Personally I think that anyone studying art should look back, way, way back. Why? What I like about Prehistoric Art is because even though every day was a struggle to find food & shelter, precision grip aloud us to make tools, weapons, clothing and start a fire, all key to our survival. The best thing about it, I feel, is that our brains have developed to be highly skilled problem solvers and tool makers, all survival skills, yes. However, why did we also develop art? There’s not really a point to it is there? Why did early human feel the need to paint caves? Yes, there is evidence through out the animal kingdom today of birds sticking grass in their feathers to make the look fuller and longer (sound familiar girls?), collecting shiny objects to put in their nests, but I don’t see a pre historic human turning to a potential mate “back mine coffee? I got picture on wall”. Another point, we were hunter & gatherers, we didn’t stay in the same place until we developed farming skills, so what was the purpose of painting something fixed to a wall of a cave if they were only going to leave it behind. The only answer a lot of people can come up with from the evidence that has been found. Over 40 800 years ago we painted for the sake of it, because we could. Some have theorised that it was for religious purposes or communicating with others I must add but this is just guess work and no proof has been found so far.
A quick look at the development of our big brains.
I mentioned fire above as a step in our evolutionary path. This was a huge break through for the human race but it is not common knowledge why, yes it kept us warm, but we learnt to cook our food. One advantage is that it kills of bacteria so dying from a bit of bad meat was a lesser risk, this is not why is was such an important move. Cooked food is far easier to digest, it breaks the food down, makes it easier to chew which is vital for the digestion process, chewed food easier our stomachs could break it down and our intestines then can draw more calories out of it (the “Raw Food Diet” is proof of this). It takes more energy to digest uncooked food compared to cooked food, so put simply, you have to eat twice as much raw vegetables to get the same amount of calories as it’s cooked equivalent. With all of the extra energy we were getting from our cooked food the body used the excess to fuel for our brain which enabled it to grow and improving intelligence, the only disadvantage to this is was child birth which became dangerous. Through cooked food, we became thinkers.
Cave painting chronology.
The problem with dating cave paintings is the usual method of radiocarbon dating does not work, this is because they’re normally the carbon is not present the give a proper date. So the only way that archaeologists are able to date the paintings is by subject matter and evidence of what animals were in the areas that they have been able to date at particular periods in history, until now. Uranium-thorium dating has been around for years and normally used to date calcium carbonate in caves, so bones from Neanderthals and Homo sapiens found in caves but needed a large sample to measure the decay or uranium in calcium carbonate, so the archeaologists had to wait for the technology to develop before they scraped an entire painting off of the wall. Thankfully developments in this technology have enabled archaeologist to accurately date the paintings buy analysing the calcite (calcium carbonate) that has formed on top of the paintings.
The oldest cave paintings that have been found to date is in Spain, “Cave of El Castillo” some have been dated to be more than 40 800 years old, which coincides with evidence of Homo sapiens in this area, interestingly some have also suggested that these paintings could be the work of Neanderthals, but no one can really confirm or deny.
So there it is, the world’s for graffiti. I hope you’ve enjoyed this, I’m not sure what part 2 will be yet. I haven’t done too much research on this subject as I’m not writing a book and it would take me forever because Archaeology is always changing and I don’t have a Phd but it’s to the best of my knowledge and for those of you who know me these are my two main passions moulded into one.