Grotte Le Cuzoul des Brasconies
Grotte Le Cuzoul des Brasconies has not been dated, but the neighbouring cave of Peche Merle is thought to be at least 16,000 years old. This cave is interesting because it may have been used as a stable for brood mares.
If you look at the plan on the left, the first room on entering the cave is 45 metres wide at its widest point. I don’t know if the access ramp and corridor are big enough for a horse to walk down, but if access is feasible, it might have made a good stable.
The image above shows a brood mare. The glyphs are archaic forms of Shuowen Jiezi radical number 152 nǎi 乃. My interpretation is that the horizontal version means to breed, so we have three brood mares. The vertical version would ordinarily mean to suckle. However, the character is reversed and open to the right, perhaps indicating that two foals died.
That is a pretty high mortality rate. It is therefore not surprising that the adjacent panel in the cave explains the normal birthing process for a horse.
The first stage of foaling depicted in the panel is waxing. I have turned the image upside down to make the anatomical features easier to recognise. You can see the equivalent of radical number 59 shān 彡, meaning bristle, which has been used to indicate a swollen belly. The waxing is indicated by a couple of piě 丿, indicating movement and a zhǔ 丶, representing a drop of wax.
In stage two of foaling, the mare will experience heavy abdominal contractions and lay flat on her side. In the second section of the panel, we again see the swollen belly. There is also a composite character comprised of two gǔn丨, and two yī 一; drop, pause, drop, pause; in other words contractions.
Up to one hour before birth the mare's waters break. This is depicted in section three. There are zhǔ丶, representing liquid, and a gǔn丨and a piě 丿, indicating rapid downward movement.
Section four depicts breathing: breathe, breathe, pause, breathe, breathe (the characters ha 丷, and diǎn丶). At this stage, the foal will appear. The front feet come first, one after the other, followed by the head.
Section five has more heavy breathing. This is the point at which the foal’s torso will appear.
Six says yī 一 diǎn丶, yī 一 diǎn丶, meaning wait a moment. The mare may rest for a while with the foal’s hind legs still inside the birth canal.
Seven is the number two, èr 二. My interpretation is ‘And then there were two’.
Plan of the Cave: Plan de la grotte (relevé M. Lorblanchet dans l'Atlas des grottes ornées, 1984, p. 451): Courtesy, Michel Lorblanchet: Source: Europreart: http://www.europreart.net: Accessed: 19 October 2012
Brood Mare: Relevé d'un cheval et signes en accolade (M. Lorblanchet, dans L'Art pariétal paléolithique, 1989, p. 99): Courtesy: Michel Lorblanchet: Source: Europreart: http://www.europreart.net: Accessed: 19 October 2012
Foaling Stages and Waxing: Relevé des peintures du panneau n° 1 (relevé M. Lorblanchet, dans l'Atlas des grottes ornées, 1984, p. 452): Courtesy, Michel Lorblanchet: Source: Europreart: http://www.europreart.net: Accessed: 19 October 2012