Talk:Alexander Marshack

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Want to help write or improve biographies? Check out WikiProject Biography Tips for writing better articles. -- Yamara 00:32, 17 January 2008 (UTC)

Marshack's position at Peabody[edit]

Didn't Marshack eventually become a professor and director of the Peabody? If so, it would be nice to mention that. TimidGuy 19:14, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

Essay by a friend of Marshack's[edit]

This nice essay was inserted into the article, but isn't really appropriate style for an encyclopedia article. Am posting it here. TimidGuy 14:51, 20 June 2007 (UTC) 13:37, 20 June 2007 (UTC)… Alexander Marschack was a close friend of mine from the time I lived in New York during the 1950s. His theories about the beginnings of human notation, which eventually must have led to written language, seemed completely believable to me. Alex told me that no one could actually prove him wrong.. What interested me, as an animation filmmaker, is what he has discovered and postulated about the cave paintings of Europe. First of all he reminds us of the weird feeling we have when inside a cave... If you've ever been inside a large cave, you'll know this feeling. And if you've ever been deep inside a cave and turned off your light, you will know what dark is! It is a total blackness and quiet we can experience in no other way, especially with the deathly feeling of being under tons of rock. Whether we call it film, movies, cinema, video, or whatever, Marshack’s theories could well support the notion that the root idea for a dramatic sound and light presentation in a darkened room may go all the way back to our human beginnings; that it actually fulfills humankind's earliest artistic, religious, and storytelling cravings. What Marshack outlined made me wonder if the roots of a cinematic presentation may actually have its roots as early as 35,000 years ago!

Alex Marshack pointed out that all those beautiful paintings we know of have been made maybe a half-mile deep inside the caves. Why did those early artists do that when it must have been enormously difficult for them? It certainly proves that they were able to produce light. Hollowed stones have been found inside the caves, which were probably oil lamps. They also had to be able to bring in drawing and painting utensils, to make scaffolding, and to mix colors on the spot.

Flattened areas of stone have been found with enough residues to indicate they were used as palettes. But it can be assumed that they did not drag all those animals in there to use as models! Yet these paintings are marvelous examples of drawing skill by any standard. These were trained artists! What is especially fascinating to an animator is seeing that many of the drawings were attempts to convey an image of motion!

But this was a time of primitive and exceedingly difficult life, when just staying alive and hunting for food was the predominate need. But yet they felt it necessary to support "professional" artists! From this we have to assume that these so-called cave men had a more advanced social organization than we might have thought, and that they were able to bring in a surplus of food, and that not every man or woman had to spend full time scrabbling for existence - that the society 35,000 years ago could support and train artists!!! Again why? All of these deductions by Alexander Marshack got me to thinking that these people had a culture and a lore they wished to preserve, to pass on - a need to tell stories!

It struck me: What more imprinting way could there have been for those people to inculcate their youth with the legends and lore of the community than to lead them into the icy vast darkness of a cave, to a deep, forbidding gallery, always the one that was the most sound resonant, (Cave-age Surround sound?), and in flickering oil lamp light, illuminating wondrous images, tell the tribal tales, in an atmosphere of guaranteed attention. The first "animated movie" presentation!

So we can see that though the technology of animation has changed a bit in the last 35,000 years, the aim is the same: to tell stories in the most dramatic, riveting, and attention-holding way we can. Technical advancements come thick and fast in our times, but we musn't let them rule our work as a thing unto themselves. Technology is an ever-evolving tool, but our use of it must always be the same: to tell our story!

When I told him my wild thought that the cave paintings were the first manifestation of cinema, he said to me, “Gene, no one can prove you’re wrong!”

Gene Deitch Prague 2007

Wikipedia has an article on Gene Deitch. --I've heard this story before, and have even recounted it to people, but I can't recall where I came across it. I'm not sure I have time to hunt it down, but it should be notable enough to mention in this article, and in Deitch's, if the reference/citation can be found. -- Yamara 15:26, 3 February 2008 (UTC)
My impression was that Gene himself added it to this article. TimidGuy (talk) 15:53, 3 February 2008 (UTC)
This specific posting, yes, but my point is he must have recounted it elsewhere for me to have heard it before. We could use that as a source to include the anecdote in the article. -- Yamara 18:09, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

I found the original essay on the author's personal website ( An alternate version is included in the foreword to "How to Succeed in Animation" (, beginning on page 4. Kileytoo (talk) 17:58, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

Interesting. Thanks much. We'll have to think of what we might integrate into Wikipedia. TimidGuy (talk) 19:02, 4 August 2013 (UTC)


I don't understand why this is an issue. His long association with Harvard's Peabody Museum is well established. An article in a publication by the museum[1] describes his association with the museum, as well as the donation by his widow of his papers and 20,000 slides that are now a special collection at the museum. The article also describes his important contributions to the field of prehistoric research. The 2009 collection of scholarly articles in honor of him further establishes his notability. His work was covered by National Geographic magazine. TimidGuy (talk) 16:18, 5 February 2017 (UTC)

Oops, I see the tag has been there for 8 years. I'll add a bit of info and remove the tag. TimidGuy (talk) 18:03, 5 February 2017 (UTC)