Cave Paintings ofAltamira, Lascaux and Chauvet- Port-d’Arc
Altimira, SpainThe first cave paintings were found in 1879 in Altimira, Spain by María Justina, the nineyear old daughter of amateur archaeologist Marcelinon Sanz de Sautuola, discovered aseries of drawings and paintings on the roof of the cave. Her father had been searchingfor artifacts in the cave when his daughter cried out ‘Look, Papa, oxen’.The paintings and drawings depicted wild animals including bison, red deer, boar andhorses along with paintings of human hands. They seemed to be done using red,charcoal and ochre They were painted by the Magdalenian people between16,000-9,000 BC. This would have been 11,000-19,000 years ago. These paintings atAltimira are mainly of the bison. Many of the bison are drawn and then painted using theboulders for the animal’s shoulders. This made them look three-dimensional. Thesepaintings are sometimes called “The Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic Art.What is astonishing about the paintings is that they look like modern art yet they arebetween 14 and 18,000 years old.The Cave measures 270 metres long and is made up of various rooms and passages inan S shape. With the main chamber measuring 18m by 9m.
Sautuola and archaeologist Juan Vilanovoy Piera from the University of Madrid, togetherexcavated the cave. And in 1880 they publicised their findings in Braves apuntesalaunos objetos prehistoricas de la provincial de Santander, in which they concluded thepaintings dated to the Paleolithic Period. The findings of Sautola and Piera weredismissed by French specialists Gabriel de Mortilet and Emile Cartailhac, and at the1880 Prehistorical Congress in Lisbon, their hypothesis was loudly rejected asnonsense.The Catholic Church also became involved and was anxious to discredit the paintings forfear it might focus on evolution and put into question the omnipresence of God.At one point, because of the well preserved nature of the paintings, Sautuola was evenaccused of forgery by a fellow country man who suggested Sautuola had hired someoneto produce the paintings.In 1902 a number of other prehistoric paintings were discovered which served toconvince experts that the Altamira paintings were indeed genuine.That same year Emile Cartailhac admitted he had been wrong in his condemnation ofthe findings of Sautuola and published an article in the journal L’Anthropologie, entitled‘Mea culpa d’une sceptique’.
However, his apology came too late for Sautuola who didn’t live to see his good namerestored or his conclusions vindicated, as he had died 14 years earlier.Artifacts have been found in the cave that date from as early as the 18,500 years agoand as early as 14,000 years ago covering the Upper Solutrean and LowerMagdalenean Periods. It appears that a rockfall had sealed off the cave roughly 13,000years ago.Excavations continued from 1902 to 1904 by Hermilio Alcalde del Rio and by theGerman Hugo Obermaier from 1924 to 1925 and finally by Joaquin Gonzalez Echegarayin 1981.During the 1960s and 1970s the paintings were becoming badly damaged by the carbondioxide emitted from the breath of the crowds of people who flocked to see the historicchambers. So in 1977, the cave was closed to the public. It was reopened in 1982 butwith very limited access. Finally in 2001 a replica cave was opened and the original cavewas closed completely.The replica is described as a faithful reproduction of the original with the colours andpigments fashioned from similar powders used in the original.Following a visit to the cave Picasso is quoted as saying ‘Beyone Altamira all isdecadence’.In 1999 the rock group Steely Dan released their song in honour of the caves, called‘The Caves of Altamira’.
Lascaux, FranceFour boys searching for a lost dog also discovered paintings at Lascaux, France in 1940.These paintings were created around 15,000 BC, which would make them about 17,000years old.There are seven chambers in the Lascaux cave; the Great Hall of the Bulls, the PaintedGallery, the Lateral Passage, the Chamber of Engravings, the Main Gallery, theChamber of Felines, and the Shaft of the Dead Man.The Hall of the Bulls is the most impressive. It is composed of horses, bulls, and stags.Some of the animals have been painted over, suggesting that different groups of peoplemight have lived in this same cave.The painting in the Shaft of the Dead Man is unusual because the human figure is notnormally drawn. This scene shows the image of a man that appears to have been killedby the bison.
Cave Paintings Chauvet-Pont-dArcChauvet-Pont-dArc cave in the South of France is the newest cave painting to bediscovered.Jean-Marie Chauvet, Christian Hillaire and Heliette Brunel-Deschampsdiscovered the cave on December 18, 1994.There is a menagerie of animals on the walls of these caves. Many of the animals likethe ones in Lascaux were painted over each other.The oldest were probably painted around 30,000 BC, making them about32,000 years old.The cave was probably occupied for nearly 10,000 years. It is thoughtthat a violent collapse blocked the natural entrance.
Theories About the Cave PaintingsHumans had not learned to write during the prehistoric time period. They communicatedthrough cave paintings.Why did man find a need to paint on the walls of the caves? We know that most of thepaintings were of animals. However, there are a few paintings that have human figureseither in etchings or in a painting, like the scene in Lascaux of the Dead Man. The faceof the dead man is represented by a bird’s face, but it is the body of a human. Perhapsthey did not want to portray a human face, thinking that it might take the soul.There are three theories that the prehistoric man might have painted animals on thewalls of the caves. Perhaps the cave man wanted to decorate the cave and choseanimals because they were important to their existence.The second theory could have been that they considered this magic to help the hunters.Perhaps if the artist could capture the image of the animal, they could capture the animalin a hunt.Prehistoric man could have used the painting of animals on the walls of caves todocument their hunting expeditions.
Methods of PaintingPrehistoric people would have used natural objects to paint the walls of the caves.To etch into the rock, they could have used sharp tools or a spear.The paint or color that they probably used was from berries, clay, soot, or charcoal.The tools used to apply the paint could have been made by attaching straw, leaves,moss, or hair to sticks. They might have used hollow bones or reeds to spray the coloron, similar to an airbrush technique.
Now it is your turn to create your own cave art. Follow the directions in the next slide.
Instructions for creating a cave painting.4. First crumple a brown paper bag . This will create a rock like look.6. Draw animals, figures, symbols, etc. in black crayon... very lightly at first, then pressed hard intermittently in the outline of their creatures.8. Use earth tone Crayons that are broken in small pieces (a little less than a half inch long [1.3 cm]) to blend colors, add shading to their creatures. You can use white in some cases.10. Press hard in some areas, such as bright gold or yellow orange for highlighting, medium hard in the other areas...just hard enough to resist black watercolors that is added last after finished coloring.12. Use a black watercolor resist over the Crayons but also mixed some pale washes to tint their rocks wet in wet over the brown crackle if you wish to add more color to the rocks. You could use one pale color wash for an accent color in a border, but you could also leave all of the colors neutral and be content with that.
Extra embellishments5. You can use some metallic gold and copper acrylic paint to add some accents to your animals. Do this with quick brushstrokes to indicate highlight areas...used in moderation, then blended them out a little with your fingers so that they would not be overpowering, but add a contemporary flair to these stylized drawings.7. You can also tear the edges of the brown crackled paper backgrounds before they mounted them on either medium brown or gray construction paper mats