|Themes > Science > Life Sciences > Physical Anthropology > Pre-Historic Man > Homo Sapiens Sapiens|
Cro-Magnon cave paintings
By this time, man had become very capable hunters/gatherers, and had scattered all over the world. Scientists have found remains of these early people in Europe, Asia, America, Africa, all over, really. Life was harsh, but they had plenty of food and warm shelter. Many members of these groups lived to a very old age. The Homo sapiens sapiens who lived in Europe were called Cro-Magnon.
HOMES: These early men built permanent homes, to shelter from the long, harsh winter of the Ice Age. In the summer, they followed the herds, and lived in tents.
Winter homes were Ice Age huts, built tepee style, from branches and mammoth bones, covered with animal skins. These huts were used for many years, so they built them carefully. Holes were dug, deeply into the ground. Poles were inserted into these holes, and then tied tightly together at the point of the tepee, at the top, with string made from animal guts. Warm furs were laid over this structure and sewn tightly in place. Large rocks were piled around the bottom, to help hold the hut together.
Some huts were built to hold only a small group of people. In the Ukraine, remains of "long huts" have been found, large enough to hold an entire tribe. Long huts had several entrances, with rooms for several fires inside.
In the summer, the tribe moved, following the animals. They lived in sturdy tents, that could be moved from place to place. As winter approached, they returned to their winter shelters. Quite often, they had to chase out the wild life that had moved in, during their absence!
FOOD: These hunter-gatherers ate a variety of seeds, berries, roots and nuts, as did their ancestors. They also ate fish and seemed to have an ample supply of freshly caught game. Their lives were not a constant struggle for survival because they were such good hunters. They learned to organize hunts and to cure and store food for the long winter. Hunting was done individually and in groups. They used traps, which allowed them to catch food while they busy doing something else. Fisherman used bows and arrows, nets woven from vines, fish hooks, and even poisons. Some groups built rafts and canoes, to catch bigger fish in deeper waters.
CLOTHING: In colder climates, early man learned to soften leather to make warm, comfortable clothes, sewn together with string made from animal guts, using needles made from bone. In warmer climates, they made cooler clothes from woven grass, and even from bark.
They made necklaces and bracelets out of shells, teeth, feathers, flowers, and bone. Some decorated their bodies with paint and tattoos, made from natural dyes. These may have been signs of social standing or tribal ID's (identification signs).
ART: As well as jewelry, they created pottery, and fired it to give it luster, strength, and durability. They created little statues, carved from ivory and bone.
TOOLS & WEAPONS: Man had learned to be a skilled toolmaker. Weapons included stone axes, knives, spears, harpoons, wooden bows & sharp stone tipped arrows. Both the sabre toothed tiger and the woolly mammoth became extinct during this period, but that more probably reflects a shift in climate rather than hunting by humans.
Cave Paintings: Cro-Magnon man, for whatever reason, painted marvelous and astonishing paintings on rock walls, deep within caves. Paintings were added, until a cave might have hundreds of different paintings, by many different painters.
Most cave paintings focused on hunters and animals. Early man used natural colors. You may have heard that they used charcoal to create these paintings. Actually, most art was not made with charcoal, but rather with mineral pigments, such as iron oxide (red ochre) or black manganese. They drew stick figures for people, but the animals were well drawn, and usually filled in with natural colors, to give them even more shape and substance.
When you think cave, you might think of a big place, with high ceilings. Not so. In order to reach the places where cave paintings have been found, Cro-Magnon man had to crawl on his belly, through mazes of narrow, dark tunnels, by the light of a flicking torch or a spoon-like oil lamp (which had to be hand carried and balanced carefully to hold the burning oil in the rounded part of the spoon - while crawling along on your belly), and carrying the paints he had carefully prepared, with no idea if he might run into, oh..a cave lion or a bear, on the way. Certainly he wasn't decorating his home, as these marvelous paintings were hidden deep within the darkest portions of the cave.
The other thing found in cave paintings, besides stick figures of people and well drawn animals, are stencils of hands. It would appear that Cro-Magnon man, after crawling on his belly and creating his addition to these cave walls of art, then put his hand against the cave wall, and outlined it with charcoal or paint. What were they saying? (I was here? I made this?) Was this a way to sign their art? Or to prove they had achieved their ... mission? It's not easy to figure out because not all paintings include a stenciled handprint.
Why did early man seek out these caves, to add their paintings to the many others that had been painted in the cave before them? And why such dark, secret, hidden places? It might have been one of Cro-Magnon man's recreational activities. It might have had something to do with their religion or their rites of manhood. Nobody knows! It's a fascinating mystery.
Like many discoveries, the existence of cave paintings was discovered accidentally. The caves in Lascaux, France were found around 1940, during World War II, by some kids. They stumbled across the entrance to a cave that had been hidden by the roots of a tree.
Once people knew these paintings existed, people went looking for more such caves, and found them! There are probably more caves with cave paintings yet to be found! Wouldn't it be neat to discover such a cave? But, be careful. Caves can be very dangerous places. If you find a cave, it would be wise (very wise!) to get some adult help, before you go tearing inside, and find yourself in some very serious trouble.