A rock shelter in southern France that has incredible friezes (wall carvings) of horses and bison. A female figure was found buried in the shelter.
The Horse Woman
Dordogne, France +/- 15,000 ya
Eki woke with a start. A light rain had begun to fall, and the outdoor fire sizzled. She got up quickly, pulling her thick deerskin robe around her shoulders. The days were getting shorter and cooler, they had to hurry.
“Charo, Dayna, come!” she called, not waiting for them to catch up to her. Soon enough she heard their footsteps on the well worn path they used almost daily. Her mother’s mother and father had begun the carvings, and now she was trying to get it finished for the Long Nights that were coming.
Charo and Dayna, children of her sister, caught up to her. They had the skill with the stone work, as had Eki. Soon they were in the shelter and as Charo lit a small fire, Dayna passed out dried meat to chew. In a moment, all three were at work, carving out the horses from the wall.
The horses were sacred to her people and to her family. As long as she could remember, Eki had loved watching them run in the hills. When the herd stopped to eat grass, she would creep closer, listening to their calls, watching them eat, seeing a mother nuzzle her baby. Twice she had gotten close enough to touch one. The first time she was too frightened and let the horse leave. The second time, she had gotten brave and petted its long smooth nose. After a couple strokes the horse tossed its head and trotted away. Eki had never dared touch one again, but the feeling of the horses warm breath and soft fur stayed with her always.
There was a tale that one of the old fathers had jumped on a horse’s back and died after falling to the ground. Eki didn’t want to believe that…a person on a horse did not make any sense.
Yet the walls of the shelter had long called to her family. Slowly they would study the rock, see the horse or bison within, and carefully bring it out. Dayna was especially good at seeing the horse faces, while Charo could smooth out the body beautifully.
The day turned darker and the rain fell harder. Voices came up from below and Ako, Eki’s brother came up with his little boy.
“Eki Eki look! Dada gave me spears!” Eki smiled at the youngster, eagerly showing her his child-size spears, and also a bow and arrow set. “Look!” he exclaimed, and carefully placed a tiny arrow with a small ivory point onto the bow.
“Ati! No, not in the shelter!” Ako shouted. Startled, the boy turned around, and loosed the small arrow as he did so. It hit Eki in the stomach.
“Aaah!” She grimaced, grabbing the small shaft and pulling it. It came out, with blood, but not the point. That was still inside her, stinging.
“Eki! Eki, you’re hurt!” Ako ran to his sister, checking the wound through the small tear in her robe.
“I am good, Ako. Now, take this young man back to the huts and get him something to eat. We need to finish here. The Long Nights are coming.” His face pale, Ako left, pulling a screaming Ati by his ear.
Both Dayna and Charo came to her side. “I am good…get your horses done…”she waved them away. For awhile Eki thought she would be alright. The pain dulled and the bleeding slowed and stopped. She chipped carefully on the mane of a horse she had been working on for many days.
Suddenly she swayed, dizzy. The room was getting darker and colder, and her stomach was beginning to hurt badly. The forms of Dayna and Charo swirled beside her, there were blurry lights and a large fire that hurt her eyes.
“The horse! The horse!” she cried, reaching out for its head. Once more she felt the warm breath on her hand and the soft fur of its long nose. Silently, the horse bent down on its knees. Eki grabbed the long mane and pulled herself up to a sitting position. The pain was less now, she would be fine. The fires burned behind her, making the horses in the wall run in the wind. She climbed onto the horses back and suddenly they were running, running through the valley, into the stars.
Far below in the shelter, Dayna, Charo, Ako and all the others cried over the silent still figure of Eki. Ako buried her there, and in sadness and grief, they left the shelter as a shrine to the horse spirit of Eki.