Scientists Make Stunning Scans Of Highest-Altitude Prehistoric Paintings

Posted: May 28 2016, 9:58am CDT | by , Updated: May 28 2016, 9:16pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Scientists Make Stunning Scans of Highest-Altitude Prehistoric Paintings
Series of parallel lines can be seen on prehistoric rock paintings. Credit: Loïc Damelet, CNRS/Centre Camille Jullian; enhancement: C. Defrasne)

Artwork on Abri Faravel rock shelter is known as the highest painted representations of animals in Europe.

Archeologists from York University have undertaken remarkable digital scans of prehistoric rock paintings. What makes those scans unique is their height. The paintings are engraved on Abri Faravel, a small rock overhang located in the Southern French Alps over 2,100 miles above the sea level, making them highest altitude prehistoric art in the Europe. 

The prehistoric art consists of series of parallel lines craved across the rock while one painting looks like two animals are facing each other. The logistically complex operation relied on white light scanners and heavy car batteries for activating laser.

“As this site is so unusual, we made the decision to carry out a laser-scan of the rock shelter and the surrounding landscape, plus a white-light scan of the actual paintings,” said lead researcher Kevin Walsh from York’s Department of Archeology.  “The scanning was logistically complex as our only source of electricity was car batteries, which, along with all of the scanning equipment, had to be carried up to the site.”

Abri Faravel was discovered in 2010. The rock shelter had been a place of human activity from the Mesolithic to the medieval period which is also evident by the artwork found there. The colors of the paintings are enhanced to make them look more vivid and prominent. The virtual scans allow modern day humans to peek into the past and learn about ancient humans.

The scanning of paintings is just a small part of wider project which is intended to investigate human activity over the past 8,000 years at high altitude in the Southern Alps. These paintings can provide information about how early humans lived there and withstood one of the most challenging environments in ancient times around 10,000 B.C. and 5000 B.C.

“After years of research in this valley, the day we discovered these paintings was undeniably the highlight of the research program,” said Walsh. “This is the only example of virtual models, including a scan of the art, done at high altitude in the Alps and probably the highest virtual model of an archeological landscape in Europe.”

Besides paintings researchers have also found a number of artifacts in the site which can also add to their understanding of humans’ activity at high altitudes on Alps.

“Whilst we thought that we might discover engravings, such as in the Vallée des Merveilles to the south-east, we never expected to find prehistoric paintings in this exposed area that affords  so few natural shelters.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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