Magazine topic: 
Life around the world
Total votes: 128

A journey into prehistory

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by : 
LouiseH

A couple of weeks ago my parents came out to visit me in the South West of France for a holiday over my February break. I couldn’t wait to see them and catch up after several months away from home and I was excited to show them around. As a little surprise for them I planned a trip to a small village in the Pyrenees Mountains called Niaux to see the renowned “Grotte de Niaux”. My dad had told me so many stories about the famous ‘grottes’ of Southern France: Lascaux; Font de Gaume; and Niaux. These caves contain paintings, drawn between 30,000 to 12,000 years ago by some of the first anatomically modern human beings! Advances in science and technology have enabled scientists and historians to carbon date the paintings accurately; and to discover the tools they used to draw the paintings, as well as the materials they used. My dad had studied these caves at university as an anthropology student but he had never had the chance to see one himself. So, I decided this had to change!

We travelled to Niaux by train, through the plains and then into the mountains. The scenery was breathtaking as we came into the village, nestled amongst the snow-capped mountains. The next morning we climbed up the side of a mountain to get to the entrance to the cave. Many caves which contain prehistoric paintings are no longer accessible to the public. The carbon dioxide that we breathe out and the effects of the harsh artificial lights that the paintings were lit up with quickly degraded the quality of the paintings and so for many caves now, visitors can only see reconstructions of the original paintings. However, Niaux is an exception. By limiting the number of people allowed in the cave at a time and limiting the artificial light used to illuminate the paintings, the paintings in Niaux have been preserved so that visitors can see the originals. They were incredible! We saw paintings of bison and mountain goats and deer etched onto the walls in charcoal and earthy dyes as clearly as though they had been done yesterday. They were actually drawn around 14000 years ago!

Many people believe that these paintings were drawn as part of an almost religious ritual, while others believe they depict the everyday life experiences of the men and women who lived in these caves all those years ago. Maybe we will never know for sure ... but one thing is for certain ... those cave men were far better at drawing than I am!

Discussion

What's the oldest thing you've ever seen? 

Comments

WyldWolfDragon's picture
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WyldWolfDragon 9 April, 2016 - 23:34

The oldest thing i have ever seen would have to be the big bright star in our solar system that people call "The sun" ! :3

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angelcat's picture
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angelcat 22 March, 2016 - 11:55

The oldest thing I've saw was when i'm only 9 years old. In China , we saw a palace like stuff. We called it "Gu Gong"

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Ken's picture
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Ken 18 March, 2016 - 20:30

That's a nice story!
By the way, could anyone help me?
I'd like to know a grammatical explanation of this sentence " So, I decided this had to change!".
1) I decided this ...okay.
2) ...this had to change ...okay
Then, 1+2= wha has to be changed?
〆(・ω・)

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Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
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Jonathan - Coor... 19 March, 2016 - 02:45

Hi Ken. It's a tough one but let me try to explain. In your example (1) the structure is:

  • I decided this. = I + decided + object (this)

In the other example, the structure is a bit different although it looks identical.

  • I decided this had to change. = I + decided + new clause subject (this) and verb (had to change)

It may be easier to see the two clauses in this sentence if you add 'that': I decided that this had to change.

Does that answer your question :?

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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Ken's picture
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Ken 19 March, 2016 - 05:57

Thank you Jonathan for your reply! :)
I've completely got it, thanks to your kind explanation.
My further question is why doesn't the writer say 'I decided this had to be changed'?
Is there any differences between 'this had to change' and 'this had to be changed'?
〆(・ω・) Ken

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Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
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Jonathan - Coor... 19 March, 2016 - 11:36

Hi Ken! Good question. Well, first, let me say that both sentences are grammatically correct and mean almost exactly the same thing. However, there is a slight difference. The difference is emphasis.

  • this had to be changed (by us): passive infinitive. The by us phrase isn't stated in the sentence, but it is implied by the passive structure. I think this sentence has more sense of the people who are making the change (it emphasises us more as the agent of the change).
  • The blogger's original sentence (this had to change) gives less emphasis to whatever or whoever makes the change, just focusing on the idea that the situation (never having visited the caves) could not continue.

However, let me repeat that I think the difference is really, really small and hard to perceive. And I also think this had to change sounds more natural to me in the blogger's writing.

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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Ken's picture
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Ken 24 March, 2016 - 04:11

Hello Jonsthan, thank you for your explanation, that makes sanse! I heard the news of fiscal profligacy again this morning, which we all know it has to change, but....
(๑•́ω•̀)....

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cklj's picture
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cklj 17 March, 2016 - 15:45

I think the oldest thing I've ever seen is a place in my country which is a tourist attraction. It's the Bay of Bones Museum in Ohrid. The museum is in the lake. There are cabins in which people lived many years ago. It's really interesting place to visit.

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angelcat's picture
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angelcat 22 March, 2016 - 11:58

I know that you may not see really old stuff before, but you could write about the oldest thing you saw. The toys your parents play when they are small can be counted

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