European Cave Art: Was It The Earliest Form of Cinema?

Marc Azéma, a French archaeologist and filmmaker, has come up with a pretty novel theory. Maybe the earliest cave paintings, created some 30,000 years ago at sites like Chauvet, weren’t static creations. Maybe they were meant to show movement, to tell a sequential story. Maybe the cave paintings in France and Spain gave us our first animations, a prehistoric kind of cinema. The video above takes cave paintings from Lascaux, Les Trois-Frères, Chauvet and elsewhere, and shows how the images, if arranged sequentially, actually depicted motion. The audio report below, from PRI’s The World, tells you more about Azéma’s research.


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  1. Barb Drummond says . . . | June 16, 2012 / 12:25 pm

    Sorry but I don’t buy this at all. It’s like colourising black & white films – totally misses the point of the original. Cave art is cave art. Movement of torches may have made the work seem animated, but this is not the same thing. This art is inspired by a fascination with nature, and is beautufully done. Messing round with the images adds nothing to our understanding of what is there. On the contrary, it distracts from the purity of the original images.

  2. Rachelle Chinnery says . . . | June 17, 2012 / 12:48 pm

    Very intriguing theory from the perspective of two distinct disciplines. We will never truly know the the intention of paleolithic artists or what the images meant to them. Perhaps those drawings do show a thought process similar to the way we used to flip a pack of cards to get a moving image from a collection of static images(retinal persistence as mentioned in PRI clip).

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