Stone Age Art Caves May Have Been Concert Halls

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Since that moment, Reznikoff has found correlations between painting locations and the resonance of their surroundings in more than ten paleolithic caves across France with illustrations ranging from 25,000 to 15,000 years old.

Many are packed together in parts of the caves where the human voice is amplified and where songs and chants would have lingered in the air as abiding echoes.

Paul Pettitt, a paleolithic rock art expert at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. who was not involved in the study, said Reznikoff's theory could explain the puzzling distribution of paintings at many cave sites.

"In a number of decorated caves the images cluster in certain areas," Pettitt said. "They are not randomly distributed but seem deliberately placed, with areas of perfectly 'paintable' walls ignored, and in a number of cases the paintings cluster in areas of resonance."

Artistic Connection

Ian Cross, director of the Centre for Music and Science at the University of Cambridge, was not involved in the study.

Cross said Reznikoff's theory is "interesting" and warrants further investigation.

"What he's done strongly suggests that there are grounds for following this up with some properly controlled studies" involving detailed acoustical measurements, Cross said.

Pettitt, the University of Sheffield archaeologist, said Reznikoff's research is consistent with other work that suggests music and dance played an integral role in the lives of ancient people.

Instruments such as bone flutes and "roarers"—bone and ivory instruments that whir rhythmically when spun—have been found in decorated caves.

In rare instances, cave images include highly stylized females who appear to be dancing or enigmatic, part-animal "sorcerer" figures engaging in what seem to be transformational dances.

"This is therefore an artistic connection between dance and art. Perhaps in this case the art is recording specific ritual events," Pettitt said. "It is inconceivable that such rituals would have taken place in silence."

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