This is a fun and easy educational art project geared towards elementary school aged kids that teaches about about the beginnings of art (that occurred during the Paleolithic). The Paleolithic is otherwise known as the "Stone Age" to some and spans from 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago. In this time, two art forms existed in the Upper Paleolithic (50,000-10,000 years ago): parietal art and portable art. This project focuses on cave painting as a form of parietal art. There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding cave art and art historians and anthropologists alike have come up with many explanations for why people in this time period created cave art. Some suggest it was for religious purpose and others suggest it was to recount hunting experiences (and these are only some of the many explanations). The art generally found in cave contexts consists of engravings, paintings of animals, symbols, and etchings and were generally made of charcoal, red ochre, blood, food items like berries, and so forth. To create hand etchings, they would take a hollow bone and blow red ochre over the hand as a form of spray painting. Cave art can be found in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and America. Some of the most well-known representations of Paleolithic cave art would be at Lascaux Cave in France, Blombos Cave in South Africa, Cueva de los Manos in Argentina, and Chauvet Cave in France. Googling these sites are great to get a general idea of what animals/symbols to paint in the project, but I have also included some examples at the end of this instructable to get a general idea of each art form!
Step 1: Step 1: Gather Materials
- 1 pair of scissors
- tape (duct tape/packing tape will work the best)
- latex free gloves
- blo pens
- compressed chalk
- brown craft paper
Most (or even perhaps all) of these items are probably laying around your house right now. If they aren't, I got most of the supplies from Michael's. For brown paper, I used Scotch Dust Cover Paper. Having brown paper is essential, because it will be used to replicate a 'cave-like' environment.
Step 2: Step 2
What you will need for this step:
2. brown paper
This is a simple step. You basically need to find a space to designate as your cave. I chose a narrow hallway with dim lighting to get the best cave feel.
After you determine your space, you need to start cutting the paper in sections to cover that area you have designated as the 'cave'. I cut about 6 pieces from the roll of brown paper: 2 for each side and 2 for the ceiling.
Step 3: Step 3
What will you need for this step:
1. brown paper
The next step is simple as well. You first need to crinkle the paper that you just cut. This is important because it will give that rocky appearance that caves have. After the paper has been crinkled, the next step is to tape the pieces to the wall and ceiling (of your designated cave space). I taped two pieces on each side and two on the ceiling and made sure to tape each piece to the wall and to the other pieces to make sure it stayed put. This is important because you don't want your paper cave to fall off the walls in the midst of the project (especially when you are using wet paint/blo pen).
*During this step I accidentally poked a few holes in the paper because of how thin my paper of choice was. Well, if you do the same thing NO WORRIES. I say this because cup shaped holes/perforations in cave walls were found during the Paleolithic and they are called cupules.
Step 4: Step 4: Cueva De Los Manos Recreation
What you will need for this step:
1. non latex gloves
2. blo pens
3. (optional) red paint
Now that your cave has been created, it is time to do the whole point of this project: the art! This is where the gloves come in handy because it can get a bit messy. Place your gloved hand on one side of the 'cave' and get out the blo pen. Using the blo pen (in whatever color of your choosing; I decided on blue), focus on getting the paint around the hand to ensure it will leave a hand print tracing on the paper. You can do this as many times as you like, in as many colors as you like! My other blo pen wasn't cooperating so the blue was what I primarily used.
The optional part:
Pour some acrylic paint on a plate and make sure there is enough to cover your entire hand. In order to make sure the colors don't mix with the blo pen paint, I put on a new glove. What you do next is dip your gloved hand in the paint and then place it on the paper. I also added some charcoal spirals for an added effect! If you don't know what kinds of symbols to use alongside the hands, I recommend googling 'paleolithic cave art' or 'blombos cave' in google images to get a feel for the types of designs used.
Step 5: Step 5: Lascaux Recreation
Most Paleolithic pictographic cave art is similar; usually they are pictures of animals, hunters, and so forth. I call this the "Lascaux Recreation" because Lascaux cave is probably the most well known. Google images really comes in handy for this section.
Step 6: Critical Thinking Questions/Links for Reference
Now that the project is over, it would be really interesting to see what they think about it all! After all this is a history and art lesson all in one. I have included two examples of the kinds of questions you could ask:
1. How do you think the people creating the cave art could see in the cave?
2. Why did they make this art?
Here are two links to get a general idea on the types of art/style:
^Here is a link that shows the paleolithic famous handprints of Cueva de los Manos.
^ This one is my favorite! It is a virtual walk-through of Lascaux Cave.