Prehistoric cave painting solves DNA mystery


Black painting of the “Higgs bison” at Niaux cave in Ariège, France, dated to the Magdalenian period some 17,000 years ago. (D. Viet under Creative Commons licence via the University of Adelaide)

The ‘Higgs bison’ mystery is solved with the help of ancient cave paintings,” by Sarah Kaplan, in The Washington Post, October 18, 2016 (online), October 25, 2016, E6 (print).

18 thoughts on “Prehistoric cave painting solves DNA mystery

  1. Hannah Galeone

    Very interesting article. It is cool to see how the creative minds of pre-historic peoples have helped contemporary scientists and archaeologists find solutions to questions that have remained unanswered for so many years. It is interesting to think about what the ancient people would think if they knew they would help researchers thousands of years in future answer questions by simply being creative and artistic. It is amazing to see how humans of all developments and time periods, living or dead, can help each other.

  2. Nick Buccella

    Very cool to think that the people from thousands of years ago are still teaching us new things. Just the fact that a man (or woman) painted something that they saw everyday thousands of years ago has helped us discover something new is mind boggling. It is very interesting that we are still learning from our ancestors.

  3. Marshall LeMert

    Archaeology may not be an exact science, but it and art history is not without capability to aid in discoveries made in sciences that are exact. It’s humbling to imagine what more mysteries of early humanity can be solved as spelunkers go further into these caves, and further map out what’s left of the cave complexes in at Chauvet and Niaux, a civilization with know nothing about, and advanced concepts of culture that will blow our minds 🙂

  4. Margaret Sandner-Gialamas

    “The animal scientists had been seeking for more than a decade was right there all along.” Amazing that a simple cave painting from so long ago was able to convey information that is of relevant use to the modern world. This article was certainly a fascinating read. After becoming so familiar with cave paintings like these, one begins to take them for granted. It’s an article like this which reminds us of their importance to knowledge, culture and history.

  5. Elisha Ayer

    This article just goes to show how interconnected the world really is. It’s amazing to see how something drawn over thousands of years ago can help lead to a scientific discovery in this day and age. If anything this shows the steady change of nature and helps put into context just how far we (as a species) have truly come. Old problems become new answers leading to new problems and more answers in a great cycle of searching and learning. It is always great to see the constant flow of great minds figuring out the past to further our own understanding and ultimately our futures. Great read.

  6. Emma Baumgardner

    This article is super interesting! It is really interesting to have science from today directly correlate with what people from tens of thousands of years ago were seeing every day. It’s really neat how they were able to take cells from today’s bison, and use that to aid in their research of the ‘Higgs Bison’. The fact that we have covered work like these in class and seeing them still having a lasting impact and generating questions is fascinating.

  7. Shane McKenzie

    This is article about the bison is incredibly interesting and intriguing. For the fact that people are able to compare animals from thousands of years ago to todays animals is incredible. Also, the idea that we can compare habits of animals that lived so far long after others and find comparisons is unreal. It just shows how far we have come in todays world but still have so much left to learn about the future and past.

  8. Samantha Adams

    I love this! So incredible when art and science come together. I think this goes to show how learning holistically is important to finding discoveries like this one. Had someone from the field of art not found these similarities in the species of bison they were looking for it might still be a mystery. Important to study things in multiple ways, a reason I love liberal arts!

  9. Vincent Smiroldo

    It is amazing that something like this was found through cave paintings. But also kind funny the article says that this animal was documented tens of thousands of time they just didn’t realize that this was truly the Bison they were looking for. This is also very cool that this discovery was made with ancient documentation(the cave painting) and that we were able to learn from it. It really shows that these cave painting were not just for nothing they were first real forms of documentation of life back then which is really cool

  10. M123

    Each and everyday we learn something new. It’s something that people say now and have said for years. Archaeologists keep discovering new artifacts and it allows us to learn more from our ancestors. It teaches us ways that we can better ourselves individually or as a whole. It shows us that there’s still more to discover in this world. And maybe all that information that’s been brought to us throughout the years will bring us all closer together.

  11. will j britt

    The power of observation is interesting for its accuracy can be stunning. With all of the technology that we have today, we are able to prove and disprove so many theories quickly. Though in this case it was written on the wall. The ability to confirm using the cave paintings really is awesome for the details shown from 30,000 years ago are still relevant today it proves why archaeology is extremely important today for our past can be explained easily if looked at correctly.

  12. Denzel Saraka

    Very interesting article. I like how it connects the animals of today with the animals of the past. It’s nice to know that years ago we were still documenting animals via a different method. This allows us to learn a lot from our past and see the impact that it has on our society. It also means that there is still chance to learn more about the past as we discover new things in different caves.

  13. Jacob Atkinson

    When we consider how we behave today in the digital age, we really do store and capture everything we can. Most people take enough photos on their phone now a days to the point where they run out of storage space and have to delete something. In prehistoric times we have to consider that humans had some similarities in mind set, but they had an incredibly primitive outlet: cave paintings. It is astonishing that an incredibly enigmatic species long wondered about could be identified by the art work of someone from prehistoric times. That human will never be named, but they will be slightly revered from now on, not because of their exceptional artistic talent, but their contribution to the world of science, through artistic expression. I think that is wickedly cool.

  14. Emma Asbury

    Its fascinating to see how art made by people who are thought to be simple and had just about no scientific knowledge of the world, contributed to modern scientific ideas of evolution. These two fields are often viewed as unrelated, but this is a great example of how the two can be interdependent upon each other.

    I’m a photographer and I mainly take photos of things because I find them beautiful or just because I want to capture the world around me. This article makes me wonder if the prehistoric inhabitants of Niaux Cave depicted the “Higgs Bison” for the same reasons: they just thought it was beautiful or they just wanted to depict the world around them. Along those lines, I wonder if any of the photographs that I’ve taken just because I thought something was beautiful could one day contribute to science one day. I’m doubtful of this, but it’s still interesting to think about

  15. Joshua Jenkins

    It amazes me that this info was found through cave paintings. I found it interesting that today’s science and break throughs were used to to take cells from the Higgs Bison and were able to compare them to bison of today. With these capibilities the possiblities of what we can learn from our ancestors and ancestors of animals is endless. I look forward to learning more in the not so near future about the uncovered history we havent even tapped into yet.

  16. stephanie overbeck

    This article was very intriguing. Looking at prehistoric art is very interesting to me. You can look at the art and figure out what the culture did and who they were through the art they created. But this article brought a new perspective to my attention. The paintings helped solve the ‘Higgs Bison’ mystery is so cool and interesting!

  17. Alise Thaler

    It was amazing to see that early humans were able to document different types of bison. They did not use any technology but just simple drew what those huge animals looked like. Their bison inspiration has help figure out the DNA of bison and show that there were different types being hunted. I love learning about cave art because people simply used natural resources to leave a mark of their existence and tell about themselves a little bit.

  18. John Wray

    DNA has given a lot of answers to a lot of unsolved questions in art history. It allows people to understand where we once came from and how we started. Many think we were like apes back then and that we didn’t know a lot. The art work that we made back then still has relevance today. That the past never leaves us and it is important to remember were we came from as a race of people.


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