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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Stone Age cave art: the world's first animation

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CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Lascaus, Megaloceros image by HTO, public domain)

Cave art that had been created in the Paleolithic age is thought to be the world's first attempt at producing a moving picture, not a muddled mess of limbs and heads.

In cave paintings across France, animals appear to have multiple limbs, heads and tails — but, according to archaeologist Marc Azéma of the University of Toulouse-Le Mirail, who has spent over 20 years studying the phenomenon, the paintings are actually primitive animations. When viewed under the unsteady light of flickering flames, the images can appear to move.

The ingenuity of our Stone Age ancestors isn't limited to cave walls, either. Although the thaumatrope (a disc or card with a different image on each side that is threaded on a string and is then spun to blur the images into one) wasn't technically invented until 1824, French artist Florent Rivère found that Paleolithic people used similar objects.

The bone discs with different images on each side were previously thought to be buttons, but, when Azéma and Rivère threaded them on strings and spun them, they saw animated images.

Check out the video below to see how the cave paintings would have appeared animated.


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