Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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21 February 2017


Poet Christian Morgenstern said: “In every work of art, the artist himself is present”. This cave art, painted during the Upper Paleolithic period, can be seen in Grotte Chauvet in southern France. Researchers believe it contains clues that suggest the artist was autistic, and that autism may have played a vital part in the evolution of human civilisation. The artist who painted these mountain lions had recognisable autistic traits – capturing impressive detail from memory, using repeated lines, and focussing on individual parts rather than the whole animal. The implications are still debated, but it’s possible that inclusion of talented humans with autistic traits may have been a basis for early society. Researchers are now aiming to link telltale traits in cave art with modern day minds – asking if we can recognise the subject matter of ancient artworks in this survey.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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