Prehistoric Cave Paintings - Paleolithic Art - Art History
Prehistoric Art Paintings - Art history - Cave Paintings
Art History

Prehistoric Cave Paintings – Paleolithic Art

The importance of the prehistoric cave paintings

Art History is the study of artistic currents and their chronological flow along the history. 

Prehistoric Cave Paintings - Paleolithic Art
El Castillo – Prehistoric Cave Paintings – Paleolithic Art Photo source:

Prehistoric Cave Paintings are the first proofs we have about Paleolithic art. The first paintings ever created are included in the Aurignacian Era. There is an immense value in these depictions from the early periods of the humankind. We learn many things from these paintings, such as their daily routine, their materials and, even, their beliefs. Many of these representations were decorative. But some of them also had some more valuable meaning behind. They also shared through them, their spiritual inclinations and their values.

During the Paleolithic age, about 2.6 million years ago to around 12,000 years ago, the man evolved both physically and spiritually. This period symbolizes the birth of the man and art. This article is the first step into the art history of the humankind.

Most important Paleolithic art discoveries

El Castillo Cave Paintings – The oldest cave paintings ever found are in Spain and are called  El Castillo Cave paintings. They were discovered by the Spanish archaeologist and famous expert in prehistoric art and paleolithic art, Hermilio Alcalde del Rio, in 1903. In this cave, were found around 100 images with prehistoric cave paintings dating around 39,000 years BCE. Most of them were depictions of animals (bison, goats, horses, deer), many dog painting, but also, hand and disk stencils. The hand and disk paintings were created by spraying paint on the hand through a tube.

Paleolithic Art - Cave Paintings
Babirusa – Paleolithic Art – Photo Source:

Leang Timpuseng Cave Paintings – The oldest cave paintings were found in an Indonesian cave and the oldest one dates back around 37,900 years BCE. The pig-deer cave painting that was found in same cave depicting the animal eating fruits is incredible. It’s one of the first proofs of the artistic spirit manifestation in humans. This type of pig is called “babirusa” and it was found in the Leang Timpuseng Cave, Maros-Pangkep, Indonesia. The race of the animals is a type of South-East Asian pig. The cave paintings found are two animal pictures and twelve hand depictions. The archeologists don’t know for sure if these Paleolithic art depictions were created purely for decorating the spaces the neanderthals inhabited or have some deeper spiritual or shamanic meanings.

Altamira Cave Paintings – The Altamira artworks are world-wide known for their beautiful and multi-colored prehistoric cave paintings. Located in the north of Spain, the paintings are dated between 34,000 and 15,000 BCE. The technique and style used in the depiction of the painting are unique for that time for many reasons. There were used a lot of colors to create life-like animal figures. The shades of the animals present many variations, making them look realistic. More important, the animals are drawn in life-size proportions and are highly detailed.

Fumane cave paintings are dated around 35,000 years and were found in Italy. The prehistoric cave paintings collection in this painting represents a half-human, half-animals figure. The cave paintings are done in red ochre. A new technique discovered in this period of time is the abstract painting created with dots. The ochre paint used for this paleolithic art contains hematite, titanium, and aluminum. This is a combination of materials well-suited for coloring on the rock.

Chauvet Cave Paintings - Prehistoric Art Painting
Chauvet Cave Paintings – Prehistoric Art Painting – Photo Source:

Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave paintings – A beautiful complex of prehistoric cave paintings were found in the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave. This impressive Paleolithic art cave contains no less than 400-meter long network of chamber and galleries in stone. The paintings were well-preserved thanks to a landslide that sealed the cave around 25,000 years ago. The cave paintings are from around 30,000 BCE. The archeologists noticed an evolution in the depictions from this cave. The prehistorians painted more than food animals, but also dangerous animals, shading, composition drawings, portraits, and are mainly in black and red. We notice in this cave figures of rhinoceros, lions, and mammoths. The value of this discovery is huge because it gives a deep insight into the everyday life and perspective of the humans living in the paleolithic era.

Kimberley Rock Art – This cave is the same age as the previous discovery and that is 30,000 BCE. Beside hand stencils, animal figures and portraits, in this art complex were also found pictographs and petroglyphs. This cave has been inhabited long after the Paleolithic era because there were found artistic representations dating from Mesolithic and Neolithic eras.


The value of these prehistoric cave paintings is priceless. This is the first step into the artistic evolution of the human being. We get to witness the first message ever written by the caveman for the modern man through. You could say, these cave paintings are messages for the future. The Paleolithic art is a small evidence that the human was born with an artistic soul.

(Cover photo: Altamira Cave Paintings, Photo source:

Prehistoric Cave Paintings
Photo Source:

How to create cave paintings?

For this small article, I also created a reinterpretation of the prehistoric cave paintings. Using cardboard, soft charcoal and pastels I drew a bison similar with the animal figures found in the caves.