Stone-Age Artists: The 1st Animators

Chauvet cave paintings tell stories, simulate movement
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2012 4:38 PM CDT
Two bison superimposed create the illusion of the animal walking or running.   (M. Azema, J. Clottes, Chauvet Cave scientific team)

(Newser) – A Stone-Age Walt Disney? That's what two French researchers see in 30,000-year-old paintings that adorn caves like Chauvet and La Baume Latrone, Science News reports. Long cave paintings depict full stories, they say, and rotating bone disks found at the sites can be twirled to animate images of animals. “Stone Age artists intended to give life to their images,” says archaeologist Marc Azéma. “The majority of cave drawings show animals in action.”

One 10-yard painting at Chauvet tells a full hunting story, for example, with lions lunging after bison, while another superimposes two bison to create the appearance of movement. Torchlight on the walls would no doubt heighten the sense of animation, the researchers say. They also found toy disks that—when rotated in looped strands of animal tendon—quickly alternate images of animals sitting and standing. It's the same principle that inspired the thaumatrope, a device that led to movie cameras and animation. Hat tip to RawStory for the link. (Read more early humans stories.)

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