Quirks & Quarks

38-thousand year old rock art has a lot in common with Monet

38 thousand year old engraving found in France uses a primitive form of pointillism.
Aurochs engraving with dots connected. (R. Bourrillon)

Southwestern France has become well known in recent years for several discoveries of cave art made by early modern humans. The most famous examples are the Lascaux amd Chauvet cave paintings.  

But recently an engraving was discovered in the same region by a team of anthropologists, including Canadian Dr. Randall White at New York University.  

The 38 thousand year old engraving — much older than the cave paintings — depicts an aurochs, or wild cow, using a series of dots punched into limestone.  

Limestone block engraved with an aurochs 38 thousand years ago. ( P. Jugie, Musée National de Préhistoire Collections)

The very purposeful technique, similar to impressionistic pointilism, provides greater insight into a regional pattern of art and ornamentation in the lives of the hunter-gatherers who lived there between 43,000 and 33,000 years ago.        

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