Unicorns in cave paintings: does it mean they existed?

Generally, the paintings They depict actual scenes witnessed by prehistoric painters. Therefore, it is striking that in some african paintings horse-like animals were seen, with a single horn on its head. Did the unicorns?

This question has been asked for centuries by some archaeologists and historians, and not only because of cave paintings. Also because there are some indigenous legends that describe these animals similar to unicorns. Furthermore, in 1797, the Auditor General of Public Accounts at the Cape of Good Hope, john barrowpublished a sketch of a unicorn, allegedly copied as is from cave paintings near the tarka river, in nigeria.

This added fuel to the fire of the possible existence of the unicorn. However, a recently published study by David M. Witelson, an expert cave painting researcher, points out that, in reality, it is simply a curious and coincidental convergence of legends

Two legends that coincided by chance

It is true that cave paintings of supposed unicorns exist in various places in Africa. However, if these are compared to Barrow’s drawing, they have nothing to do with it. What he drew looked much more like the typical european unicornso it is most likely that either it was not an exact copy, or the painting to which it referred never came to exist.

Now, it is true that other paintings that have been found correspond to the being described by some African legends. In them, a striped animal with a single horncalled kamma. This, in an indigenous language, means water, so they would be legendary animals associated with the rainHence the stripes.

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If the paintings did not have these bands, one might think that they are somewhat inaccurate representations of rhinos or other horned animals. But the stripes leave no room for doubt. It is an African legend that, coincidentally, has a similar appearance to the european legend of the unicorn

the real unicorn

Wikimedia Commons

Actually, there is a prehistoric animal that is believed to have inspired legends about unicorns. Its about Elasmotherium sibiricum, an Asian mammal of the rhinoceros family, with a large pointed horntwo meters long, resulting from the union of the two horns of the rhinoceros.

Fossil records of this animal disappear about 10,000 years ago, but they coincided with humans long enough for legends about unicorns to arise. Precisely for this reason, it is also known as a giant unicorn or Siberian unicorn.

It has nothing to do with him horned and glitter steed which we are used to in Europe. But the truth is that legends are modified between cultures and, in the end, there is usually little left of what inspired them. That may have been the case. What is clear is that it was not this animal that was seen in the African cave paintings, so we have no choice but to continue with the hypothesis of the legend. Still, that doesn’t make it any less curious.

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