CAVE PAINTERS PAINTING WHAT THEY SAW. This article in Popular Archaeology describes a new DNA study of cave paintings. It begins: “Long thought by many as possible abstract or symbolic expressions as opposed to representations of real animals, the famous paleolithic horse paintings found in caves such as Lascaux and Chauvet in France likely reflect what the prehistoric humans actually saw in their natural environment….” The study analyzed bone specimens in 31 wild horses going back as far as 35,000 years ago. It found genetic evidence of bay and black coat colors. Bay is the most common color of horses in the cave paintings. It also found genetic evidence of a coat pattern with leopard spotting in four Pleistocene samples. Leopard spotting had been thought to support the claim that the horse drawings had abstract significance. Professor Terry O’Connor of the University of York is quoted: “The juxtaposition of elements has raised the question of whether the spotted pattern is in some way symbolic or abstract, especially since many researchers considered a spotted coat phenotype unlikely for Paleolithic horses. However, our research removes the need for any symbolic explanation of the horses.”

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