Think of “Stone Age animation” and Fred Flintstone driving his car by foot power is likely the image that comes to mind. But a new analysis of prehistoric art in Spain and France is casting a new light on the cave wall. According to New Scientist, the static images found in sites such as Lascaux, France, and El Castillo, in northern Spain, are actually sequences of images that create the illusion of movement — much like the frames used in modern-day cartoons.
At the cavernous El Castillo, outlines of such animals as red deer, bison and mammoth “run” and “trot” across the walls. At Lascaux, successive images of horses are superimposed to represent movement, such as a gallop, a shake of a tail or a head toss. Marc Azema, a French archaeologist who has spent two decades studying these Stone Age animation techniques, produced a video depicting how the layered sketches at Lascaux can be deconstructed to depict animals in motion.
According to the magazine, ancient humans also engraved disks of bone with images, which, when spun on a string, create a sort of flipbook.
Somehow “cafe” and human decomposition don’t seem like such a good match, but the National Museum of Health and Medicine is hoping otherwise with its Jan. 22 Science Cafe event on how human remains break down. If you wanted to know how different factors — including the method of burial and the number of hungry critters nearby — affect decomposition, this is your event.
According to the museum, the number of bacterial cells in the body as well as the insects and animals that access the remains play a major role in what a body may look like days, months and years after its demise. Yes, this information is interesting (in a creepy sort of way), but it also does a practical job of helping estimate a person’s time of death, which is key for many police investigations. The Jan. 22 discussion will be led by forensic anthropologist Franklin Damann, a researcher at the University of Tennessee Anthropology Research Facility, also known as “The Body Farm.” The event will be held at the Silver Spring Civic Building, 1 Veterans Place in Silver Spring. For more information, call 301-319-3303 or visit the event’s Facebook page.