Ghostly in the dark like white five-petalled
flowers, little suns glowing against red
clouds of powdered paint; carefully stencilled
human hands pressed against unyielding rock
inside the cave. For forty thousand years
this skilful painting has lasted. And now
we see images by the pioneers
of human abstraction. Hands. Pig deer. How
we long to know what they are signalling.
New dating means we’re sure that what we see
came out of Africa. What’s their meaning?
Are they marks of arcane ceremony?
Their beauty beckons, only revealing
our hands match theirs. We are their legacy.
Discovery transforms ideas about how humans first developed the ability to produce art.