Animal Images In Prehistoric Rock Art: Looking Beyond Europe

Animals are depicted in rock art in more than 100 countries, not just in the famous "painted caves" of Europe. Barbara J. King talks to an archaeologist with a global view of human meaning-making.
This June 2008 photo shows an ancient Aboriginal rock carving in the Burrup Peninsula in the north of Western Australia. / GREG WOOD / Getty Images

Rock art images of bulls, bison, horses, lions, rhinoceros, and other animals from caves like Lascaux and Chauvet in France and Altamira in Spain have become popular icons showcasing the antiquity of human-animal relationships, as well as human creativity.

Recent finds in two rock shelters in France of engraved aurochs, ibex, horse and mammoth dated to 38,000 years ago — longer ago than the images in the caves — underscore the long tradition of artistic representation of animals on that continent.

But the geographic breadth and imaginative richness of faunal rock art is much greater than what is found only in Europe — a fact brought home by reading a by archaeologist , an emeritus professor at

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