Artist of the Month – Prehistoric Cave Paintings c. 40,000-10,000 BC

Cave painting of bison, c. 12,000 BC. Altamira Cave near Santillana, Cantabria, Spain.

Students in Transitional Kindergarten through 8th grade will learn more about this artist in a lesson taught this month by a parent volunteer through our Art Literacy program.

First, imagine life as an early human.

  • The people of the Upper Paleolithic period (about 40,000-10,000 B.C.) were hunter-gatherers.
  • They were nomadic, meaning that they would travel from place to place, looking for food.  They moved according to changes in the weather, the migration habits of the animals that they hunted, etc.
  • They used stone tools. This was before the Iron Age.

Why would a caveman need art? What would the function of art be for a caveman?

Next, still imagining you are an early human, keep thinking.

  • How would you create art?
  • What would you make?
  • What would you make it from?
  • What would your limitations be?

Well over 300 caves have been discovered in Europe, mostly in France and Spain.  Moreover, archaeologists are studying paintings and engraving on rocks and in caves all over the world.  They are on every continent except Antarctica, and seem to testify that art has been an innate activity of human beings from the very beginning.