“Reading” cave art
Cave art was not created by superstitious primitives as is often thought. Its messages are in symbolic terms.
Consider how we would communicate with people in the future who might not speak our language or understand our world.
Scientist Carl Sagan confronted this challenge when he chose to send a message into outer space on NASA’s Pioneer 10 spacecraft, launched in 1972. He engraved a deceptively simple line drawing onto a 6×9 inch gold-anodized aluminum plaque that was attached to the spacecraft.
In his book The Cosmic Connection Sagan wrote, “The expected erosion rate in interstellar space is sufficiently small that this message should remain intact for hundreds of millions of years.” And further, “The message itself intends to communicate the locale, epoch, and something of the nature of the builders of the spacecraft. It is written in the only language we share with the recipients: Science.”
Ancient cave artists were also very strategic about communicating with us, their far-distant descendants.
In her ground-breaking research of ancient records, Karola Kautz approached cave art with the same meticulous attention that Carl Sagan expects from whoever finds his plaque in space.