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10 Sep, 2023
1 min time to read

Archaeologists using modern stereoscopic photography techniques have uncovered hidden animal drawings in the Paleolithic-era La Pasiega cave in Spain, shedding new light on ancient art.

The cave, discovered in 1911, contains more than 700 paintings that were initially perceived as two-dimensional. However, the recent use of stereoscopic photography unveiled previously unnoticed details, turning these ancient drawings into 3D masterpieces.

The artists who created these Paleolithic wonders skillfully used the irregularities, hollows and crevices of natural rock formations in their works.

The image of a horse in the La Pasiega Cave shown without and with DStretch software processing.

Stereoscopic photography, which uses two separate images to simulate a 3D effect, allowed researchers to appreciate the play of light and shadows on the cave's rock surfaces. For example, a crack in the cave wall began to define the chest of a horse - details that traditional drawings and sketches did not account for.

Stereoscopic photography has been in use since the 1800s and is recognized for creating 3D illusions, notably in children's toys like View-Masters. In this study, researchers mimicked the average distance between human pupils by capturing two images 2.5 inches apart. Post-processing software, including Photoshop and DStretch, converted these images for viewing with 3D glasses or virtual reality devices.

Thanks to this technique, scientists have discovered three previously unseen figures in cave art, including two horses and an extinct species of cattle, the aurochs. These figures had always been present in the drawings, but could not be detected due to the shortcomings of previous research methods.

It is noteworthy that the drawings more fully utilized the natural features of the rock, and only minimal additional lines were required for the outlines of the animals.