Cave Paintings: All You Need To Know - A Guide for Kids
Updated: Mar 5
Humans: We've always been a creative species. Cave paintings are a fantastic example of this. We've been slapping paint on cave walls as a way of making pretty pictures for tens of thousands of years. Take three caves in Spain as an example of this - the Maltravieso, La Pasiega and Ardales . In 2018 it was proven that the cave paintings found deep inside were over 64,000 years old! That's waaaaaay older than Stonehenge, The Great Pyramid of Giza and Skara Brae all added together.
This guide will tell you a little more about how cave paintings were made.
Want to find out why cave paintings were made? Check out our article on Why Did People Cave Paint.
Stone Age Paint
First off, how did Stone Age people even make paint? After all, It's not like they could just nip to the shops and buy a pot of 'Timid Plum' coloured paint. Let's find out!
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
Cave paintings were created by mixing together different coloured rocks, charcoal, animal blood, and berries.
Step 2: Make Your Paint
These ingredients would then be ground up into a paste by melting them over a fire. A liberal application of spit or animal fat would then be added to make the paste nice and gloopy.
Step 3: Start Painting
Finally the paint could be applied to the wall by hand, a brush made from animal hair or sprayed on with a hollowed out bone. There have even been crayons made from ochre found by archaeologists - a bit like ancient Crayola's!
What were the paintings of?
Stone Age cave painting were usually of three different things; hands, animals and people. Here's some examples:
Paintings of life in the Stone Age
The above painting is from the Tassili-n-Ajjer area in southern Algeria. This painting is from around 4000 - 6000 BC. You can make out human figures performing a ritual or dance.
In this painting, also from Tassili-n-Ajjer, we can see a herdsmen and their cattle. From this we can tell people from this area and era had domesticated moo moo pals, just like we do today.
This painting is from the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, in India. In it you can see hunters riding horses, it looks like they are holding spears, don't you think?
Here we have another painting from the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka. In it we can see a massive boar chasing down an unwitting hunter! The hunter's friends look on helplessly as their poor pal legs it as fast as possible. Perhaps this painting was used to show others the risks of hunting? Don't mess with a giant boar.
Paintings of Animals
This painting is from the Lascaux Cave in France. There's about 600 cave paintings in there, they can be found on the walls and ceilings - everywhere really! Experts date the paintings as being about 17,000 years old.
Check out all the animals the artist(s) has depicted, you can see aurochs, horses and deer, all animals that would have been a regular sight at the time.
Here we have a painting from the Kapova Cave in Russia. This one is important as it helps show that people were cave painting all over the world, not just in one place. The 200 images recently found are about 17,000 years old and show horses, mammoths and woolly rhinos.
Here's another one from the Kapova Cave:
Paintings of Hands
The oldest cave paintings often show the outline of hands. The painter has likely stencilled around their own hand, just like you might have done at school. This painting is from the Cave of el Castillo in Spain and is likely to be around 37,000 years old!
Now put your knowledge to the test by creating your own Cave Painting with our Stone Age Craft Activities.
Are you a teacher? Yes? Then you'll definitely want Imagining History to bring their 'A Handy Guide to Survive the Stone Age' Interactive workshop to your school.
Our Award-Winning sessions combine role-play, storytelling, demonstrations and drama and performance to bring history to life for your students.