Prehistoric Cave Art all over the world, mirrors the difficulties and triumphs of the native man. And even today indigenous tribes of Africa and Australia practice intricate rock art. These paintings are characterized by sophisticated depictions of elegant human figures, richly hued animals, and figures combining human and animal features, called therianthropes continue to inspire admiration for their energy, and powerful confident lines.
Magdalenian Cave Art of Spain
A group of excavators discovered the Magdalenian Cave Art of Spain in 1879. However their joy of discovering something remarkable was short lived because academics were quick to dismiss these paintings as hoaxes. Recent evaluations have however, confirmed the authenticity of these paintings. These Rock Paintings are indeed more than 32,000 years old.
The recurrent theme of these Rock Paintings are large wild animals, such as bison, horses, aurochs, and deer, and tracings of human hands as well as abstract patterns.
The most remarkable feature of these paintings is that though they were drawn with just a few basic colors, they dazzle us with their vibrancy. The paintings were drawn with red and yellow ochre, hematite, manganese oxide and charcoal.
Modern theorists claim that these paintings were made by the shamans or witch doctors of the tribe. The shaman drivehimself to a trance like state and then retreat into the darkness of the caves to paint these visions.
African Cave Art
African rock art is quite different from the rock paintings of Spain and Bhimbetka. It uses subtle polychrome shading that gives their subjects a hint of three-dimensional look. These paintings most commonly signify religious beliefs. One can find the best specimens of African Cave art can be found at Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg, South Africa. The San people who settled in this area about 8000 years ago, gave meanings to the walls of their caves through these very paintings.
Bhimbetka Cave Art
Surrounded by emerald green forests, the caves near Bhopal, India, prove to be the ideal settings for an art form as striking as the Rock Paintings of Bhimbetaka. The pitch dark and sometimes perilous caves that house these marvelous paintings, have braved the elements for more than twenty thousand years to protect these art treasures.
These intuitive pieces of art tell us that the native man was an expert in simplifying life; he had the skill to draw animals and birds with just two or three strokes. Red, green, and white colors in all hues and varieties were used to paint these images.
The paintings were done primarily with a finger, but historians suggest that these native artists might have also used feathers, wooden sticks, and needles of porcupines for different styles and textures.
The Prehistoric man chiefly chose to depict animal life in his paintings. Triangles, rectangles, circles, and hexagons seem to be the units of these paintings. The imagination of the native man was obviously unbridled. Sometimes he has shown the internals of animals as if they were transparent.
However some of these paintings have been ruined beyond repair because of weathering, but they still speak volumes about the life and social practices of the native man.
Prehistoric Cave Art suggests that like the modern artists, the prehistoric man must have been driven by the need of self-expression too. These paintings depict specific scenes and yet speak the universal language of art that transcends everything, even time.