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Summary

This paper explores the origins of the symbolic–religious interpretation of Palaeolithic art. We analyse the relationship between the explanations that were given of the ‘primitive’ mentality in the second half of the nineteenth century and the birth of the religious interpretations of Palaeolithic art and we try to show how this union does not express a direct cause–effect relationship. In order for the union to take place, an intellectual change that would generate a new way of understanding the origins and the nature of art was necessary.