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It seems to be impossible to escape the Ice Age Art exhibition!

A couple of weeks ago, before the start of the summer holidays, I was making thaumatropes* with a group of children, when I remembered the prehistoric example I’d seen at the British Museum exhibition.

Found in Mas d’Azil Cave, this bone disk with its central perforation depicts a female aurochs and a calf. In the exhibition catalogue, Jill Cook says:

“The adult is twice the size of the calf and their similarity is emphasized by the same short, oblique lines used as shading on the shoulders and chests of both animals that would undoubtedly help them to merge if twirled round.”

Apologies to Jill, but I couldn’t just take her at her word, I had to find out for myself:


Click on the image to go to the Vimeo movie.

The best way to see the calf merge with the adult is to make one yourself. Try using this template:

Thaumatrope 1

The same site also produced a broken thaumatrope, showing a human having a nasty encounter with a cave bear (watch out for those claws).

The  Heritage Trust blog features this Ice Age thaumatrope, as well as other ancient animations. Especially interesting is Marc Azema and Florent Rivere’s argument that cave paintings and carvings came to life in the light of a flickering torch:

As is this Ice Age excitement wasn’t enough, coming very soon to this blog is a interview with Song Hunter author Sally Prue.

Watch this space!!!

Dr H

* Translated as turning marvel or wonder turner, these are disks with two separate images on either side of a disk, that merge to form one picture when you spin them.

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6 responses to “Thaumatrope

  1. Andy

    I went to that exhibit-fascinating stuff.

  2. Dr H

    It was an amazing exhibition. It’s made me want to go and visit some Ice Age sites. Might start in the UK with Cresswell Crags …

  3. Lucinda ⋅

    Made me want to try making a thaumatrope … you should take a movie of yours and post it. I liked the one on the Heritage site too… the dog chasing the birds. Did you just use string to spin yours? Or rubber bands/binders?

  4. Dr H

    I’ve made a movie, just need to work out how to post it! There are some brilliant templates out there if you search online. I use thick embroidery thread or string. Once you get them going they can be mesmerising.

  5. Fresca

    I want to see the movie too!
    Do you have a Vimeo account? (Or youTube?) Once you upload your vids there, you can just copy the share: embed code into your blog.

    • Dr H

      The video is now up on Vimeo. When I played it back I was surprised to hear Dr A’s music playing in the background. Or were they sounds summoned by the thaumatrope?

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