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Cave Paintings


History

Cave or rock paintings are paintings painted on cave or rock walls and ceilings, usually dating to prehistoric times. Rock paintings are made since the Upper Paleolithic, 40,000 years ago. This is the work of respected elders or shamans. Cave art may have begun in the Aurignacian period (Höhle Fels, Germany), but reached its apogee in the late Magdalenian (Lascaux, France). Cave art portrays human hands; large numbers of animals in different activities, including various species, such as the woolly rhinoceros geometric figures and signs. Humans are also portrayed but these instances are rare.

Caves were used because they were shelters and the art executed in them would be preserved. Cave art was an intellectual instrument, which encouraged discussion or storytelling, accounts of exploits and the history of the community. It played a creative role not merely in general education but more specifically in the development of sophisticated language, being capable of communicating thoughts on an ever widening range of subjects. It is likely too that cave art promoted the birth of a religious spirit.

Methods

Next we come to methods and materials. The earliest and most rudimentary images are finger drawings in soft clay on the rock surface, the artist following the example of claw marks made by animals. Then came engraving, by far the commonest method, using flakes of sharp flint and in some cases stone picks. Different types of rocks, and rock formations, were used to give variety, add colour and produce depth, so that some of these engravings are akin to sculptural low reliefs. Fine engraving is rare and late. Finally, and most impressively, we get painting. The first colours were red, iron oxide (hematite, a form of red ochre) and black (manganese dioxide), though black from juniper or pine carbons has also been discovered. White from kaolin or mica was used occasionally.

Well known cave paintings

Europe

  • Lascaux, France (Magdalenians, between 17.000 and 10.000 years old)
  • La Marche, near Lussac-les-Chateaux, France
  • Chauvet Cave, near Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, France( 300 pictures, they are between 33.000 and 30.000 years old, this are the oldest known in the world)
  • Altamira, near Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, Spain
  • Cosquer Cave, with an entrance below sea level near Marseille, France ( 300 pictures, they are between 33.000 and 30.000 years old, this are the oldest known in the world)

Australia

  • Northern Australia,
  • Kakadu National Park

Africa

  • Oase Charga

Further information and links:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_paintings

www.artchive.com/artchive/C/cave.html