Prehistoric Art





PREHISTORY– Prehistory is the history of humankind before the period when written languages were invented. This period extended from around c.750,000 B.C to c. 1500 B.C

NOMADIC – Nomads are people who do not have a fixed home. As the seasons change they wander from place to place in search of food, water, and grazing land for their animals. Prehistoric man was initially nomadic in nature. As they gradually discovered how to cultivate land, they began to settle down and live stable lives.

PORTABLE ART– Portable art is art which could be lifted up and carried around- like pottery and small figures.

ARCHAEOLOGIST– Archaeology is a study of the past history of mankind, based on evidence like graves, buildings, tools and pottery. The Society for Historical Archaeology has said that “Historical archaeology is more than just a treasure hunt. It is a challenging search for clues to the people, events, and places of the past.” An Archaeologist is someone who studies ancient man and his culture.


What do you think a cave man might look like?


How many of you think of Fred Flintstone and his funky stone age gadgets?


    And How many of you see, in your mind’s eye, a big brute of a man, hairy, wearing leopard skins and dragging around a club to beat up people with?  



To tell you the truth, no one can really be sure about what cave men, or to use the right word, Prehistoric men, were like  (One thing you can be sure of though, is that did he NOT have cool waste dispensers or lawn mowers lying around his house like Fred Flintstone did! )

 There is very little information about him. Do you know where historians have found their information about prehistoric man from??? No, not books, because prehistoric man couldn’t write, but from the beautiful art he made!!!!

Read on to understand more about the mysterious Prehistoric Man


Prehistoric Art is both ‘stationary’- like Cave Paintings, and ‘portable’- like sculptures and pots.

Let’s focus on their Cave Paintings first.

Archaeologists have unearthed many caves whose walls are covered with paintings.These caves exist all across the world. Some famous caves are the Chauvet Caves in France and the Altamira Caves in Spain.

 These paintings have been created years and years ago, but are still in perfect condition. This was because they were painted far inside the caves, where they were protected from the ill effects of too much sunlight or air.

Archaeologists and art historians have found that most of the cave paintings showed images of animals.

The most commonly seen animals were horses, bison, stags, wild boar, elephants, giraffes, hippopotami, crocodiles fish, eels, birds, etc.

A Cave Painting of Horses from the Lascaux Caves in France

  There are also paintings of animals that are extinct now-like the mammoth, the sabretoothed tiger, giant deer and others.

Charcoal Drawing of a Mammoth

Archaeologists have found very few paintings of human beings.    

Scene with Human Stick Figures

The beautiful forms of these animals are naturalistic, and show an attention to detail.

Five main colours were used in these paintings- ochre, red, brown, black and white. These colours were created from natural substances like mud, charcoal and minerals. A brush made of animal fur would be used to paint with. 

Archaeologists have also found drawings of symbols such as arrows, sticks, tree shapes, discs, crosses and “V” shapes, lines and dots. It is believed that these could be some sort of sign language practised by prehistoric man. In some caves, maps have been found painted on the walls.


Since we have no written records from the prehistoric period, we don’t really know why these people made such cave paintings.  Some historians believe that these animals were painted as part of some magical ritual. Since Prehistoric man was nomadic in nature, his main source of food were animals that he hunted. Perhaps he would perform rituals to ensure a plentiful supply of animals for him to hunt. And these cave paintings were part of these rituals.


The caves were once open for people to enter and view the paintings. But now people are no longer allowed in. This is because the moisture in our breath can damage these delicate paintings. In many countries, authorities have created exact replicas of the caves, which are open to the public. The actual caves are closed down to preserve the paintings. Even archaeologists enter only once or twice a year to conduct their studies.

 Now lets look at the PORTABLE ART made by Prehistoric Man

The Portable art of Prehistoric man was in the form of pots and small sculptures. Weapons like bows and arrows have also been found.

The most commonly found sculptures were small female figures. Historians have given these figures the name of VENUS. These Venuses have been shown to be quite plump and shapely. It is believed that they may be depictions of a ‘Mother Goddess’, who the prehistoric man worshipped for fertility.  One of the most famous ‘Venuses’ was the Venus of Willendorf.

Venus of Willendorf



  1. Hello !!! I am in the Khar class and I just enjoy Purnima misses classes. My favourite assignment is Sculpture. I would enjoy re-doing it. Purnima Misse’s art classes are an amalgamation of nearly everything in the ”World”. I loved the Facts part in the whole blog.


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