the Inuit balance modern technology with traditional hunting methods and bristles when people refer to them as technologically backward. He asserts that “Inuits were one of the most technologically proficient people on earth if you think of this not in terms of computer chips but in terms of using tools to live successfully.” The accompanying art is from Jack Unruh, one of the masters in our field.
Second is “Meandering” (page 82), from contributing editor Ted Leeson. Based on a chapter from his new book, Jerusalem Creek, which will be published next month, here Leeson conjures up images from his youth, when he learned to fish the spring creeks of southwest Wisconsin. He’ll transport you back to the days when you first learned to take trout on worms and had no appointments other than those dictated by youthful whim. As you’ll learn, meandering spring creeks and the country you find them in are special to Leeson. He writes: “Nothing is so tempting as a geography of small concealments, all nook and hollow and shady bend, every stream a line of beauty on the valley floor.” The accompanying art is from James Prosek, who illustrated the April cover.
Fortunately, modern technology means you can enjoy these stories from the comfort of your easy chair. That sure beats squatting around a smoky fire in the depths of a damp cave.