Tuesday, February 07, 2006

25,000 Year Old Cave Paintings Drawn Into Cartoon Controversy 

MSNBC reports on a story at once intriguing and tragic. What is intriguing is the discovery of 25,000 year old cave drawings in France:

PARIS - Cave drawings thought to be older than those in the famed caves of Lascaux have been discovered in a grotto in western France, officials from the Charente region said Sunday.

A first analysis by officials from the office of cultural affairs suggests the drawings were made some 25,000 years ago, Henri de Marcellus, mayor of the town of Vilhonneur where the cave is located, told France-Info radio.
The exciting news was tempered, however, by the next day's tragic announcement that the significant find would have to be destroyed immediately.

Despondent archeologists confirmed that the ancient cave drawings were to be blown up and the cave sealed. A spokesdigger explained to disappointed reporters, who would not even be allowed to photograph the site, that it turns out a 2 cm. squiggle over the left ear of the third bison on the left appears to resemble the Arabic spelling of the word Allah. While the archeologists were clearly upset, they nevertheless confessed they understood that not inflaming religious sensibilities was more important than any scientific discovery or irreplaceable artifact of ancient creativity.

Officials sponsoring the dig, however, appealed the destruction of their important find. The court took little time in returning a quick 4-1 rejection of the appeal. The majority opinion held that "freedom of expression has never extended to ancient cave peoples or their doodlings. Further, even if it did, freedom of expression is not the same as freedom to scribble provocations that might look like the name of gods -- not that there is more than one -- or pictures of prophets."

Further weakening the appeal was the precedent of the ice cream case, in which a well-known burger chain agreed to withdraw its Spinning Whirl Frozen Dairy Dessert because the ice cream swirl depicted on the lid of the serving cups also resembled the word Allah in Arabic.

The lone dissenting judge in the decision could not be reached for comment as he has quit the bench, moved his family out of Paris and changed his name.

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