No one knows why
marvelous and astonishing paintings on rock walls, deep within caves.
Paintings were added, until a cave might have hundreds of different
paintings, by many different painters. Most cave paintings
focused on hunters and animals.
Early man used natural colors. You may have heard that they used
charcoal to create these paintings. Actually, most art was not made
with charcoal, but rather with mineral pigments, such as iron oxide
(red ochre) or black manganese.
They drew stick figures for people, but
the animals were well drawn, and usually filled in with natural
colors, to give them even more shape and substance.
When you think cave, you might think of a big place, with high
Not so. In order to reach the
places where cave paintings have been found, Cro-Magnon man had to
crawl on his belly, through mazes of narrow, dark tunnels, by the
light of a flicking torch or a spoon-like oil lamp (which had to
be hand carried and balanced carefully to hold the burning oil in
the rounded part of the spoon - while crawling along on your
belly), and carrying the paints he had carefully prepared, with no
idea if he might run into, oh .. a cave lion or a bear, on the
Certainly he wasn't decorating his
home, as these marvelous paintings were hidden deep within the
darkest portions of the cave.
The other thing found in cave
paintings, besides stick figures of people and well drawn animals,
are stencils of hands.
It would appear that Cro-Magnon
man, after crawling on his belly and creating his addition to
these cave walls of art, then put his hand against the cave wall,
and outlined it with charcoal or paint.
What were they saying? (I was here?
I made this?) Was this a way to sign their art? Or to prove they
had achieved their ... mission? It's not easy to figure out
because not all paintings include a stenciled handprint.
Why did early man seek out these
caves, to add their paintings to the many others that had been
painted in the cave before them? And why such dark, secret, hidden
places? It might have been one of Cro-Magnon man's recreational
activities. It might have had something to do with their religion
or their rites of manhood. Nobody knows! It's a fascinating
Like many discoveries, the
existence of cave paintings was discovered accidentally. The caves
in Lascaux, France were found around 1940, during World War II, by
some kids. They stumbled across the entrance to a cave that had
been hidden by the roots of a tree. If you would like to see some
of these cave paintings, go here!
Once people knew these paintings
existed, people went looking for more such caves, and found them!
There are probably more caves with cave paintings yet to be found!
Wouldn't it be neat to discover
such a cave? But, be careful. Caves can be very dangerous
places. If you find a cave, it would be wise (very wise!) to
get some adult help, before you go tearing inside, and find
yourself in some very serious trouble.