Prehistoric Cave Drawings Suggest Early Humans Were Advanced Astronomers

They may not have had WiFi or indoor plumbing, but our cave dwelling ancestors were smarter and much more advanced than some people realize. Analysis of some of the world’s oldest cave drawings has revealed that some depictions of animals drawn over 40,000 years ago align with star constellations and may have been used as a cosmic calendar system to mark dates and events. 

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Kent studied Neolithic and Palaeolithic cave art found in different parts of the European continent (Turkey, Spain, France and Germany). Even though the drawings were made thousands of years apart, they shared a system for date keeping that tracked the slow movement of stars over time. “The findings suggest that ancient people understood an effect caused by the gradual shift of Earth’s rotational axis,” The University of Edinburgh wrote in a statement. Known as the “precession of the equinoxes,” the discovery of the effect was credited to the ancient Greeks, but it appears they were not the first.

The new information helped the researchers unlock the secrets of ancient sculptures, stone carvings, and drawings to reveal that they were likely made to signify major comet strikes in 11,000 BC, 15,000 BC, and 32,000 BC. “Early cave art shows that people had advanced knowledge of the night sky within the last ice age,” said lead author Dr. Martin Sweatman. “Intellectually, they were hardly any different to us today. These findings support a theory of multiple comet impacts over the course of human development, and will probably revolutionise how prehistoric populations are seen.”

If the findings of this study are accurate, it begs the question: What else did prehistoric people figure out tens of thousands of years before we did? And what do we, with all of our fancy machines and complex algorithms, still not realize about the world and the stars that prehistoric artists knew?