The inhabitants of Europe during the last ice age existed prior to the development of written language and civilization as we know it. Yet they left a form of records which provide some insight into their lifestyles, culture and relationship. These records are the tools, artifacts and cave drawings discovered in parts of France, Spain and Germany.
Traditionally, archeologists interpreted the images as forms of hunting magic, fertility magic, and meaningless doodles. It was assumed that the primary purpose of such artwork was little more than rituals dedicated to successful hunting and survival.
Alexander Marshack developed a different approach to inter-preting ice age art. His purpose was to seek out the motives of the artists, and perhaps gain some insight into their state of mind. His methods included the use of a microscope and infrared and ultraviolet lights combined with photography. His sources of data were various artifacts and French caves which contain some of the best samples of ice age cave paintings.
Cro Magnon art was usually made by a combination of surface etching and the use of pigments to add color. Various oxides were used for the purpose of pigmentation. Marshack's use of special lights made it possible to analyze cave art in new ways, because the lights could read through surface layers to reveal paintings underneath. This allowed him to determine the sequence of layers in a complex composition. By sorting out which elements were added first, and the pattern of changes, the manner in which cave art was used and how it evolved over time was revealed.
Use of a microscope made it possible to examine the finest details more closely than they had been in the past. This approach clarified some of the images and suggested that they were not what they were originally believed to be.
Much of the ice age art depicts animal images in association with what were believed to be weapons. That interpretat...