I have selected 12 images for a portfolio of prints to help support the Ancient Art Archive. Each image is limited to 12 prints each. Once they are sold there will be no more. The images are approximately 21" x 33" on 2 x 4-foot paper.
Alistair Pike discusses the work he has done with Dirk Hoffmann in dating the cave paintings of Northern Spain in this short video that I shot for National Geographic. The open question that Pike is trying to answer in his research is are all the cave paintings of Europe Human or are some of them Neanderthal?
Its an interesting question. Neanderthals certainly could have produced some art, but there is not overwhelming evidence that they did. Refined dating techniques have pushed the age of the first paintings in Europe back. The oldest paintings are now known to be older than 40,000 years. But by the same token refinements in tracing migration by looking at the human genome indicate that homo sapiens sapiens first entered Europe 55,000 years ago. So the current oldest painting in El Castillo in Spain is well within the date range that modern humans occupied Europe.
Proving that Neanderthals made art will take a very old painting indeed.
There is a story about Ancient Art and Pablo Picasso. The story is that he once visited Altamira, the famous Paleolithic cave in Northern Spain. Picasso was said to have emerged from the cave shaking his head. When questioned about his reaction to the art Picasso -the leading modern artist of his time- replied
“In 15,000 years we have invented nothing.”
The story is probably apocryphal. But like many such stories, there is more than a grain of truth in it. One of the reasons that I launched the Ancient Art Archive is that I was so overwhelmed by how sophisticated some of the very earliest art is. I walked into a cave in France and emerged knowing that Paleolithic people thought just like we do, that visual communication is inherent to our survival strategy.
Over my years of documenting Ancient Art, I have seen how sophisticated ancient people’s artistic sensibilities are.
The news this month that pointillism was developed at least 38,000 years ago is very interesting. NYU’s Randall White led excavations in the Vézère Valley of SW France. The digs uncovered limestone tablets that used a pointillist technique to engrave mammoths and horses.
The work is originally reported in the Quaternary Journal (here) and discussed at length in the press (Smithsonian, NYT).
Our work with the Ancient Art Archive is entirely supported by donations.
The Ancient Art Archive all grows out of a National Geographic Magazine story. I wrote about that experience for the NG Proof blog and I've reproduced that text below. What I couldn't envision at the time is how images can be repurposed. The model above is constructed entirely of images I shot for a panorama of the lion panel. At the time I had not even heard of photogrammetry or even dreamed of building 3 dimensional models.