The origin of art?

My friend and colleague here at St. Francis, Matt Gatton, has an interesting and compelling hypothesis about the origin of art, specifically cave-wall art. Matt surmises that early artists in caves and other enclosures took advantage of a property of optics — the camera obscura — to create their images of wildlife.

It is now fairly well accepted that European painters of the middle ages and Renaissance used the camera obscura, otherwise known as the “pinhole camera,” for many of their works. Since the pinhole camera flips images upside and left-to-right, careful inspection of some paintings will show rings that should be on the left hand are instead on the right, and so on.

Anyway, Matt has done simulations in the field to test his hypothesis and has developed a convincing case for the early origins of art. Check out his website at

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