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Prehistoric Movie Going

Prehistoric man (and woman) put on lipstick and went to the movies--in a manner of speaking, that is. Prehistoric cave artists used cartoon-like techniques to give the impression that their images were moving across cave walls

In the September 23rd edition of the Daily Mail, Damien Gayle writes: "A new study of cave art (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this extraordinary show, which is one of the themes that inspired Anne Strieber's Green Man message) across France--in which animals appear to have multiple limbs, heads and tails-- has found that the paintings are actually primitive attempts at animation. When the images are viewed under the unsteady light of flickering flames the images can appear to move.

"It is also believed that prehistoric relics previously thought to have been used as buttons were actually designed as thaumatropes--double sided pictures that can be spun to blur the images into an animation. A popular toy in Victorian times, thaumatropes (literally meaning 'miracle wheels') were discs or cards with a picture in each side attached to a piece of string. When the string was twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures appear to combine into a single animated image. Artist Florent Rivère believes that Palaeolithic artists created similar optical toys well before their apparent invention in the 19th century."

Modern film creates the illusion of movement by having a black "bar" in between each frame of film. Prehistoric man seems to have had a basic understanding of the principle of persistence of vision as well.



You can see this effect in a couple of scenes in Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

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