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History Of Cave Painting Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2416 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Nowadays, most people think only abut modern technology, popularity. They never think back to history of the world, how the first civilization emerged, what happened in the ancient time, how the ancient people lived, the way to find food and so on. In ancient time, before people had the writing system like nowadays, they used to draw some record or some action on the wall, especially in the deep cave. (Cave Painting and rock art, 2002, p. 7). Some archeologists have found a lot of cave painting, especially in Europe. The cave paintings have different history, meaning, method to draw those caves painting in order to hunt more animal for food easily.

Other people believe that the cave people thought that painting animals on their walls would make animal spirits come to them and bring good fortune. Others believe that the cave paintings sometimes sent messages to other people passing through or living in the cave in the future. (Maggie, Cave Drawing).

According to some website article, cave painting is also called cave art, or rock painting. (Cave Painting and rock art, 2002, p. 1). People who saw cave painting, especially the archeologist, can decried the way that ancient people lived, some event in Paleolithic time because most cave paintings were drown during that period. Cave painting is considered as the most important means to show the interaction between the ancient people and the world. (Prehistoric cave art, online article). This term paper will focus on the history of cave painting which will detail the history of most cave painting, the purpose, the method to draw cave painting, the time that cave painting had discovered, and some examples of cave painting that archeologists have found in some countries. There are a lot of cave paintings around the world, but in this term paper, we will include two cave paintings only. The reason that we decided to choose these two cave paintings is that these are the most famous cave painting in the world. In addition they have discovered for a long time ago. These two cave paintings are Lascaux which is located in France nowadays and it has become the World Heritage Site since 1979, according to the UNESCO World Heritage Site website. Another one is Altamira which is located in Spain. In the case study part, we will detail about these two cave paintings information such as the meaning, method for each painting, and discovery and who has founded those cave paintings.

Historical of Cave painting

Purposes of Cave painting

Perhaps over thirty thousand period years long ago, in the Western of Europe, as in duration of the Paleolithic period or Old Stone Age period, the living standard of the prehistoric humans considered as Cro-Magnons¾ automatically modern humans. Moreover, much of Europe in that period was ruled the village in that time by small groups of travelling hunter hunting on the nomadic of many kinds of animal. In those, we have such as reindeer, cattle, bison, horses, mammoth, and other animals that those of animal bodies gave the hunter food, clothing, and so on for making tools and weapons. At that time, humans had not learned the way to write, so they tried to note the vital parts of their daily lives by detailed on the walls of deep caves and communicated through the cave paintings. Thus, the prehistoric hunters also created the cave painting. We really know that most of the paintings that they painted were of hunting scenes, a picture of vultures setting about human corpses, even an elementary landscape, and animals that were so very vital for their physical well-being. Despite, we have a few kinds of painting that have either in etchings or in a painting of body of human figure, just like the painting that described about the scene in Lascaux of the bull and the horse. In term of creating that painting, the purpose of the cave painting is uncertain like the other paintings that were painted afterward, however, some evidence indicates that they were not simply for the decoration. Moreover, those cave paintings may have been part of magical rites, hunting rituals, or attempt to mark the events during various seasons, especially “religion and magic are the context, but no one knows the precise motive” (History of painting, 2012, p.1). In those, one theory suggests that the prehistoric hunters accepted basic religious beliefs by serving a magical purpose for hunting because for they wanted to increase the number of wild animals available to hunt, or that magic is to aid the hunters in the chase, especially to help the Shaman into the state of trance which is necessary for his ceremonial work. And then assumption may be endless, but the attractiveness of this early human art is everlasting. Another theory is that cave paintings¾ especially the more realistic ones ¾ may purely be descriptions of the surrounding world. More than that, it was probably the cave man wanted to decorate the cave and chose animals because they were very important to their existence. Furthermore, one more theory suggests that, ”prehistoric man could have used the painting of animals on the wall of caves to record their hunting journeys” (Cave paintings, 2004, p. 2).

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Period of Discovery

On 1870, Don Marcelino and his daughter were the founders of the first cave paintings which located in Altamira, Spain which painting are mostly base on bison. Painting that they found has been discovered that it was painted by the Magdalenian people who lived between 16,000-9,000 BC which mean that it is 11,000-19,000 years before now. But until 1902, these cave paintings could be accepted as a fact by art historians and anthropologists (Johnson, P. 2012). After the research of archeologists and scientists, they believe that cave painting had occurred between 10,000-4,000 BC; they also found out that cave painting reveals in all continents around the world but is just in different style. For example, hunting, gathering food and other diary activities or real situation often reveal in Europe and Africa’s cave paintings, in contrast, Australia and America’s cave paintings are seem to be more abstract and symbolic that we can’t easy to understand it. Till the end of twenty century, in Europe, there were 277 of cave painting which is agreed by the art historians and anthropologist, 142 is located in France, Spain has 108, Italy has 21, Portugal, Germany and The Balkans are account of 2 for each. (Johnson, P. 2012). The world’s oldest cave painting which were made in 40800 years ago by anatomically modern human (prehistory human who is our modern human’s ancestor and lived in 41500 years ago) or cave dweller (prehistory human who live in a cave or under the overhanging rocks area of the very steep site of the mountain, but have disappeared) is found in the cave called El Castillo in Spain in 2012 ( Ling, Q. 2012). Before they’ve found out the cave in Spain, France’s Chauvet cave paintings was made in 37000 years ago, but it is still a little late than Spain’s.

Method of Cave Painting

D:LNDocumentsDocumentsIFLDISY2S1IS 202(World History)Cave paintingmethod.jpg

Cave painting method (www.katiebetter.wordpress.com/tag/concept)

People around the world had their own culture for a long time. In their societies, they gathered fruits and hunted animal for their daily lives. When they hunted big or mean animals, they always showed their villagers in order to state that they were powerful and brave. The animals that they hunted may have been one of their beliefs, then they celebrated some ceremonies to gain their reputation in their villages. Time flied, so people got older and older. To encourage their next generation, they started painting what they had found and told what an event happened. They started painting since the Paleolithic Era, 35,000 to 12,000 years ago “Purpose for Cave Paintings” ( online article). The cave paintings were found throughout the world, especially in Europe. “Before Wire” ( online article). “The most basic method of making paint is to mix a pigment with a liquid, so that when the liquid dries the color is left behind.” This was a method that most ancient people used to make cave painting and the main material for them to do also. “Ancient peoples decorated walls of protected caves with paint made from dirt or charcoal mixed with spit or animal fat. In cave paintings, the pigments stuck to the wall partially because the pigment became trapped in the porous wall, and partially because the binding media (the spit or fat) dried and adhered the pigment to the wall.” “Painting Technique”( online article). Only these materials, they could not make a cave painting because there were some materials were required such as cave, animal’s bone, and some material that ancient people used to product pigment. “Shoulder and other bones of large animals, stained with color, have been discovered in the caves and presumed to have been used as mortars for pigment grinding. The pigment was made into a paste with various binders, including water, vegetable juices, urine, animal fat, bone marrow, blood, and albumen.” These were all kinds of material were needed.

Case Study

Lascaux Cave Painting

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Lascaux cave painting (www.culturedart.blogspot.com/2010/10/paleolithic-animal-paintings-in-caves.html)

Lascaux is one of the many other famous cave paintings in France, as well as over the world. Lascaux is also the famous cave painting in Paleolithic. Lascaux is one of the World Heritage Site, according to UNESCO website, Lascaux was added to the World Heritage Site in 1979. (World Heritage Site list of UNESCO). There are many figures in Lascaux. Lascaux was founded in 1940, then in 1948, Lascaux was opened to all public visitor without preservation idea, so there were some problems that caused by those activities. In 1963, France government decided to close this cave painting from public visiting by a large number of visitors every year. (The Cave of Lascaux, online article). Lascaux has been harmed by the air conditioner system, light system and the amount of visitors since 2000, and in 2006, the cave situation became worse, and then in 2008, the France authorities decided to close for 3 months from all people, even scientists or archeologists. There is only one person who can go in to Lascaux for 20 minutes only per week to check the climate and situation.

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Meaning of Lascaux

Since there are many figures in Lascaux, the archeologists can’t set the purpose or the meaning of Lascaux cave painting. (Anne, T.L., 2000). Some painting purposes of Lascaux were just for fun of putting some handprint on the wall in order to hunt more animals. Many cave painting are come with religious purposes, or with a kind of animism that the animals’ spirits killed in the hunt, or with a purpose of success hunt. Even there are a lot of figures, the archeologists can divided all painting into 3 categories such as animals, human figures and abstract sign. (Aujoulat, 2003). The famous paintings in Lascaux are Red cow and Fist Chinese horse, and another one is Great Black Bull. This Great Black Bull was appeared in motion.


Lascaux cave painting was discovered in 12 September, 1940 by Marcel who was just a little boy at that time. Lascaux was located in Vezere Valley, France. Lascaux was estimated 17,000 years old. There is a fact about this discovery. On 8 September, 1940, Macel and his friends went on the treasure hunt, because they heard that there was a secret underground way that can led people to the one hidden treasure. On the 12 September, those 4 boys went to explore that secret way. Finally, they really got in to that secret underground treasure. What made them amazed were the herds of housed, deer, and oxen stampeded across the curving of the cave wall. The colorful of those wall painting also made them leap off the wall, then found many other rooms where were full of wall painting. First, those 4 boys promised each other to keep that discovery as secret. But since it was a huge secret to keep promise, they told their teacher who contacted with an expertise. That expertise said that maybe these 4 boys were the first modern people who see these arts. In these cave, there are more than 1500 picture, and most of the pictures are animals which were those that the early Lascaux people had hunted, (The discovery of the Lascaux Cave Painting).


Lascaux had techniques of painting or drawing that can make Lascaux still exist till today. In ancient time, people didn’t have such modern equipment like nowadays. Artists in Paleolithic used brushes which made from human or animals hair or from plant steam to paint wall painting. They also used pieces of organic pigment like crayons to draw on the rock. Artists used animal fur, vegetable fiber and leather for dabbing and sponging the application. Here are some tools that were used to draw cave painting. First tool is pigment. Lascaux painter had black and a range of warm brown, ochers, yellow and red. There was limited of these materials. The black paint was made by oxidized metallic element; red color was made from iron oxide or rust; reddish-brown color was made of types of ferrous oxide called Hematite. Second tool was a tool which was related to crude crayon to draw on the smooth wall and the pigment was mixed with plant juices and animal’s fat. Third tool is miscellaneous tool. Artist use animal shoulder bones and grind-stones to draw the picture too. They also used beam and ladders to draw on the high wall painting, and they also littered lamps in the cave floor because they were in a deep cave where lack of light sources was. (Jack, M. 2009).


D:LNDocumentsDocumentsIFLDISY2S1IS 202(World History)Cave paintingentrance to Lascaux 1940(ancient-wisdom.co.uk).jpgD:LNDocumentsDocumentsIFLDISY2S1IS 202(World History)Cave paintingsquidoo,com.jpg

Entrance to Lascaux 1940(ancient-wisdom.co.uk) squidoo.com

D:LNDocumentsDocumentsIFLDISY2S1IS 202(World History)Cave paintingsquidoo.com Bison painted.jpg

squidoo.com Bison painted


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