cave paintingOnce upon a time, special people were selected to be the privileged ones who were allowed to draw pictures on the walls. They drew pictures of horses and dogs, people and plants. Sometimes they used colors, but sometimes they just had charcoal. Sometimes, they just blew color around their hands so that they would leave a handprint on the wall.

Have you ever traced around your hand for a picture?

These people didn’t have crayons or markers, pens or pencils. They used rocks that they found and ground up themselves. Or they dried out certain plants or flowers to create the colors they wanted to use.

handprint cave paintings

Many, many years later, other people came along and found their drawings. They were amazed by what they saw. The artwork the earlier people created wasn’t so fancy. It didn’t do any of the things that great artwork does today, but there was still something very special about it.

What amazed the new people about what they saw was that they were so old. The artwork was made so long ago that no one thought art had even been invented yet. Except now there was proof that it did sitting right there on the wall.

Most of the scientists who study this kind of artwork tended to think that it was created by men. They thought the men made this art as a part of their hunting ritual. By painting the pictures of the animals they wanted to catch on the wall, the scientists guessed the hunters thought it would make it easier for them to catch those animals.

So, for example, if there was a painting of a group of people hunting an antelope, the scientists guessed they made the painting to guarantee they would catch an antelope.

Margaret ConkeyExcept not all scientists think this. Margaret Conkey is a leading scientist into archaeological research (ask Mom or Dad what that means). She was recognized as one of the 50 most important women in science in 2002. Her job is to travel through France and look at these cave paintings to try to understand what other reasons people might have had for painting the walls.

Doesn’t that sound like a fun job?

Painting on the Walls