Monday, March 12, 2012
Did Stone Age cavemen talk to each other in symbols?
Visit the caves of Pech Merle, Font-de-Gaume and Rouffignac in southern France and you will witness some of the most breathtaking art our planet has to offer. Images of bisons, lions and other creatures loom from the cavern walls. Herds of horses and the occasional rhino, not to mention the odd mammoth and giant bull, parade across the rocks. Many animals are depicted in vivid colours, with a sense of perspective and anatomical detail that suggest these artists had acquired considerable skill. These underground galleries, found mostly in France and Spain, also turn out to be remarkably old. The works at Rouffignac have been dated to around 13,000 years old, while those at nearby Chauvet and Lascaux are thought to be more than 30,000 years old. This testimony on rock walls – in daubs of ochre and charcoal mixed with spittle and fat – shows that our hunter-gatherer ancestors could depict the world around them in a startlingly sophisticated way. As the art critic John Berger once said of these painters, they appear to have had "grace from the start". Picasso was even more awestruck. "We have invented nothing," he remarked gloomily, after a visit to Lascaux in 1940 to inspect the handiwork of his Stone Age predecessors. Not surprisingly, these paintings attract tens of thousands of visitors every year. However, there is another aspect to this art that often escapes attention, but which is now providing scientists with fresh insights into our recent evolution. Instead of studying those magnificent galloping horses and bisons, researchers are investigating the symbols painted beside them...more
Early man encryption?