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  • Charlie Janson

Then and now: Bighorn sheep across the ages

It is humbling for me to be reminded that nature photography is just a modern offshoot of a tradition that stretches back to the dawn of human culture - drawing animals in nature.

European cave art from over 35,000 years ago shows detailed images of all kinds of animals. Many of them were ice-age prey or predators, and people clearly spent a lot of time observing their form, color, and behavior, just like we do today. In Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, native Americans (most likely southern Paiutes) made rock drawings of many of their animal neighbors, including snakes and bighorn sheep (image to left). The rock substrate did not allow much detail in these drawings, yet they capture beautifully the essence of the form and movement of the sheep.

Hundreds of years later, the sheep still draw the attention of park visitors (image below, by me...).

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