Prehistoric engravings come to life by the fire

Paleolithic people created portable art to decorate the spaces they lived in. This prehistoric portable art is contrasted with parietal art in that it is associated neither with cave walls (parietal art) nor with rocks in an open environment (rock art). Portable art indeedart objects, they could, due to their small size, move in the course of human movements. It includes a wide variety of objects, such as figurines of animals or people, or even carved staves and weapons. This portable art can be made on multiple supports such as drinkbone and stone, and demonstrate proficiency in several artistic techniques such as engraving, sculpture, and painting.

pads from stone with engravings is a type of portable art found mainly in Madeleine sites. These pads are from paleolith may be present in several thousand copies on certain sites, raising questions about their potential usefulness. Some of these plates, if particularly well preserved, do show signs of use, such as heating and fragmentation. However, when such marks are not visible, research is focused on understanding and interpreting the engravings present on the surface of these plates. The authors study published in the journal PLOS One therefore, he became interested in about fifty engraved tablets from the Paleolithic period, trying to uncover the secret of their use.

Engravings that come to life near the flame

Pillows are made of stone limestone and come from the Madeleine settlement of Montastryuk in Tarn and Garonne. The site has been dated to around 13,000–12,000 years ago. The engravings they carry are of horses, mountain goats, bison, wolf and human silhouettes. The largest notebooks are the size of a sheet of A4 paper, but most are half the size and do not exceed three centimeters thick.

For this study, the authors placed limestone slabs next to foyer or they measured the temperature emanating from it and recorded the visual effects produced by the light of the fire night on these decks.

The authors first explain that limestone changes color and cracks depending on the high temperatures it is exposed to (red color from 100 to 300°C and gray discoloration above 600°C), which may be of interest to Paleolithic artists. Moreover, the fact that the plates are placed engraved next to the fire enhances the blurring of the natural characteristics of limestone slabs, as well as engravings. At a time when people congregated in caves under the cover of night, and when the hearth seemed at first glance to be used only for heating and cooking, the prehistoric people of Montastruca also had to use the play of shadows and light near the flame. to stimulate their visual system, trigger perceptual psychological responses, and awaken their imagination.

In the video: was Paleolithic rock art also cinema?

Cartoons won’t be dated yesterday, according to work Mark Azema. Nearly 41% of parietal images painted in decorated caves such as Lascaux or Chauvet show movement. Even more surprisingly, the techniques used to bring rock to life (sequential images, overlays) are still used in movies and comics.

Article by Quentin Mogi, published 02/26/2013

Chauvet Caves and Lascaux, to name but a few, contain many Paleolithic works. They mainly depict animals (mainly large mammals), the rest consist of signs (i.e., abstract motifs) and rarely of Humans (an exception is seen in the scene Lasko well). These images have always been treated as still images, but in many cases this approach may not have been appropriate.

This assumption is made Mark Azema after more than 15 years of work. This researcher from the University of Toulouse II-Le Mirail (also a member of the research team studying the Chauvet cave) applied an ethological approach to his research. In other words, he first sought to understand the behavior and biology of the mammals represented before interpreting the parietal works. Thus, approximately 41% of the animals drawn in the decorated caves are actually depicted in motion (drawing published by Mark Azema in the magazine For science).

According to him, several graphic techniques were used Aurignacian painters to bring their creations to life, at the very beginning, 32,000 years ago. Surprisingly, they are still used in comics and cinematography. Let’s not forget an important point: these works are painted on deformed volumes by the light of torches, oily lamps or lights. Now, the shimmering nature of the emitted light has a certain quickening power.

Do these animated sequences represent the first animations in history? They were made by destroying rock art, which consisted of superimposed images, and then assembling them into a montage. © Mark Azema, YouTube

Paleolithic movements and perspectives

In particular, movement can be created by creating successive images. A wonderful example is shown to us on a large panel in the hall bottom of the cave Chauvet (see photo below). We see the full hunting scene featuring lions caves, horses, bison and mammoths. The right end of the fresco consists of two superimposed rows of 16 lion heads connected by a bust.

Animation is created by the eyes: reading them from right to left gives the impression of movement. We can then see an attack on a herd of buffalo who are trying to escape. Moreover, in this movement of the gaze feline the top row become smaller than those they overhang, which gives the scene a perspective effect.

Superposition or juxtaposition of images has also been used to bring animals to life in whole or in part (particularly to move their ears, tails, or heads). A good example is presented in Abri du Colombier in Ardèche. Capricorn was indeed introduced there 12,000 years ago with several series of legs, suggesting movement.

Real Aurignacian cinema?

You can go even further. The work can be broken down into a sequence of images representing different phases of the movement. This is clearly visible when all frames are projected one after the other. A remarkable fact: this approach, like the previous one, also includes the concept of time.

Thus, the image of movement in art was mastered in prehistoric times. Several important points emerge from this observation. artists of that time, at least those who animated their work would use one of the main properties of visual perception: the permanence of the retina. L’eye a human remembers an illustration for about 50ms, which means that we observe continuous movement when jerky images are projected at a shorter time interval. Moreover, the actions observed in these parietal productions would not exist without the movement re-arrangement reflex that our brain. The first cinemas were built caves ?

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