One of my research assistants from Tufts, Patrick Bender, sent along this link to an article that claims prehistoric cave paintings from 30,000 years ago actually featured animated figures. The recently published research discusses two types of “animation” found in cave paintings.
First, they claim that the presence of multiple limbs, heads, etc. in cave paintings gave the sense of animated movement when illuminated by the flickering of torchlight. In Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud argued that this multiplicity in cave paintings implied motion as well, though he didn’t jump all the way to claiming it was animation (as in the video below).
I definitely believe that this multiplicity would have implied motion, but the real question is whether it would be fully “animated” by the flicker of torchlight, as they seem to argue. I could understand how torchlight would give the sense of a strobe light, allowing a person to shift attention to different parts of the image, thereby giving the sense of motion.
Nevertheless, I would like to see a video that at least simulates this to really believe it fully. The movie above that makes the case for this nicely shows how the pieces of the pictures could create this effect. However, the movie deletes portions of the image at every step in the animation. A horse with multiple heads on the wall wouldn’t do this. It would simply have all the heads all the time, and a viewer would have to try to shift their focus to the other parts throughout the flickering of light.
That’s not to say that the animation effect can’t happen under these conditions. I’d just like to see a “torchlight” demonstration before I believe it fully.