Cave paintings are paintings on cave walls and ceilings. Usually these paintings were made in prehistoric times, maybe as far back as 32,000 years ago. Most cave paintings date from 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.
No one knows why these paintings were made. Most people think they may been used in rituals. They may also have been a way to tell other people about something.
Most paintings are in caves that are difficult to access. Today, 350 caves with paintings in them have been discovered, mostly in France and Spain.
Most often, the paintings show animals or hunting scenes. Sometimes the paintings depict hands. Rarely, there are also more abstract patterns.
The paintings were drawn with red and yellow ochre, hematite, manganese oxide and charcoal. Sometimes the silhouette of the animal was put into the rock first.
The paintings are classified into different styles:
- Schematic paintings of animals, such as horses and mammoths. Very often only the head or back of the animal is shown. Lines and dots were used.
- Paintings possibly for religious purposes, on plates, in the entrance part of the cave, or in rock shelters. These paintings are more schematic, and the neck/back of the animal is often included. Schematic figurines also appear: the legs/feet are lacking, the face and arms are vague. Hips, stomach, and breasts are very pronounced.
- Developed rock art. Lines are finer, depicting moving animals. Short legs and body are too large compared to the head. Horns and antlers of animals are often shown in a perspective view. Often include bisons and horses. Signs almost always appear next to the animals. Humans are shown in relation to the animals. Positive and negative imprints of hands are present.
- Most caves use a style that shows animals very realistically. Horns and antlers are also shown. Horses have a marked belly. Bison have a triangle on their loins. There are different symbols next to the animals.
Theories of why people painted in caves:
- Hunting magic, which was intended to increase the number of animals. Shamans who would go into a trance and then paint their visions.
- Graffiti, mostly done by adolescent males of the time.
- Symbols of hunting techniques or the routes the animals took.
- Wishes or dreams.
Source: Cave painting facts for kids
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