Did you know that no one knows when humans first began to draw and create art? Explorers, scientists, historians, and even kids have found prehistoric cave paintings that were created 30,000 BC! During that time, the early humans were nomads, who hunted and gathered their food, moving around to follow the animals they hunted. This period was called the Stone Age because their tools were made of stone, bone, or wood.
One of the most important examples of prehistoric cave paintings was actually discovered by 4 kids! In 1940, four boys were taking their dog for a walk in Lascaux, France. While they were talking, their dog ducked into a hole, that led to one of the many limestone caves of the area. The boys figured out a way to follow it underground, and when they lit a match to see better, they were shocked to discover that the walls and ceilings were covered in primitive animal paintings! When they came back the next day with their teacher, they explored the cave more. These caves have more than 600 paintings, and 1500 engravings, that were created more than 20,000 years ago!
The majority of the cave paintings are of moving animals, that lived during this time in that part of France: bison, deer, horses. At the time, tourists were allowed into the caves to admire and observe the early human art. Soon, the exposure to light, microorganisms from the visitors, and the air pollution began to fade and deteriorate the paintings.
Are you interested in teaching your kids about these prehistoric cave paintings done by early humans? I’ve gathered some children’s books, a couple of awesome videos, and a list of prehistoric cave paintings from around the world in case you are lucky enough to be near one for a visit!
Children’s Books on Prehistoric Cave Paintings
The First Drawing. What a gorgeously illustrated book to introduce kids to prehistoric life!! Reading the engaging text, my own kids were really thinking about what it would be like to live at the time of early humans. Super picture book for the early primary grades.
The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux. This is the true story of Jacques, Jojo, Simon, and Marcel, and their astonishing discovery of the decorated cave in Lascaux, France that had been sealed for 17,000 years. I really enjoyed examining the diagrams and maps with the kids. My kids were interested in how the (second) arrival of humans (and our microorganisms) were not affecting the preservation of the art.
Videos for Kids about Prehistoric Cave Paintings
Visiting Prehistoric Cave Paintings Around the World
In Kakadu National Park in Australia, you can admire outstanding examples of Aboriginal rock art at Ubirr, Nourlangie and Nanguluwur. Kakadu’s rock art showcases one of the longest historical records of any group of people in the world, as aboriginal people have used the caves for shelters for over 20,000 years.
Matobo Hills National Park in Zimbabwe is a UNESCO site, notable for having one of the highest concentrations of early rock paintings in southern Africa. While the rock paintings date to 13,000 years, humans used the area as a shelter starting in the Stone Age, through early historical times.
In the Albarracín Cultural Park, in Teruel, Spain, visitors can see 26 early human rock-art sites. In this UNESCO World Heritage site, we find one of the greatest concentrations of post-Palaeolithic art in southwest Europe. Most scenes depict animals and people in the the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
The silhouettes of hands in the Cueva de las Manos, in rural Patagonia, Argentina, date from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago. Aside from the handprints stenciled from bone-made pipes used for spraying the paint on the wall of the cave, visitors can see hunting scenes, animals, zigzags, and geometric shapes at this UNESCO Heritage site.
In the Hopi language Palatki means ‘red house’. The Palatki and Honanki Heritage Sites near Sedona, Arizona, US were the largest cliff dwellings the area between AD 1150 – 1350, built by the Sinagua people of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples. They also contain rock art (pictographs and petroglyphs) that predate the cliff dwellings! The more abstract pictograph symbols and drawings are 3,000 to 6,000 years old, and some of the petroglyphs, estimated to be 5,000 to 6,000 years old.
Art by early humans gives us an insight into their nomadic lifestyle, and shows a creative side to the primitive people.Have you ever visited a site with prehistoric cave paintings? Had you ever heard about the discovery of these cave paintings? Start with the books and videos here to give your kids a glimpse into early humans.