The earliest artists that we know of painted inside caves about 32,000 years ago. Scientists have found paintings in caves on nearly every continent.
Cave painters only had a small number of colors to work with because they made their paint by grinding up certain stones and adding water to the powder to make a type of paint. They could make brown, black, yellow, and red and these colors suited their needs because they painted mostly animals. Early humans could not sign their names on their paintings like artists do today because they hadn’t invented writing yet. Instead, handprints are common in the caves.
Just like today, cave painters used paintbrushes to create their artwork. They made the brushes out of animal hair or small twigs. They also used their fingers to paint and sometimes they created small tubes out of sticks or bone that they filled with paint and then blew through one end to spread the paint across the rock.
The paintings have lasted for so long because many of them have been closed off in caves for thousands of years where the temperature stays cool and the rain and snow can not reach the paint to wash it from the rock.
Click here for more information on prehistoric cave painting.
Click here for cave painting illustrations.
Return to main page.