An imaginary scene: the hunt into the abyss at Solutré

Adrien Cranile (Arcelin), Solutré, 1872
"At sunset, a beautiful sight awaited us.
While we were hunting reindeer in the mountains, another group was headed to the plains on the banks of the Saône, where large herds of cattle and wild horses grazed. The hunters had managed to circle five or six hundred horses and herd them by shrieking and waving wolf skins in the air.
I said earlier that the camp was dominated in the north by a high rock which, ending abruptly on the western end by a pointed and sharp precipice plunging steeply on three sides, sloped gently and softly to the east.
The hunters who successfully cornered horses on this slope pushed them, while protecting all exits, towards the over 300ft upper escarpment overlooking the valley. We saw from below five or six hundred crazed beasts climb the mountain’s bare slope in a cloud of dust sounding like a distant clap of thunder.
The living wave climbed and climbed and we could barely breathe as we waited for the horrible, imminent scene of destruction.
The first horses that came to the edge of the escarpment clung their legs together, sensing the drop. Their desperate neighing reached us, and a surge moved down the rest of the column. Nevertheless, the wave thickened towards the tip of the rock, and any resistance was futile against the mass and number. Suddenly, clouds of smoke and flame burst like a long rope of fire, closing off any retreat of the unfortunate beasts. Never have I seen anything more beautiful than this rock turned crimson by the setting sun silhouetted in the sky above the surrounding hills, acting as gigantic pedestal for so many victims wrapped in the devouring spirals of a pyre of which the blazing droppings flowed slowly at the bottom of the valleys. The light of the sun and fire blended into the invasive mists of evening above our heads, like a large raging storm.
Indeed, were a furious wind to blow past the narrow esplanade, sweeping everything on the bare rock, the outcome of this tragic hunting would not have been more immediate. Burned and blinded by the flames, the last in the group rushed straight ahead with an impetuosity that nothing could stop, and the whole herd tumbled down the cliffs.
It was a terrible avalanche, black and powdery, mixed with shrieks and thuds, which terrified us. The men hurried to finish off the wounded. We returned so as not to watch this butchery."
Image : 
Engraving by Émile Bayard, following Figuier, L., L’Homme primitif, 1870.