‘Rock Drawings were Prehistoric Movies’ – Most Obvious Archaeology Ever?

Old Art

My award for archaeology’s equivalent of an IgNoble prize goes to boffins at Cambridge University and Austria’s Sankt Poelten University, who have triumphantly announced that rock engravings from the Copper Age in Europe were ancient movies (as opposed to doodles).

Was this not a hopelessly obvious conclusion? Not to Cambridge’s Frederick Baker yesterday (June 29): “The cliff engravings…in our opinion are not just pictures but are part of an audiovisual performance.”

“There was still no moving image but (the pictures) created sequences like in animation,” adds Baker. “This was not just a treat for the eyes but also for the ears, as these rock engravings are especially found in locations with particular echoes. In this sense, the rock engravings are not just static images but pictures that created a story in the mind of the viewer: just like at the cinema.”

“There was no moving image but (the pictures) created sequences like in animation.”

Rock art was meant as a treat for the eyes? In caves that echoed? And the experience was ‘just like the cinema’? I’m not sure James Cameron would be too impressed with the comparison: look out next week, when the team plan to announce the Earth’s roundness, and that King Tut enjoyed using gold from time to time.

On a more promising note the team have launched the ‘Prehistoric Picture Project’ alongside Germany’s Bauhaus University. The project aims to recreate the ‘movies’, dating from 6,000 to 3,000 years old and frequently showing hunting, dancing or fighting scenes, as moving images. The project is being carried out in Valcamonica in Lombardy, Italy, where some 100,000 engravings are found.