Cave art – the first steps of the nascent human mind into expressing itself through drawing and painting? Or were these ancient people already far more accomplished artists than we give them credit for? New research is suggesting that superimposed images found in cave art are not bumbling attempts at depicting animals, but were in fact meant to be viewed as animated scenes.
In this video, researcher and film-maker Marc Azéma from the University of Toulouse Le Mirail in France reveals how several frames of an animation are superimposed in many animal sketches. A horse painting from the Lascaux caves in France, for example, is made up of many versions of the animal representing different positions of movement. In this video, Azema extracts the individual images and displays them in succession, demonstrating how they play back like a cartoon.
In other examples, motion is represented by juxtaposing drawings of a body in motion. Azéma creates another sequence by picking out motion frames to produce an animation of a running animal.
Apart from layered paintings, ancient humans may have used light tricks to evoke motion on cave walls. Engraved discs of bone have also been found which produce galloping animations when spun on a string, reminiscent of flipbooks.