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Exploring Prehistoric Art- Podcast #28

Prehistoric art, like Cave paintings, rock art, and petroglyphs, are windows into cultures before written history. In addition to the obvious historical integrations, there are so many great prehistoric art / science integrations like the study of caves, geology, and paint materials. Join us today as we explore prehistoric art and the many different ways to teach about it, including our own plans to draw with Lines and Shapes in Prehistoric Art .


Stay tuned for all the episodes in this Drawing Ancient Art series!


Here’s What We Talked About:

What do we mean by “prehistoric art?” Technically this is any art prior to an extensive written history, but usually when we can prehistoric art, we mean old petroglyphs (usually carved in the rock) and cave paintings. Sometimes we call this Rock Art.

Science Integration Ideas
  • Why did the conditions of the cave preserve these cave paintings so well?  Consider visiting a cave, even if there are no cave paintings in it!
  • What are these ancient paint pigments made of? (minerals, dyes, maybe bugs?) Which lasts best?
    • Cochineal is the red dye we talked about that’s made from the bugs on prickly pear cacti.
    • Here’s a fun list of Native Plant Dyes.
Cave Paintings
  • There are some large famous places with prehistoric art, but there’s probably some close to you too! Google it and see if there’s some rock art close enough for a quick field trip!
  • Most rock art is stylized intentionally, especially representations of humans- not because the artists of the time were incompetent. Experts believe this is due to religious beliefs about art.

Wanna Go Deeper?

  • Many sources available date prehistoric art according to the secular geologic dating system. Christians differ on their views of the age of the earth and when God created humans, so they also disagree on when prehistoric art was created. It’s an interesting rabbit hole you could dive into!

Cool Quotes

  • “The first art objects were created not to adorn the body or decorate the cavern but out of an attempt to control or appease natural forces. These symbols of animals and people had supernatural significance and magic powers. … The first ‘paintings’ were probably made in caves… Archeologists speculate artists created the animal images to guarantee a successful hunt.” – Carol Strickland, Ph.D. in The Annotated Mona Lisa (c)1992
  • Speaking of the Chauvet cave in southern France, Henry M. Sayre “These drawings are so expertly rendered, including the use of modeling and even a sense of recessive space, that our sense of prehistoric art has completely changed. Where before we believed that as prehistoric peoples became increasingly sophisticated, their art gained in comparable sophistication. But these drawings, the earliest ever found, suggest that prehistoric peoples possessed, at least potentially, the same level of skill as anyone ever has. They suggest as well that the ability to represent reality accurately is not so much a matter of intellectual or cultural sophistication as it is a function of the desire or need of a culture for such images. – A World of Art, 4th Ed, (c) 1994 by Pearson Education

External Resources

Personal Renaissance (what we’re up to)

Here are some of the things we mentioned in the personal section of the podcast:

  • Watercolor pencils- Julie Loves the Faber Castell Albrecht Durer Pencils
  • Paracord Crafts- Julie got to make some paracord bracelets at camp
  • Woodburning- Julie got to test out a wood burner and now she’s hooked
  • Deanna and Julie are both planning vacations!

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