Why are some of the rhinos in Chauvet striped?
That's a good question, for which we'll never have a certain answer because the artists are no longer here to tell us. But such depictions do tell us something very important, which is that this art is symbolic. A symbol is something that represents or stands for something else, like a diamond ring represents a wedding engagement. Because striped rhinoceroses don't exist in the real world, we know that the stripe had a meaning for the artists and their community, which could be understood only by those to whom that meaning was transmitted.
Symbolic communication is unique to humans and prehistoric art shows us that our ancestors already had this complex intellectual capacity at least 100,000 years ago.
'The Final Passage' - a cinematic and immersive short film of Chauvet Cave in France, available until June 7th. Comment