Prehistoric painting

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Cave art at Lascaux, France.

Painting as an art form is known to have been practiced all over the world for thousands of years, with fine examples of cave paintings claimed to be ancient[1] being discovered in Lascaux and the Ardèche Valley in France which demonstrate the conscious use of skill and creative imagination: "They are not stick figures or squiggles. Lines are clear and filled with tints. The animals are vibrant. By utilizing cave features, some of the renderings even have perspective."[2] These paintings were made using pigments inherent in variously coloured earths and powdered rock applied directly to the cave walls and usually depict animals, although there are also some human figures. Some claim that the oldest known paintings are at the Grotte Chauvet in France. They are very simply engraved and painted using red ochre and black pigment and depict a collection of horses, rhinoceros, lions, buffalo, and mammoth.

Prehistoric cave paintings have been discovered in many parts of the world, from Europe and Africa to Australia. Africa has some of the earliest paintings and rock engravings to have been securely dated. Nearly 30,000 years old, they are discovered in 1969 on the rock face in a cave near Twyfelfontein in Namibia. But the most numerous and the most sophisticated of prehistoric paintings are on the walls of caves in southwest France and northern Spain.[3]

In 1879, Maria de Santuola discovered the wonderful cave paintings of Altamira, Spain.

The fabulous caves of Altamira are located near Santilliana del Mar in Cantabria, Northern Spain... As is so often the case they were discovered by chance... they remain the most exceptional evidence of Magdalénian culture (between c. 16,500 and 14,000 years ago) in southern Europe.[4]

In "El Castillo", Cantabria, Spain, a faint red dot is said to be more than 40,000 years old.[5]

Caves of Baja California, Mexico.

It is said that the oldest paint in America was found in a cave in Baja California (6 to 12 thousand years old) [6] among many other caves with Great Murals; images of men and women, and wildlife are the most common paintings on this Mexican rock-shelters. Land animals depicted include rabbits, mountain sheeps, and deers, as well as marine mammals, fish, and shorebirds. [1]

Aboriginal rock art found in many regions throughout Australia, including Tasmania, is thought to be as old as any in the world and is evidence of an unbroken cultural stream from that time to this.[7]

Found in the Chauvet Cave (France) by Jacques Toubon in 1994.

See also

Cave paintings - Loltun, Yucatán, Mexico.


  1. The dating of cave paintings is often done by dating material found near the paintings, which has obvious defects as a measure of the age of the painting itself.
  2. Painting before 1300. History of Painting. 14 May 2008
  4. 20 Most Fascinating Prehistoric Cave Paintings.
  5. Red dot becomes 'oldest cave art'.
  6. Descubierta en una cueva de México la pintura rupestre más antigua de América. In Spanish.
  7. Images of the Dreaming.