Ancient cave painters deprived themselves of oxygen to get high, new study suggests - CNET
Apr 09, 2021 55 secs

A replica painting from Spain's Cave of Altamira, home to numerous paintings of contemporary local fauna and human hands created between 18,500 and 14,000 years ago during the Upper Palaeolithic period. .

Ancient cave painters sometimes created elaborate images in dark, narrow passages navigable only with artificial light.

The researchers believe artists from between 14,000 and 40,000 years ago lit their way through caves' interior depths with flickering torches knowing the fire would reduce oxygen levels in the already poorly ventilated spaces.

The researchers studied decorated caves first discovered in Western Europe in the 19th century to further interpret the enduring mysteries of cave art and explore what motivated these very early artists.

Not all cave art appears in deep, dark recesses -- some decorates walls near entrances or shelters.

They found that oxygen levels in narrow passages or halls with a single passage quickly declined to below 18%, the level known to induce hypoxia in humans. 

Earlier this year, researchers identified an image of a warty pig from 45,500 years ago that they believe to be both the world's oldest cave painting and earliest known surviving depiction of the animal world


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