A team of archeologists and autism experts concludes that an autistic trait among early humans help them create the first realism art during the Ice Age.
The ancestors' ability to focus on detail, a common trait attributed to people with autism today, had what helped them pioneered the flourish of realism in Europe some 30,000 years ago.
Researchers at the University of York argued against a previous theory that early humans consumed drugs similar to LSD to draw their ancient paintings with remarkable details.
Instead, the experts, led by Penny Spikins from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, asserted that the trait linked to autism had what aided the ancestors to create the realistic arts found on the walls of caves across Europe.
Ultimately, their conclusion added to scientifically established proofs that people with autistic traits contributed greatly to the evolution of humans.
Autistic Trait And Realistic Art
Realism art is characterized by the artist's attempt to depict a subject matter realistically, even beyond the limits of artistic convention. Indeed, precise representations of bears, bison, horses, and lions are abounding on the walls of Ice Age archaeological sites such as Chauvet Cave in southern France.
With their artwork, Spikins and her team concluded that these ancestors with autistic aptitude may have actually led an art revolution through realism during the Ice Age.
Their study, published in the journal Open Archaeology, suggested that the harsh environmental conditions during the Ice Age favored the natural selection of genes that help early humans to concentrate on tasks with much attention to details. They needed to tolerate the extremely low temperature at the time and focus their energy to contemplate on things that they do.
The challenge to focus despite the freezing condition developed their ability to draw based on their dynamic memory, made them perceived their environment in a three-dimensional manner, and allowed them to be highly sensitive in spotting geographical figures and movement patterns.
Such characteristics — recapitulated as the ability to focus on detail — were also distinct to those who would be diagnosed with autism in the modern day, Spikins said.
Psychotic Drugs During The Ice Age
The ancestors' talent to paint with such complex facets has always baffled researchers, particularly because modern humans were more inclined to draw simpler arts.
Previous researchers had concluded that these ancestors may have consumed psychotic drugs to be able to draw almost perfect illustrations. To support this hypothesis, other researchers went to the extent of giving artists LSD and observed them as they go about their painting.
Spikins said they reviewed the findings of such studies and found that drugs could only disinhibit individuals with already established artistic talents.
"The idea that people with a high degree of detail focus, many of which may have had autism, set a trend for extreme realism in ice age art is a more convincing explanation," Spikins explained.
Human Evolution And Survival
Spikins' team additionally found that the ancestors' autistic trait had also helped them in creating complex survival tools — such as hunting spearheads — from bones, rock, and wood. In effect, their ability to focus on detail also helped them to survive and colonized regions further across Europe.