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    The Grotto of Font-De-Gaume


    Some 40,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans appeared in Europe. Replacing the Neanderthals, these people had more in common with humans today than anatomy alone, as they also were accomplished artists. These so-called Cro-Magnons painted beautiful images of animals that still are wondrous.

    On a recent visit to one of their art museums—a cave in the region of Bordeaux, France—some friends and I spent a few hours marveling at these creations. Although I received a good grade in my art history class in college, I consider myself to be very much an amateur when it comes to art. Nonetheless, a few things suggest themselves about the artists:


    Some 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, they produced beautiful drawings deep within narrow limestone caves, necessitating a form of artificial light that worked long enough to let them work.


    Because some of the animals depicted last lived in France during the last Ice Age, we know those paintings are some 15,000 years old and were created by hunter-gatherers who existed in very inhospitable conditions and possessed only Stone Age implements.

    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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