Let’s give a round of applause to our ancient ancestors. Without canvases, without oil, acrylic or water color paints, without paintbrushes or models and muses our ancient ancestors were indeed ahead of their time. The fact is that they are from a time when human vanity wasn’t at the fore front and it was 10,000 years at least before the invention of war as an organized collective activity. It is said that the cave art suggests that humans once had better ways to spend their time.
Rather then obsessing over the human form they chose to instead create perfectly naturalistic animals. Of course this has had artists baffled as to why they didn’t include such detailed images of human’s. But scientists offer an explanation, they suggest that even the herbivores could be dangerous for humans back then. If mythology offers any clues: think of the buffalo demon killed by the Hindu goddess Durga, or the half Cretan half man, half bull Minotaur, who could only be subdued by confining him to a labyrinth, which was , incidentally a kind of cave. The Paleolithic landscape offered a lot of large animals to watch, and plenty of reasons to keep a watchful eye on them.
So let’s take a look at some of our ancestors earliest works starting with the Magura Cave which is located in the northwest of Bulgaria and contains a collection of cave paintings that were indeed painted with bat shit and that has been dated from 8000-4000 years ago. An excess of 700 paintings has been discovered in this large cave, depictions of a wide range of animals to even some of people hunting and dancing.
The Cuea de las Manos is located in Patagonia in the southern part of Argentina and contains cave paintings that were created between 13,000 and 9,000 years ago. The caves name litterally means the Cave of hands due to the hundreds of stencilled hands painted on the cave walls.In 1928 art critic Amedee Ozenfant wrote of the art in the caves raving that he promised that it would be the most intense emotion that we will ever experience. He also credited the Paleolithic artists with inspiring modern art. To a certian degree everyone agrees that indeed they did. Even Jackson Pollock honoured them by leaving hand prints along the top edge af at least two of his paintings. Pablo Picasso is said to have visited the cave before fleeing Spain in 1934 and emerged saying: “Beyond Altamira, all is decadence.” While scholars agree we may never know the inteded audience or the true meaning behind the artistic remnents of the Paleolithic age it is piece of beautiful art works.
Tadrart Acacus is a mountain range, located in the Sahara Desert of Western Libya that contains rock art dating from 14,000 years ago. There are paintings of giraffes, elephants, ostriches and camels and a few of men and horses.
The cave of Altamira is located near the historic town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria Spain. It is well known for its cave art featuring charcoal drawings and polychrome paintings of contemporary local fauna and human hands. The earliest paintings are said to be dated around 36,000 years ago. The site was discovered by Modesto Cubillas in 1868.
The Cave of Lascaux is the setting for a complex of caves near the village of Montignac, in the department of Dordogne in southwest France. Over 600 parietal wall paintings cover the interior walls and ceilings of the cave. The paintings display primarily large animals and is said to be the combined efforts of many generations. Even though there is much debate the age of the paintings are said to be from around 17,000 years ago.
The Ubirr is a group of rock outcrops in the Kakadu National Park, a protected area in the Northern territory of Australia. Some of the paintings are said to be over 20,000 years old and depict catfish, mullet, goanna, snake necked turtle, pig nosed turtle, rock haunting ring tailed possum and wallaby.
In the Chauvet Cave located in the Ardeche region of southern France there is a Fresco of horses. This fresco spans 10 meters and contains a wide variety of animal sene’s. If you look closely you can spot drawings of reindeer’s, woolly rhinos and mammoths. The fresco is visible as soon as you enter the Hillare Chamber and is made up of three panels. The horses panel, the felines alcove, and the reindeer panel. This cave was visited by the Paleolithical people from 36,000 to 29,000 years ago.
From what we know the techinques they used where charcoal made mainly from Scots pine oil. It is said that they mastered the technique of combusting wood. They believe that to get the shading they added layers of charcoal then spread it with their fingers or perhaps a tool of some sort. To make incisions on the hard limestone it is believed that they used flint or sharp bone fragments.For imprinting on the soft clay walls it is believed that they used sticks or perhaps bones to scrape away the clay. In the caves displaying hand prints or red dots it is believed that they used Ocher. The hand printed silhouettes are believed to be made by blowing pigment directly around their hands using a tube bone to get more accurate projections. Everything had to be prepared well in advance and it is said that the role of the painter required expert knowledge of materials and the artistic process.
The pariental representations mainly include animals, geometric signs, and the occasional crudely sketched humans. The sun, moon, trees or rivers are never represented. All these figures embedded in monumental fresco’s follow rules of composition and there was a symbolic function for the people of the prehistoric age. It is claimed that in this sense, Prehistoric art is probably a form of narration related to oral traditions and the transmission of knowledge.
It is stated that cave art is thought to be sacred or of spiritual significance. Animals were illustrated to summon certain species if the hunted animals decreased. Hunting was critical for survival and the painting of animals is said to be a means of controlling hunting success, exerting control over animals or enhancing the fertility of the animals. It is also said that it was one of our earliest forms of communication with possible connections to language development. Whatever the case may be it is beautiful in it’s raw form. What are you’r thoughts?