Cave Painting Prehistoric Art
The terminology Cave Paintings in general refers to the form of adorning the walls and ceilings of the caves during prehistoric times. The earliest European cave paintings are approximately 32,000 years old. These paintings have also been discovered in the uninhabited and remote areas of the caves.
The exact significance of these paintings is not known. However, these do not seem to be created from solely an aesthetic point of view. Some state their purpose to be communication, while others feel that their depiction signify religious or ceremonial events.
Approximately 350 caves displaying this form of art have been found in France and Spain. Radio carbon dating is the technique utilized to decipher the era of the paintings. However, the time period of this art is still debatable owing to the debris and degradation issues. At times, the themes of these paintings also serve as an important indication of time. Cave paintings range from the Ice Age to Early Bronze Age to the Neolithic period.
The style of art highlighted in these caves can be designated as naturalistic. Animals seem to be the most prominent subject of these painters. Wild animals such as horses, bison, deer and aurochs and mammoth often form a part of the illustrations. Other noticeable living things are lions, musk ox, ass, chamois, wolf, fox, hare, otter, hyena, seals, fish, reptiles and birds. Portrayal of the human form is a rare feature in these caves, probably forbidden by the religious heads of those times. Abstract form of art was very widespread. Many of the Paleolithic murals display a wide range of dots, lines, signs and symbols. The material used to paint was most frequently was red and yellow ochre, hematite, manganese oxide and charcoal.
There have been diverse theories putting forth the actual painters and their objectives. Henri Breuil inferred that these paintings were meant for hunting purposes to lure the prey. However, the image of predators puts a question mark to his theory. David Lewis-Williams interprets the paintings to be an art form of Shamanism, the followers of which were said to be intermediaries between the human and spirit worlds. The shamans often ventured into the secluded areas of the caves and painted images projecting visions of their reverie. Another viewpoint addressed by R Dale Guthrie highlights the paintings to be a personification of the desires of the adolescent male members of the society in co-relation to the subject commonly being potent beasts, dangerous hunting images and the over-sexual representation of women.
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