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Prehistoric Artworks May Have Been Carved by Firelight

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Plaquettes Light ExperimentYORK, ENGLAND—A collection of 15,000-year-old stone carvings may have been created by firelight, according to a statement released by the University of York. Held at the British Museum, the carvings, known as plaquettes, were discovered in France and are thought to have been made by Magdalenian hunter-gatherers. Researchers led by Andy Needham of the University of York replicated the artworks using stone tools, and then employed virtual reality software to produce 3-D images of them. It had been previously thought that patterns of pink markings on some of the 50 plaquettes had been caused by accidental heat damage, but the study suggests that the marks on the stones are more consistent with having been positioned close to fire. The artists may have carved the marks into the stones while gathered around a fire at night, among the shadows, Needham explained. The flickering light and forms may have simulated movement of the figures in the artworks and activated parts of the brain associated with identifying patterns and learning to avoid predators, he added. Read the original scholarly article about this research in PLOS ONE. To read about rock art found deep within caves in the American South, go to "Artists of the Dark Zone."

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