The Idea Of Homo Spiritualis in Cave Of Forgotten Dreams

The fire burns out, one swipe on the cave wall is what it takes to reignite it. When the torch is lit again you can make out paintings on the cave wall, depictions of horses, bison, lions, cave bears, eagles and many handprints. All of these paintings created by man some30,000 years ago, others created 5,000 years later. These paintings separated by time are found in a cave located in southern France surrounded by standing stones and a beautiful river, an environment where a species could think, create, and thrive.

In the film Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Jean Clottes argues that homo spiritualis is a term that should define our species rather than homo sapiens or "the man who knows". None of these terms fully encompass human technological prowess, cultural values, beliefs, dreams or in essence our humanity. A more meaningful name for humanity could be homo creates or "the man who creates”. Thoughts created by the mind, values created by experience, and the world created by human hands.

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Homo spiritualis the term used by historian Jean Clottes in the film Cave of Forgotten Dreams to redefine the human species. In the film we are taken to Chauvet cave in southern France where early paintings carbon dated 30,000 years or more are discovered after a rockslide sealed it off for 10,000 years (Cave of Forgotten Dreams).

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Inside the cave paintings on the walls drawn by humans some 30,000 years ago depict horses, bison, and other animals from that time period. These early paintings at the time were the oldest ever discovered; the cave itself is 13,000 feet in length measured using laser scanners (Cave of Forgotten Dreams). The discovery of the Chauveut cave paintings bring up an interesting point, that perhaps our knowledge of the world and the ability to use this knowledge for survival, is not what defines us. As Dr. Clottes comments “We are called Homo sapiens or “the man who knows”, but in fact we really don’t know much at all, perhaps Homo spiritualis…” (Cave of Forgotten Dreams). He says “spiritualis” because we always pursue meaning in our lives and the evidence from the cave showing our ancestors trying to find the same meaning reaffirms that our species is one always questioning about our own existence. Creation myths such as those from the Yoruba of Africa depicting goddesses and the gods molding man from clay, show us that early humans were already asking where they came from and giving answers to their own origins. The Chauveut cave is no different, in the cave there is an altar with a bear skull on it implying that there was some sort of spiritualism in the minds of our ancestors. Existence is something that seems to always be prevalent in human minds no matter the time period. Homo sapiens or "the man who knows", is a meaning that has defined our species for some time now. This term could represent the skyscrapers seen from the horizon, our knowledge of the cosmos and the potential of life elsewhere, or the slate like device in your pocket engineered to connect us all.

In Cave of Forgotten Dreams we see examples of hunting spears and throwing rods which is a nod to our technological ingenuity. Jean Clottes gives an example of how early man would have thrown their hunting spears at potential prey using a throwing rod for stronger force. The technology that surrounds us and the sciences we use to understand our world is what makes homo sapiens a fulfilling term for our species.Human spirituality and knowledge are both connected to each other, not one defines us better than the other. Our recurring questions of existence and pursuit of knowledge all come from ideas created by the human mind. Homo creates or loosely translated "the man who creates, a term that could define the species and encompass everything human aside from our knowledge or spirituality. For example, the cave paintings in the Chauveut cave portray human thoughts and possibly rudimentary beliefs or “homo spiritualis”. Culture created from the mind of a person so long ago and can communicate through time is a tool on its own and be connected to “homo sapien” and “homo spiritualis”. More examples of both definitions being prevalent in our ancestorsare talked about in the filmwith some of the bison being drawn with eight legs. The narrator explains that “some of the bison are drawn with eight legs possibly depicting movement as a form of protocinema”. The hunting spears being created for the need to hunt larger prey are connected to “homo sapien” and the knowledgeable mind. Humanity has aspects of both definitions, but both are connected to thought and creation. All ideas are created in the human mind, this creation process is what should define our species.

In the film Cave of Forgotten Dreams Jean Clottes argues for redefining humanity as homo spiritualis instead of homo sapien. Although the Chauvet Cave does have evidence of early man having thoughts about their own existence, the term homo spiritualis does not encompass all of human experience. Our technology, values, and beliefs are created by ideas made by the human mind which should define our species. Homo creates or “the man who creates” is a more appropriate term for humanity because human creation is what made the world.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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The Idea Of Homo Spiritualis in Cave Of Forgotten Dreams. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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