August 16, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Early Art Confounds Evolutionists

The artwork on the walls of Chauvet Cave in France is too good to have been made by early modern humans.  “Chauvet should be removed from assessments of early modern humans in Europe,” said UK archaeologist Robin Dennell.  “Including it leads to a gross distortion of their cognitive abilities.”  Other experts who dated the artwork at 30,000 years – twice the estimated age of the more famous cave art at Lascaux – stand by their dates.  “Chauvet is the best dated rock art site in the world,” said French rock art expert Jean Clottes.  Randall White (New York U) agreed: “There are more dates from Chauvet than from most other caves combined.”  Michael Balter reported on the controversy in the Aug 15 issue of Science.1
    The art in Grotte Chauvet was discovered about 10 years ago (07/26/2001, 04/22/2003).  Its charcoal and ochre paintings of horses, bison and rhinos are so good, they surpass in quality the cave paintings estimated at half that age.  Evolutionary anthropologists divide the modern human period in which the first signs of culture appear into the Aurignacian period (beginning 40,000 years BP) down to the Magdalenian period (17,000 to 12,000 years BP).  They expected to find a progression in cognitive ability as reflected in art.  The reverse is true.  “The fundamental importance of Chauvet is to show that the capacity of Homo sapiens to engage in artistic expression did not go through a linear evolution over many thousands of years,” says cave art expert Gilles Tosello of the University of Toulouse (UT), France.  “It was there from the beginning” (cf. 10/04/2001, 12/13/2003).
    Because this runs contrary to evolutionary expectations, Dennell and colleague Paul Pettit of the University of Sheffield have found it too hard an empirical pill to swallow.  They mounted a serious challenge to the dating of the art.  They claim that later Magdalenian people could have picked up old charcoal off the floor to make the paintings.  The Chauvet old-date defenders find that idea ridiculous.  They present other arguments against attempts to revise the date, claiming, for instance, that the cave opening was sealed by a landslide well before the Magdalenian period had arrived.
    Balter left the controversy at a standoff with Pettit looking like the underdog.  He quoted Margaret Conkey (UC Berkeley) asking, “Chauvet was an expression of the sensibilities, beliefs, and social relations of anatomically modern humans in this part of the world.  What was it about their lives that made imagemaking in caves meaningful?”


1.  Michael Balter, “Archaeology: Going Deeper Into the Grotte Chauvet,” Science, 15 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5891, pp. 904-905, DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5891.904.

One other interesting detail in the article is that the humans who made the paintings apparently shared the cave with large, dangerous predators: cave bears.  Hundreds of cave bear bones were found in the cave.  Who were the hunters and who were the huntees?  Maybe they took up residence in different seasons.
    This article is a humorous look into the dogmatism of certain evolutionists who want to maintain their beliefs in spite of the evidence.  Throw out the evidence, says one; it is leading to a “gross distortion” of the “cognitive abilities” of early man.  Being interpreted, this must mean that what provides an accurate picture of human history is the fact-free tenacity of imagination.
    None of this grants an inch to the grossly distorted dating methods of evolutionary anthropologists.  Despite their bluff about calibration, radiocarbon dating is only as “accurate” as its untestable assumptions.  A global event like a Flood (based on written records) would have drastically changed the calibration curve and put all this art well within a Biblical timeframe.  A creationist would expect man’s cognitive abilities to be complete from the beginning, just as revealed by the Chauvet data.
    If you don’t buy that, then we ask again (01/19/2001): do you buy the notion that for tens of thousands of years – multiple times the length of all recorded human history – people physically and mentally our equals (or superiors) drew pictures of horses on cave walls, but never figured out one could get a lot more done by hopping on their backs and taking a ride?
    For as far back as we have records, men have ridden horseback for travel, hunting and warfare.  Native Americans introduced to horses quickly became expert riders.  They could fire arrows in all directions at a full gallop, bareback, using primitive bridles.  Yet we are expected to believe that the master artisans of Chauvet cave, very familiar with all the mammals in their environment, drawing magnificent steeds to perfection, never thought about that?  How plausible is it that at least 25,000 years passed, brave men hunting all kinds of large animals the whole time, before someone got daring enough to leap onto Old Paint and shout, “ride ’em cowboy!”?  It’s downright aurignacious to imagine such a thing.  Even a Magdalene would think it silly.
    Including the Chauvet Cave data does not lead to a gross distortion of early man’s cognitive abilities.  Believing the evolutionary story with its horseless economy leads to a gross distortion of the cognitive abilities of modern Homo gullibilis.

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Categories: Early Man

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