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Prehistoric Rock Engravings Were Primitive Cinema

June 30, 2010

Austrian and British researchers, who are working to understand ancient rock engravings from the Copper Age found in many hidden locations throughout Europe, said the displays may have been prehistoric man’s primitive version of cinema.

The visual displays indicate the artwork was more than simple images, the researchers from Cambridge University and Sankt Poelten’s university of applied sciences (FH) in Austria believe.

“The cliff engravings… in our opinion are not just pictures but are part of an audiovisual performance,” Frederick Baker of Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology said in a statement on Tuesday.

“There was still no moving image but (the pictures) created sequences like in animation… this was not just a treat for the eyes but also for the ears, as these rock engravings are especially found in locations with particular echoes,” he said.

Baker explained that the engravings are “not just static images but pictures that created a story in the mind of the viewer.”

Cambridge University and FH Sankt Poelten are now working with Weimar’s Bauhaus university in Germany to launch a “Prehistoric Picture Project.” The goal is to use computer technology to establish the sequence of images and animate them like a cartoon.

Cinema dates back to 4000 to 1000 BC. Ancient cinema often depicted fights, dances or hunts, but never showed death and rarely portrayed women, the project’s coordinators said.

As many as 100,000 pictures could be found in the engravings scattered throughout Europe, with the highest concentration found in Valcamonica, in Italy’s northern Lombardy region — where the project is being conducted.

Image Caption: Pre-historic petroglyph “Shoemaker” from around 1200 B.C., Brastad, Bohuslän, Sweden. Photographed by Julius Agrippa, August 2003.

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