Art & Civilization

Man knew how to paint even before he learnt to speak. Painting, drawing were used by ancient people to communicate with each other, express ideas and document their lifestyle too. It is because of them we understand the practices, beliefs and food habits of old times. Prehistoric paintings done on cave walls, sculptures made during stone ages reveal the happenings of the past which allows us to look back and understand how our civilization evolved over the centuries. It is a way to know ourselves better.

Art not only reflects culture but influences it, creating the forms and ideals that continue to shape society. Art establishes and reinforces the patterns of beauty, power and expression that a culture then inhabits. Hunting scenes painted on cave walls tell us the food habits of people. Animals were a popular subject which was often drawn or engraved by humans on the rocks. Bisons, mammoths, elephants, and bulls are a few of them which are observed in most Paleolithic eras. Many scholars believe that man drew or painted these for ritualistic purposes as drawing animals is a way to kill them symbolically before the hunt. However, according to some researchers these drawings have spiritual significance or to make themselves and their family aware of the predators around them. Recent research of 2021 has also found the drawing of a pig in Sulawesi, Indonesia which is reported to be approximately 45,500 years old. Apart from animal drawings, some non figurative drawings have been discovered from Iberian Peninsula and Spain which are 64,000 years old. Different types of techniques were used by cave artists such as finger tracing, modeling in clay, engravings, bas-relief sculpture, hand stencils, and paintings done in two or three colors. These paintings, engravings are constantly studied to decipher new meanings and learn about the evolution and history of mankind. Drawings of humans in cave walls were rare and even if some of them have it, it lacks details and is more like what we call a stick figure in modern times. The animal drawings were much more naturalistic, and by looking at it we can understand how deeply they observed the anatomical details of the creatures around them.  

For painting they used charcoal, and pigments of hematite and manganese oxides. Hand stencils were also a common thing observed in caves where we see negative impressions of multiple hands. Yellow ochre stenciled handprints in Paleolithic caves in France have been analyzed by researchers and they determine that 75 percent of it has been done by women. The act of making art is one of humanity's most ubiquitous activities and studying art  provides a means by which we can understand our human past and its relationship to our present.

Why do you think the cave men were painting more animals than human figures on the walls? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


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