Friday, May 17, 2013

Stone Age Cinema


Observers have noticed before that paleolithic cave paintings often show animals in multiple poses, superimposed to suggest movement.

(Video link) Marc Azéma from the University of Toulouse Le Mirail in France has made animations by isolating and alternating the poses.
Thanks, Rob

10 comments:

Aline said...

Fantastic! Some of those drawings are amazing. It reminds me of one of Annecy's Animation festival trailer : http://youtu.be/CMWkyXXwzGQ

Matthew Foster said...

I imagine these paintings must have seemed alive in flickering firelight.

Matthew Crotts said...

Ack! You don't believe this, do you Mr Gurney? Surely this is a superimposition of modern ideas on a prehistoric cultural activity, whose own cultural contexts and meanings are forever inaccessible to us. I'm sure every artist's rough drawings would look like animation tests, if forced to fit the same assumptions as this video's. As the video description itself suggests, I'm giving the University of Toulouse professor the benefit of assuming he was playing around with a clever idea, and not making interpretive anthropological conclusions.

James Gurney said...

Matthew, I don't think it is a superimposition of modern ideas to observe that these early drawings show multiple poses, and to note that Mr. Azéma separated the poses and animated them. I didn't make any statement supposing what the original cultural contexts and meanings were. What interests me most are the drawings themselves, and this experiment just gives us another way to appreciate them.

e hughes said...

very cool indeed. i'd really like to see them animate the drawings of human beings. to get a glimpse of the movements of ancient humans would be awesome.

Diana Moses Botkin said...

What fun! Some of the progressions reminded me a bit of Muybridge's photos, especially the last series of the big cat. That one in particular seems very purposeful in the studies of positions of movement.

Personally, I don't see why primitive man, who surely must have had very keen observation skills, would not have made some visual notes about what he (or she) saw.

Janet Oliver said...

Could not disagree more with Mr.Crotts. Cave artists' intentions are not lost to us; to the contrary, they are written (drawn) on the cave walls. The act of recording the visual world is something present day artists have in common with them. It is our bond across the ages. The fact that it remains on the cave walls after over 30,000 years may be a combination of fortuitous circumstances, or it may be because the artists wanted the art to survive. Many people (those who have had access, such as Werner Herzog in his documentary "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" wherein he explored the Chauvet cave) have noticed that cave art, when seen under the right conditions, such as when lite by a flickering flame, resembles nothing more than early 19th C. attempts to create moving pictures. Such a viewing has also been called "memory theater." Clearly the multiple poses are meant to convey motion. How else would have Neanderthal man been able to describe it? I love that finally a researcher has dared to think beyond the typical mystical reasons commonly given for these paintings! Bravo.

lynnwood hage said...

Your recent post about maps and art at the time made me think of the cave painters for some reason.I wondered if those people[Cro-Magnon?] used maps to communicate,and if the artists ,with their graphic skills would be the ones to come up with the idea to do that.
Of course we are all born with the urge to draw and as far as I can tell most people can draw a decent map for you.
[by the way Janet made her point eloquently!]

Janet Oliver said...

Thank you Lynnwood for your comment, and for correcting me! It was indeed Cro-Magnon man who most likely made the cave paintings in Lascaux and earlier in Chauvet. There is recent evidence that Neanderthal man left hand prints in caves in Spain, over 40,000 years ago.

Matthew Crotts said...

Hrm, well said Mr Gurney - the drawings do seem to attempt to capture parts of multiple poses, and animating them on the computer does provide a new way to appreciate them. But I only mean to voice a word of caution to your readers! You of course know much better than I that the historical fields of archeology and paleontology are rife with the detritus of false conclusions made by those too eager to publish something sensational, leaving us to discover much later that their findings were more wish fulfillment than science. Remember the Brontosaurus! We should be skeptics whenever tempted to draw a conclusion that fashions into our own image a culture whose motivations and use of their own artifacts are (due to, as in this case, at least a 40 thousand year time gap) observationally opaque to us.