Prehistoric Cave Paintings
Prehistoric cave paintings were much more than interesting artwork. They served a purpose, and can teach us a lot about prehistoric society.
There are many theories about what their purpose could have been.
One theory is that people had more time on their hands in the prehistoric era. Imagine not living by the clock! The sun was how people kept time. In a prehistoric society, people were living by the seasons. They may have needed something to occupy their time in the colder winter season, since they wouldn’t be out hunting and gathering so much.
Another theory involves the beliefs of prehistoric people. It could be that by drawing the animals and other natural elements, they believed that they were taking on some of the subjects’ powers. Or, that they were helping them in their abilities. They could also have had a religious meaning. Perhaps, a special reverence or respect for certain animals and other parts of the natural world. After all, their lives were very intertwined with nature. Unlike people today, people of the prehistoric era lived their life according to nature’s pace. There were no such things as heat, air conditioning, alarm clocks, etc. They were much more a part of the natural world than trying to overcome it, as many developed societies do today.
Prehistoric cave paintings can shed some light on what society valued at this time. They show that some human beings valued art and could have had motivation to create it! The subjects show what was important to them. They often depicted animals such as bison, deer, leopards, bears, bulls, and more. They also showed what the land looked like. Because of this, we have a picture of what the local area may have looked like at the time the painting was created. Interestingly, cave paintings didn’t often show vegetation.
We can learn lots from cave paintings. First, it is clear that there was no written language. Whatever people wanted to communicate or record, they had to draw it out in pictures. We also know that animals were very important to people in the prehistoric era. How do we know this? They were the main feature of all the paintings!
Next time you see a picture of a cave painting, try to see if you can imagine what the artist was trying to communicate. You may be surprised how much you can learn about our prehistoric ancestors’ world!