Think the first movies were screened in a cinema? According to an analysis of cave art, our prehistoric ancestors may have invented the concept while drawing on their walls.
In this video, researcher and film-maker Marc Azema from the University of Toulouse Le Mirail in France reveals how several frames of an animation are superimposed in many animal sketches. A horse painting from the Lascaux caves in France, for example, is made up of many versions of the animal representing different positions of movement. In this video, Azema extracts the individual images and displays them in succession, demonstrating how they play back like a cartoon.
In other examples, motion is represented by juxtaposing drawings of a body in motion. Azema creates another sequence by picking out motion frames to produce an animation of a running animal.
Apart from layered paintings, ancient humans may have used light tricks to evoke motion on cave walls. Engraved discs of bone have also been found which produce galloping animations when spun on a string, reminiscent of flipbooks. For more on prehistoric cinema, read our feature article, "Prehistoric cinema: A silver screen on the cave wall".
If you enjoyed this post, watch the first science films or the animal stars of the first colour movies.