Of Course “Cave” People Could Create Art by Firelight

I came across this article recently and found it fascinating. The article mentions that fifty stones were found in France with carvings on them, which were manufactured by firelight. They were likely made using stone tools by the Magdalenian people, conventionally dated as supposedly living from 23,000–14,000 years ago. Now while we would strongly disagree with the conventional dating that claims these “stones were incised with artistic designs around 15,000 years ago” (in reality probably only around 4,000–4,200 years ago), these stones actually showcase the ingenuity and intelligence of early post-flood peoples.

The Universities of York and Durham researchers, in the journal article, noticed patterns of pink heat damage around the edges of some of the stones, providing evidence that they had been placed in close proximity to fire. These flat slabs of stone (called plaquettes), which can be defined in simple terms as having a smooth surface flat enough to support engraving, are considered a type of portable art.

Now what is the importance of them being placed near fire? Well, that’s where the genius of post-flood man shows through. Lead author of the study, Dr. Andy Needham, explains,

It has previously been assumed that the heat damage visible on some plaquettes was likely to have been caused by accident, but experiments with replica plaquettes showed the damage was more consistent with being purposefully positioned close to a fire. In the modern day, we might think of art as being created on a blank canvas in daylight or with a fixed light source; but we now know that people 15,000 years ago were creating art around a fire at night, with flickering shapes and shadows.

The researchers also mentioned that when they examined their replica plaquettes under firelight, they noticed that the flickering light caused some of the images (carved as closely as possible to the originals) to appear to be moving. One plaquette showed a group of horses which appeared to gallop. They also noted that the engravings on the originals were placed in such a way as to incorporate the block’s shape and natural cracks and undulations so as to maximize the appearance of movement. Now this is not the first instance of Pleistocene moving pictures (which we would label as “Ice Age movies”). Cave art in Lascaux and Chauvet caves (France) and Altamira and Atxurra caves in Spain has been studied under actual or simulated torchlight, and researchers have witnessed the cinematic effects of galloping bison, crouching (and pouncing) lions, tail-swishing horses, as well as many other scenes. They were artistically talented people.

Co-author of the study, Ph.D. student Izzy Wisher from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Durham, was quoted as saying,

During the Magdalenian period conditions were very cold and the landscape was more exposed. While people were well-adapted to the cold, wearing warm clothing made from animal hides and fur, fire was still really important for keeping warm. Our findings reinforce the theory that the warm glow of the fire would have made it the hub of the community for social gatherings, telling stories and making art.


At a time when huge amounts of time and effort would have gone into finding food, water and shelter, it’s fascinating to think that people still found the time and capacity to create art. It shows how these activities have formed part of what makes us human for thousands of years and demonstrates the cognitive complexity of prehistoric people.

It is like we have said all along, “ancient” cavemen were not dumb brutes, they were just as smart as we are.

So to sum that up . . . post-Babel people groups living in Europe during the ice age had it rough, couldn’t farm because of the glaciated landscape, and so had to live in caves and come together communally around firepits or campfires. But they were highly intelligent and could create mind-blowing cinematic art. It is like we have said all along, “ancient” cavemen were not dumb brutes, they were just as smart as we are. They were descendants of Noah’s three sons, forced to adapt to the harsh conditions they lived in after the flood.

Get More Answers on Answers News

This item was discussed today on Answers News with cohosts Tim Chaffey, Rob Webb, and Bryan Osborne. Answers News is our twice-weekly news program filmed live before a studio audience and broadcast on my Facebook page and the Answers in Genesis Facebook page. We also covered the following topics:

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  • Divinity students at Methodist institution hold blasphemous worship service.
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Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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