As Werner Herzog documented in Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the prehistoric cave drawings in Lascaux, France are widely regarded as some of the earliest form of human art. But new research now suggests they may be evidence of the world’s first animation, as well. In an article published in the June issue of Antiquity, archaeologist Marc Azéma and artist Florent Rivère argue that Stone Age artists may have incorporated “animation effects” into their drawings of horses and other wildlife. As demonstrated in the above video, these effects were achieved by deconstructing each animal into different images; when viewed under flickering light, the animals would appear to be moving. This theory would also explain the existence of drawings with multiple heads and other body parts.
In France, for instance, Azéma identified 53 cave drawings that would theoretically come to life under torchlight, including several “galloping” figures. Such evidence, he writes, demonstrate “the earliest of the attempts to represent movement that culminated in the invention of the cinematic camera.”
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