Ten thousand years ago or more, people started painting the walls of caves near Bhopal, India. Over the millenniums they made thousands of images in what are now called the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters: men, women, a couple having sex, dancers, children, hunts, battles, about 29 different animal species and mythical beasts like a part-boar part-ox part-elephant.
Over time, art styles shifted. Human figures donned clothes. Horses and elephants sprouted riders. Wars danced across sandstone faces. Today, many of the cave walls are now palimpsests, with medieval warriors covering Chalcolithic art on top of even older Mesolithic drawings.
Still, an overlooked pattern spotted by a tour group of scientists in March 2020 seemed so, so, so much older. Older than representational art or humans or primates or fish or horseshoe crabs. Eleven feet up on the wall of an area called Auditorium Cave, the visitors had identified something that looked an