11.07.2019 in Exploratory

Paleolithic art


The paintings performed on the rock surfaces caused a lot of curiosity among many scientists because they constituted parietal art. The many paintings done on the caves revealed a general artistic expression due to its availability in the five continents at various periods. Different techniques were used to carry out painting during the Paleolithic era. For instance, brushes were used, which were manufactured with vegetable materials, birds’ feather, and many other materials. Additionally, painting was performed using the finger-coating technique. Indeed paintings were polychromatic or monochromatic in the early days. Although interpreting the motive behind early human painting was difficult, it led to the development of modern art. The first art in the early times was done using various techniques that traced contours resulting to different art work like punctuated horses of Pech Merle’s cave, painted ceiling of Altamira, and many others. Therefore, this paper will discuss and analyze the stylistic development of cultural period or movement in Paleolithic art.

Paleolithic art

Most of the paintings and other artwork were based on the “magic of hunting,” a factor that poses challenges for researchers and scientists trying to understand. On the other hand, engravings and painting represented the various animals that intervened as food. The different painting techniques provide insights into the ritual, spiritual, and social life of ancient societies. As a result of the paintings on the caves and other places like horses, people believe that the work of art was built since the creation.
Artwork requires mental elements to recognize an object and draw a picture or image resembling the object. Most importantly, the art was initiated by the desire of preserving oneself. Therefore, the desire ended up creating the driving force that reproduced and improved the work of art in the Paleolithic era. Further, the work of art was initiated by the techniques of working on bones, a factor that revealed the decorative art. The technique used facilitated decorative art, resulting in the production of utilitarian items. The element of art was realized and appreciated by the society thus creating decorative objects that were used in religious, magical, and many other activities.
Imitation, connected to psychological needs, was the source of prehistoric art, especially when individuals attempted to harmonize with the background. The first phase of art was started when the primitive people and children tried to imitate the cries and walks of different animals. This action presupposes the appreciation of the human being. On the other hand, the process of hunting played the role of providing materials that were used in art. The remains of animals and their parts facilitated art performance. For example, the bird’s feather was used to print various objects that had been designed. In addition, ideas of likeness were the other concomitant sources of art. In New Zealand, the facial decoration was common thus deriving the process of tattooing human faces. This idea ended up regenerating to other body parts.
Other rich sources of art performance were initiated by the hunting people through the intentional reproduction and observation of animals and men footprints on the ground. The reproduction of footprints indicates the creativeness of using the available materials such as rocks, animal parts and the ground. Other traces of art were the idea of dipping the finger inside the color and pressing it on the rock to create an image. Further, the hunting process indicates the role culture played in developing the Paleolithic art. Depending on the cultural activities of the societies, people performed arts to indicate or reveal their culture. People advanced their art through the use of stencil process. The work of hand painting and hand stencil was first used in the Cantabria caves and Altamira during the early periods. Other examples include printing of Cosquer caves, Pech Merle, the famous hand’s cave in Argentina and many others.

Painting in the Altamira’s cave

The Altamira cave in Spain was famous for its polychrome rock paintings and Paleolithic cave painting features depicting human hands and wild mammals. The cave was located in the northern part of Spain near the Antillean village in Cantabria. The most attracting features that made it famous were the rock drawing and engravings, and the multi-color cave painting performed. Altamira cave was among the seventeen caves that had been unearthed in the northern Spain and along the Atlantic coast. Although the cave was discovered back in 1868, it was appreciated until late in 1900s.
Despite the many prehistoric arts in southern France and Cantabria, Altamira remains exciting, visually powerful and vividly colored. The cave mainly contains the paintings of wild mammals and paintings of bison that revealed the culture of people. Indeed, it was the best culture and Paleolithic art example available in the European continent. However, the early investigation revealed that the most best of it all created during the art of Magdalenian in the early period was Lascaux cave paintings. Moreover, a lot of the drawings were made during that period such as Pech-Merle cave painting, Chauvet cave paintings among many others. Based on how the Altamira’s artists used the features of performing arts like contours on the cave, it deserved recognition. Some of the characteristics like pronounced realism helped in improving the cave of Franco-Cantabrian. The art of using natural contours on the animal figures helped them become extra-real. Besides, the actual subterranean complex contained long series of twisted passages that ranged from 2 to 6 meters. Using the height of approximately 7-20 feet, more than 100 figures of animals were depicted. Generally, Altamira cave was the place for domestic human habitation. Despite the limitation to lobby area and cave mouth, petroglyphs and paintings were created throughout the cave. Due to its interesting features of art, it is being used by the scientist and researchers even in the modern periods.
Like the cave of Lascaux, the cave of Altamira has various types of art: rock engravings, black drawings, and colored paintings. The main subject of the art is mostly animals such as horses, deer, boar, and bison. In addition, artistic elements like geometric symbols and signs were also used. The paintings used in the cave were unique for several reasons. In a single animal, the art composed of different colors something that is usual to most parietal art. Bison in the cave has been depicted with varying shades, causing it to appear astonishingly lifelike. On the other hand, more than twenty-five animals have been illustrated using various life-size proportions with unusual accuracy. Indeed, the art of painting of Altamira cave was done effectively because one is able to see the fine details of the animals’ manes, fur, and even the texture. Lastly, the Magdalenian artists who performed the work managed to use the angles, facets and natural contours effectively on the rock surface, a factor that revealed the three dimensional aspect of the figures. Therefore, the selection of right materials and taking advantage of natural contours caused the Altamira cave to be the best, hence attracting the attention of many people.

Pech-Merle wall painting

Another work of art that was performed during the Paleolithic era was the cave of Pech Merle. This was the design of the cave on the hillside of Cabrerets region in France. Merle was one of the sites in prehistoric cave painting that indicated the culture of people. The walls of the cave have fresh images that are lifelike. It contains woolly mammoth images of humans, handprints, reindeer, bovid, single color horses, and some spotted horses. Generally, the cave of Merle creates an interesting site where people read the culture of ancient France. The place where the cave has been located had a river passing nearby (Friedel and Robert, 15- 21).
The work of art has done great things worldwide since the creation of human being. The idea has enabled the human being to use the available materials to represent the culture, religion, traditions, and other things the society perceived to be of interest. In other words, the Paleolithic art indicates the roots of the modern art, which is the modification and advancement of the early art. Scientist and researchers have initiated the interest of tracing the roots or the beginning of art. Similarly, the caving of the Venus of willendorf in Australia commonly known as the Nude woman reveals the work of the ancient artists. The caving suggests the abilities of women bearing children and the survival of humans in Paleolithic period. This example with many others reveals the idea of art in the early ancient periods.

The art of Apollo 11 cave

The ancient history of engraving arts and rock paintings in Africa was uncertain. However, due to an increase in archaeological research, many sites have demonstrated the existence of art in Africa. Despite the many challenges of harsh climate and damaging weather that makes the caves vulnerable, the artworks techniques in Africa have been revealed. In Namibia, the work of Apollo 11 cave indicates the seven slabs rock and the animal figures that are unusual precision of ancient rock art. The cave was located on the mountains south west of Namibia. Originally, the art was decorated in white, ocher and charcoal. The stones of Apollo 11 were the only known art performance in the continent of Africa until recently when other discoveries were made. The recent discovery of Wonderwerk cave in South Africa in the province of Northern Cape suggested the history of Africa in terms of art performance in the early periods. The representations of animals and geometric line design indicated the kind of earliest art design people used to perform. Based on the earliest records, it was clear that Africans were well known with stone engravings. The cave of Apollo 11 had the characteristic shape view of the animal. On the other hand, the cave used the approach of art that stressed and represented structural unity based on the things that were depicted. Unlike the commonly known carvings that are subjective and momentary, the art work of Apollo 11 was dynamic and relative phenomenon or object.
The movement of the ancient art performance was realized when the artists were seeking to use the approach of conceptual, which enhances the representation of the art. The movement and advancement of historic arts resulted to earlier civilization. The work of art and its growth has been supported by the cultures among the Empires that allow people to use their ideas to create, imitate, and represent their encounter during the hunting process. Generally, the remarkable work of the Paleolithic era has facilitated development of techniques and ideas that improve the modern performance of art, increasing production in painting art. The creativity of using the available materials to reveal the surrounding environment and the ideas developed in the mind was a great deal for the ancient communities. On the other hand, the art performance and their features influenced the cultural development and growth of the society in many ways. This was true because artists used art to communicate to people globally about their culture and endeavors. However, the movement and development of art in Paleolithic era was greatly affected by the harsh climate and weather conditions. Similarly, their growth and innovativeness was limited to the available materials and the culture around them.
One would be tempted to think that the Paleolithic art would be crude and simple due to lack of information among the artists. However, some of the examples illustrated show how the oldest cave paintings were interesting due to the aspect of incorporating features that communicated the actual idea. For example, the artist who designed the Altamira caves was able to indicate the texture and fine details through painting. Indeed, the ancient work of artists was great despite the challenges they encountered. Therefore, the cave painting was a clear evidence of astonishingly quick development of artistic skills in modern world. However, the purpose of the early cave painting and art in general was not clear since the caves were found with signs of no ongoing habitation. In addition, they were located in places that could not be accessible. It is good to understand that art is a science that communicates ideas and information through cave painting and different other forms of arts nonverbally. This indicates that all artwork must be effectively by including important features that helps to communicate. Some formulated theories also hold that cave painting is a form of communication with others. On the other hand, other theories attribute the art of painting with ceremonial and religious purposes.


The great painting and stone caves in the Paleolithic era revealed the movement and development of early people in art performance. From the above analysis, it is clear that prehistoric times had contentious issues in cave painting. Despite these challenges, artists managed to communicate their ideas through the cave painting they developed using the available materials. From the earlier art development, the creativity and innovativeness of ancient people are evidenced to be great and it revealed their abilities in art. Therefore, early cave paintings provided the basis for modern cave art, which has advanced significantly.

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