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Wild animals in the sky? Prehistoric cave art suggests old advanced astronomy



Some of the oldest cave pictures in the world have revealed how ancient people had relatively advanced knowledge of astronomy.

Artworks in places across Europe are not just the imagery of wild animals, as previously thought. Animal symbols represent the star constellations on the night sky and serve to present data and mark events such as comets, analysts say.

Reproduction of the paleolithic cave painting of the bisons of Altamira cave, Cantabria, Spain (replica), painted c. 20,000 years ago (Solutrean). (Thomas Quine / CC BY SA 2.0)

Reproduction of the paleolithic cave painting of the bisons of Altamira cave, Cantabria, Spain (replica), painted c. 20,000 years ago (Solutrean). (Thomas Quine / CC BY SA 2.0)

Time tracking

They reveal that as many as 40,000 years ago, people have been watching the time with the knowledge of how stars' positions have been changing for thousands of years.

Findings indicate that ancient people understand the effect caused by the gradual shift of the earth's axis of rotation. The discovery of this phenomenon, called the precession of the equinoxes, was earlier attributed to the ancient Greeks.

By the time the Neanderthals had died, and perhaps before people in Western Europe settled, people could define dates within 250 years, the study said.

Reconstruction of the Neanderthal in the Neanderthal Museum. (Public Domain)

Reconstruction of the Neanderthal in the Neanderthal Museum. ( Public Domain ).

Ancient advanced knowledge of astronomy

Findings show that astronomical views of ancient people were much larger than they had previously imagined. Their knowledge can help navigate the open seas, which affects our understanding of the prehistoric migration of people.

Researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Kent studied details of paleolithic and neolithic art with animal symbols in places in Turkey, Spain, France and Germany.

They found that all sites used the same data management method based on sophisticated astronomy, even though art was separated in tens of thousands of years.

Evidence of the main prehistoric places

Researchers have elucidated earlier findings from a study of stone carvings at one of these sites – Gobekli Tepe in modern Turkey – which is interpreted as a memorial to a devastating comet at around 11,000 BC. This strike was considered to have started a mini ice age known as the Dryas period.

"Vulture-Stone" in Góbekli Tepe. Credit: Alistair Coombs

They also decoded what is probably the most famous of the old paintings – the Lascaux Shaft scene in France. The work that mentions the dying and several animals may remind us of another comet strike around 15200 BC.

Lascaux 4, Montignac, Dordogne, France. The paintings take place in the section called Studio. (Public Domain)

Lascaux 4, Montignac, Dordogne, France. The paintings take place in the section called Studio. (Public Domain)

The team has confirmed their findings by comparing the age of many examples of cave art – known from the chemical dating of used colors – with star status as predicted by sophisticated software.

The oldest statue of the world, the Lion-man from the Hohlenstein-Stadel cave, from 38,000 BC, also coincided with this ancient system.

Lion-man from the Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave. (Dagmar Hollmann / CC BY SA 4.0)

Lion-man from the Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave. (Dagmar Hollmann / CC BY SA 4.0)

This study was published in 2008 Athens History Journal .

Dr. Martin Sweatman of the University of Edinburgh School of Engineering, who led the study, said:

"Art in the Early Cave shows that people in the last ice age gained advanced knowledge of the night sky." Intelligently they were barely different today with us. "These findings support the theory of many cometary impacts in human development, and probably a revolution as the primordial population can see."

Top: Some of the oldest cave pictures in the world have shown that humans have old but more advanced astronomy. Animal symbols are star constellations in the night sky and are used to tag data and events such as comets, according to the University of Edinburgh. Source: Alistair Coombs

The article, originally called "Prehistoric Art Cave Indulges Ancient Use of Complex Astronomy" originally discovered at ScienceDaily.

University of Edinburgh. "Prehistoric cave art suggests the ancient use of complex astronomy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, November 27, 2018.

Reference

Martin B. Sweatman, Alistair Coombs. " Decoding European Paleolithic Art: Extremely old knowledge of precession of equinoxes . " Athens History Journal , 2018. Available at: https://arxiv.org/abs/1806.00046


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