Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Spotted Rocks, Spotted Horses. Who knew?

The newswires were abuzz this past week with the discovery that the genotypes of certain extant breeds of horse and those living between about 11,000 and about 15,000 years ago in France contain alleles that would have meant having a spotted coat, the so-called leopard pattern. 
 Inside the cave of Peche Merle (Midi-Pyrenées, France) (Source)
This new genetic evidence is amazing in and of itself. But the media are touting it as proof that the Palaeolithic painters at Peche Merle didn't, literally, dream up the dotted equines. 
     Aside from the straw-man quality of the question that could have led to such a pronouncement, you'll forgive me for asking a rhetorical question. If the spotted rocks of Hohle Fels cave that I talked about yesterday were a form of menstruation calendar, what does it say about the relative cultural complexity of the two groups of painters, the one German and the other French, if the beautiful short-maned horses depicted at Peche Merle were in fact a more elegant version of menstruation calendar designed for the elite womenfolk of Midi-Pyrenean Magdalenian hunter-gatherers?

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