Jun 8, 2012
Stoneage Artists Created Prehistoric Movies
Reporting in the June issue of Antiquity, archaeologist Marc Azéma of the University of Toulouse–Le Mirail in France and independent French artist Florent Rivère, argued that by about 30,000 years ago Paleolithic artists used "animation effects" in their paintings. To render the movement, they deconstructed it in successive images.
According to the researchers, this would explain multiple heads or limbs on some cave paintings.
"Prehistoric man foreshadowed one of the fundamental characteristics of visual perception, retinal persistence," Azéma and Rivère wrote.
Azéma, who spent 20 years researching Stone Age animation techniques, isolated 53 figures in 12 French caves which superimpose two or more images to represent trot or gallop, head tossing and tail shaking.
"Lascaux is the cave with the greatest number of cases of split-action movement by superimposition of successive images. Some 20 animals, principally horses, have the head, legs or tail multiplied," Azéma said.
When the paintings are viewed by flickering torchlight, the animated effect "achieves its full impact," said Azéma.
"That such animation was intentional is endorsed by the likely use of incised disks as thaumatropes," he added.
Regarded as the direct ancestor of the cinematic camera, the thaumatrope (literally "miracle wheel", from the Greek thauma, ‘prodigy’ and tropion, ‘turn’) was invented in 1825 by the astronomer John Hershel and later commercialized by the physicist John Ayrton Paris (1785– 1856).
Consisting of a card or disk with different designs on either side, the device demonstrates the persistence of vision: when the card or disk is twirled, the designs appear to blend into one.
Azéma's co-author, Florent Rivère discovered that Paleolithic artists used similar optical toys well in advance of their nineteenth-century descendants.
Rivère examined Magdalenian bone discs -- objects found in the Pyrenees, the north of Spain and the Dordogne which measure about 1.50 inches in diameter.
Often pierced in their centre, the discs have been generally interpreted as buttons or pendants.
"Given that some are decorated on both sides with animals shown in different positions, we realized that another type of use, relating to sequential animation, was possible," the researchers said.
Read more at Discovery News