65,000-year-old cave paintings discovered in Spain prove that Neanderthals had a fondness for creating art, making them possibly the first artists on Earth…
Ogga’s flowers were dying.
Ugg had given them to her for her birthday in a heart-melting and frankly startling gesture of affection. She had placed them in a small earth pot, watered them everyday, and stared into them and into nothingness whenever he was out hunting, their beauty soothing her uneasiness until his safe return.
Now they were wilting, as if weighed down by the burden. Soon they would be gone, and Ogga knew not when she might get more, since there were no calendars and she had no idea when her birthday would next arrive.
She stared at the flowers for a long while, surprised at the tears filling her eyes. Then she picked up a pot filled with a thick, gloopy liquid, the result of an unsuccessful attempt at inventing gravy to soften the taste of roast stoat. She looked around for something soft to dip into it, found the tail of, well, a stoat, and began to paint an image of the flowers onto the cave wall.
Hours passed like seconds. When she had finished she stood back and looked at the picture, holding the stoat brush vertically in front of one eye, because that is what artists do. She frowned at the dull monochrome of her creation, then spread some of her liquid onto a piece of slate and, by adding crushed herbs, chalk and animal blood to various areas she created a palette of coiours. The flowers on the wall came to life under her flitting brush as their leaves gleamed green, their stamens flecked with white, their petals flamed red.
Ugg arrived home, dragging two rabbits, a deer, and a stoat. He sniffed the air, stared at the wall, then spoke warily.
“Uh oh,” he said. “What have I done wrong?”
Ogga frowned. “Why would you think you’ve done anything wrong? ” she asked.
“Well firstly, I don’t smell any dinner,” said Ugg, “and secondly you seem to have hurled my flowers so hard at the wall that they’ve stuck there.”
Ogga laughed and pointed to the bowl beside her. “No, look, they’re still here,” she said. “I just put a picture of them on the wall too.”
“I see,” said Ugg, who didn’t. “Will they wash off?”
“I don’t want them to wash off,” said Ogga. “I want them to stay there. They make the place look pretty.”
Ugg shrugged, a imperceptible gesture since he had no neck to speak of. “If it makes you happy,” he said.
Over the next few weeks the cave’s walls filled with Ogga’s art – a picture of fruit, some lilies in a pond, a night-skyscape that was merely an oblong of woad with specks of pigeon-poo dotted about it. She moved then into portraiture, painting a picture of Ugg that secretly unnerved him, since it’s eyes followed him around the cave and he felt as if he was haunting himself.
He was more unnerved by her next suggestion, that she get Abbs the village hunk to pose naked for her, and his expression, a monalisa stony stare with added eyebrow, persuaded her to drop the idea.
Ogga’s art soon attracted notice, and Ugg got used to coming home to find villagers moving slowly around the cave, pausing before one painting after another and nodding gravely. Others then started to take up the practice, and to move it in different directions. Some painted animals, usually dead ones, since live ones would not keep in pose. Some painted historical scenes, though since history was quite short back then they tended to have titles like Aargh Stubbing His Toe On A Rock, Last Week. Others went for imagination, painting non-existent fantasies such as Round Thing That Makes Pushing Something Easier and Small Piece Of Clothing To Wear Under Your Fur To Keep Your Arse Warm.
Others tried to portray inner turmoil, producing daubs of darkness with titles like Loneliness, Fear of Spiders in a Supposedly Alpha Male, and Mixed Feelings on your Mother-in-Law Being Mauled by a Mammoth.
Ugg tried to join in, but quickly gave up after the village mocked his portrait of Ogga, in which she had one eye higher than the other and both boobs pointing off to the left.
Sadly, he was a man ahead of his time.