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Sometimes the silhouette of the animal was incised in the rock first. Abb Breuil interpreted the paintings as being hunting magic, meant to increase the number of animals.As there are some clay sculptures that seem to have been the targets of spears, this may partly be true, but does not explain the pictures of beasts of prey such as the lion or the bear.Other theories suggest that petroglyphs were made by shamans in an altered state of consciousness, perhaps induced by the use of natural hallucinogens.Many of the geometric patterns (known as form constants) which recur in petroglyphs and cave paintings have been shown to be "hard-wired" into the human brain; they frequently occur in visual disturbances and hallucinations brought on by drugs, migraine and other stimuli.An alternative and more modern theory, based on studies of more modern hunter-gatherer societies, is that the paintings were made by Cro-Magnon shaman.The shaman would retreat into the darkness of the caves, enter into a trance state and then paint images of their visions, perhaps with some notion of drawing power out of the cave walls themselves.Rock paintings are made since the Upper Paleolithic, 40,000 years ago.
Some researchers have noticed the resemblance of different styles of petroglyphs across different continents; while it is expected that all people would be inspired by their surroundings, it is hard to explain the common styles.
When they arrived in Europe about 40,000 years ago, they brought with them sculpture, engraving, painting, body ornamentation, music and the painstaking decoration of utilitarian objects.
Surviving Cro-Magnon artifacts include huts, cave paintings, carvings and antler-tipped spears.
Explanations for this similarity are mostly grounded in Jungian psychology and the views of Mircea Eliade.
According to these theories it is possible that the similarity of petroglyphs (and other atavistic or archetypal symbols) from different cultures and continents is a result of the genetically inherited structure of the human brain.
Many petroglyphs are thought to represent some kind of not-yet-fully understood symbolic or ritual language.