75 years ago today

Marcel Ravidat discovered the entrance to Lascaux Cave in southwestern France which was found to contain some of the best known examples of Upper Paleolithic art, estimated at 17,300 years old. Not only do these images depict animals that were roaming the region at the time, but recent research has suggested that the images may incorporate prehistoric star charts, demonstrating that early astronomy, which in ancient times took the form of star gazing and predictions, may have been alive and well long before the records thereof which started around 3,500 BC with the Sumerians (who developed cuneiform, the earliest writing system).

If the “Great Hall” images in the cave really do represent an extensive star map that records all of the main constellations as they appeared in the Paleolithic, than the end of the Upper (or Late) Paleolithic stone age may have occurred well before recent estimates of 8,800 BC in Europe as the beginnings of Astronomy are usually attributed to the Neolithic, which started around 4,900 BC in Europe.

This recent research poses some interesting questions. What societies predated the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Aegean cultures that were so advanced in observation, prediction, and organization (and created calendars like the one in Warren Field in Scotland that is the oldest known calendar from 8,000 BC) but yet left little trace and apparently no system of record?

If early astronomy does dates back over 17,000 years in the history of homo sapiens, does this mean that Procurement is actually the world’s third oldest profession? (And not it’s second?) (Either way, we still won’t get no respect.)