In archaeology, “rock art” is any man-made markings on natural surfaces. Most surviving rock art is predominantly found in caves, hence why the popular phrase is “cave paintings”.
Cave Paintings Trivia Questions
1. What does the prefix “petro” mean?
2. What was the purpose of cave art?
3. True or False: Geoglyphs are a type of cave art.
What paints were used in cave paintings?
Cave paintings involved paint. Paints were made from colored rocks, berries, charcoal, animal blood, and anything else sufficiently colorful. They were mixed into a paste with spit, animal fat, or anything else sufficiently pasty. The ancient paints were applied to the surface with a brush made of animal hair, sprayed on with a couple hollowed out bones, or just smeared on by hand.
What’s the difference between petroglyphs and geoglyphs?
Petroglyphs are pictures made from scratches and abrasions in rocks. This technically means they aren’t cave paintings, but they are still a type of cave art. The prefix petro- means stone.
Geoglyphs are enormous designs created on the landscape. These aren’t cave art at all, but they’re still prehistoric and really cool. The prefix geo- means ground.
Why do people study cave art?
Humans study cave art because it gives us a glimpse at the lives that prehistoric man lived, as reflected in the things they depicted.
What do cave paintings usually depict?
Rock art usually depicts one of three things: animals, humans or humanlike figures, and symbols, and what constitutes each varies around the world.
Top 5 Most Notable Cave Paintings
1. Oldest Cave Art
The oldest cave art we currently know about are found on the islands of Sulawesi and Borneo, both dating to 40,000 to 45,000 years ago. The islands are part of the country of Indonesia.
2. Handprint Cave Paintings of South America
One example of a cave painting in South America is la Cueva de las Manos in Argentina.
A common feature of cave art is handprints, the Cueva de las Manos in Argentina is famous for being full of them, alongside depictions of people and llamas.
Honorable Mention: South American Geoglyphs
Although geoglyphs are technically not cave paintings, the Nazca Lines in Peru are worth mentioning. The Nazca Lines in Peru are enormous geoglyphs comprised of a total of 1,300 km or 300 mi of lines. The cave paintings depict animals like monkeys, killer whales, condors, hummingbirds, and pelicans, along with various plants and simple shapes.
3. Famous French Cave Paintings
The Cave of Lascaux in France is one of the most well-known and well-visited cave art sites in the world. While it isn’t open to the public nowadays, a precise replica called Lascaux II is. Among the 600 animals shown in Lascaux, the most common are the horse, bison, ibex, aurochs, and stags.
4. Cave Paintings in Africa
The Apollo 11 Cave Stones are seven small granite slabs. Some people falsely believe the cave stones are from outer space. In reality, the cave paintings originate from Namibia. The animals depicted in these cave paintings were: a zebra, rhino, and unidentified third animal. The stones are old and the paintings have become unclear in that time.
5. Cave Paintings in Texas and Mexico
In North America, the Lower Pecos Rock Art of Texas and Mexico are paintings of people with headdresses, atlatls, and other such accessories.
We’ve only discussed a few examples of cave paintings throughout Europe and Africa, but cave art is present on every continent besides Antarctica.