STL Science Center

STL Science Center

01 April 2015

No Jokes

Cave art attributed to the Sahara
According to the The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals Sivatherium has been represented in rock paintings in the Sahara desert. Knowing that human cultures existed at the same time as Sivatherium this is a statement that could definitely hold water. The key to examining that claim, however, is knowing what the paintings looked like or if they still exist. There are two images, both equally terrible images, that have circulated that are supposedly from the Sahara and India that represent rock paintings of Sivatherium.The paintings appear to possess some giraffid qualities that could certainly represent the animal of interest. However, the one attributed to Indian civilization also appears to be easily representative of almost any four-legged animal that one might find on a farm let alone in the wild. The large horns in the Indian rock painting could be meant as ears and overall the picture looks very similar to a donkey with an elongate body. Elongated bodies would not be as important in portraying Sivatherium as elongate necks would be; however, artistic interpretation or the inabilities of the artist may just be showing up in this crude art form.
Cave art attributed to India
The Sahara attributed image is much more consistent with our interpretation of a giraffid animal and appears, vaguely, to have some horn-like appendage at the top of the small head. Small heads on large necks, though, are not exactly representative of the morphological state of Sivatherium; large heads on elongate, but short and thick necks are more accurate. The painting also has a long body, but not quite as long in appearance as the piece from India and in better proportions than the one from India. It is possible that Saharan cave painters were simply better at animal representation than their Indian counterparts, or that the species of Sivatherium in India was morphologically different enough that the image appears distorted but is not. Whatever the reason, someone that professionally interprets cave paintings once associated the paintings with Sivatherium and that interpretation will always exist somewhere in the world.

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