(ORDO NEWS) — Our earliest ancestors likely created elaborate works of art by firelight, a study of 50 engraved stones found in France has shown.
The stones were adorned with artistic designs about 15,000 years ago and show signs of heat exposure, suggesting they were carved near the flickering light of a campfire, a new study says.
Researchers from the Universities of York and Durham studied a collection of engraved stones known as plaquettes now in the British Museum. They were probably made with stone tools by the Magdalen people, an early hunter-gatherer culture that emerged 23,000-14,000 years ago.
Researchers found pink heat damage on the edges of some of the stones, suggesting they were in close proximity to a fire.
After their discovery, the researchers conducted an experiment to replicate the stones themselves and used 3D models and virtual reality software to recreate the tablets as prehistoric artists saw them: by campfire light and with the fresh white lines engravers made when they first made them. carved into stone thousands of years ago.
Lead author of the study, Dr Andy Needham, Department of Archeology at the University of York and co-director of the York Research Center for Experimental Archaeology, said: more consistent with the fact that they were purposefully located near the fire.
“In modern times, we may think that art is created on a blank canvas in daylight or with a fixed light source, but now we know that people 15,000 years ago created art around a campfire at night, with shimmering shapes and shadows.”
Working in such conditions could have had a dramatic impact on how prehistoric people perceived art-making, the researchers say.
This may have activated an evolutionary ability designed to protect against predators called “pareidolia”, where perception imposes a meaningful interpretation, such as the shape of an animal, a face, or a pattern where there is none.
Dr. Needham added: “Creating art by campfire light would be a very intense experience, activating different parts of the human brain.
We know that shimmering shadows and light enhance our evolutionary ability to see shapes and faces in inanimate objects, and this may help explain why often found on plaquettes that use or integrate the natural features of the rock to draw animals or art forms.”
The Magdalenian era saw the flowering of early art, from cave art and the decoration of tools and weapons to engraving on stones and bones.
Study co-author Izzy Wisher, a PhD student in the Department of Archeology at Durham University, said: “During the Magdalen period, conditions were very cold and the landscape more open. was very important for keeping warm.
Our results support the theory that the warm glow of a campfire made it a community center for social gatherings, storytelling, and art creation.
“At a time when a huge amount of time and effort went into finding food, water and shelter, it is very interesting to think that people still found time and opportunities to create works of art. It shows how for thousands of years these activities were part of what makes us human and demonstrates the cognitive complexity of prehistoric humans.”
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