The iconic caveman in popular culture is Fred Flintstone: slow-witted and unskilled. In general, we think of the cave art produced by prehistoric people as crude and imprecise too—a mere glimmer of the artistic mastery that would blossom millenia later, during the Renaissance and beyond.
If this is your impression of prehistoric humans, a new study published today in PLOS ONE by researchers from Eotvos University in Budapest, Hungary, might surprise you. In analyzing dozens of examples of cave art from places such as Lascaux, the group, led by Gabor Horvath, determined that prehistoric artists were actually better at accurately depicting the way four-legged animals walk than artists from the 19th and 20th centuries.
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