Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

2.5: Conclusion and Contrast

  • Page ID
  • About 40,000 years ago, indigenous people roamed the planet, living on six different continents and drawing on caves' walls. People decorated their caves' walls for multiple purposes, including communication with others about the animals available for hunting or leaving a message about dangers, or for spiritual meanings. Some of the caves have well-developed images, and in other shelters, the images are more primitive, but all of them display the inhabitant's desire to create. Although geographically scattered around the world, people used similar materials and symbols in their caves, even using their hands as a template to spray pigment around them and leave a record of themselves.

    The cave drawings across the world have many similarities, like color, pigment, charcoal, and rock walls. However, there are still several regional differences, as well. Some drawings are more childlike and primitive, and some drawings, such as the fish from the Kakadu, Australia, show great detail, fish with a backbone, fins, and embellishments not usually seen in cave art. The fine lines are delicate and different colors used to define the skeleton of the fish. The caves' art reflected their daily life, ensuring success in hunting, paranormal, religious, or educational stories.

    To think of cave art is to imagine a hostile world where people hunt for food, escape from wild animals, seek shelter in caves, and survive as best as possible. Nevertheless, they had time for art, time to make the art materials, and time to improve and perfect their craft. Putting together a few dots on the walls has turned cave art into a line of several hundred thousand art pieces, recently rediscovered so today we can appreciate the art. Unfortunately, cave art cannot be seen in person today because our presence destroys the atmosphere in the caves. Most caves are not open to the public, but many countries have created authentic reproductions for visitors to explore and enjoy the wonders of art from our prehistoric ancestors.

    Caves Around the World






    Namibia, Africa

    Apollo 11

    27,500 – 25,500

    Red & white paintings,

    geometric patterns, bees, animals

    Charcoal, ochre, kaolin

    France, Europe

    Chauvet Cave

    32,000 – 30,000

    13 species of animals, lions, panthers, bears, hyenas, hand prints, scenes

    Red ochre, charcoal

    France, Europe

    Lascaux Caves


    2,000 figures, animals, human figures, abstract signs, large animals

    Mineral pigments

    DeCabrerets, France

    Pech-Merle Cave


    Polychrome painting of Dappled/Spotted Horses, hand stencils, abstract signs, dots and circles, engravings

    Black manganese oxide, red ochre

    Spain, Europe

    El Castillo


    Deer, bison, ibex, cows, handprints, red discs

    Red iron oxide

    Verona, Italy

    Fumane Cave


    Animals, abstract signs, unusual figures

    Hematite, titanium, red & yellow ochre

    Romania, Europe

    Coliboaia Cave

    32,000 – 30,000

    Animals, bison, bears, rhinos




    9,000 – 3,000

    Animals, humans, scenes

    Hematite, iron oxide, kaolin




    Animals, hand prints

    Ochre, ironstone, hematite


    Damaidi Caves

    8,000 – 7,000

    Chinese characters, people hunting, herding, fighting, sun, moon, animals, scenes

    Carving, iron ore ochre

    Northern Territory, Australia

    Nawaria Gabarnmang Rock Shelf


    Collage of mural paintings with human and spiritual figures, crocodiles, kangaroos, wallabies

    Charcoal, ochre of mulberry, red, orange, white, colors

    Kakadu, Australia

    Kakadu Rock


    Scenes, animals, ceremonials, people

    Hematite, Limonite, ochre, Kaolin, manganese oxide, charcoal

    RioPinturas, Argentina

    Cueva de las Manos

    13,000 – 9,500

    Hand outlines, animals, hunting scenes

    Iron oxides, kaolin, natrojarosite, manganese oxide

    1. What were the main types of materials used to draw images?

    2. What are the three major colors used in cave art and why were those colors predominant?

    3. What similarities are found in cave art around the world?

    4. What are some of the differences discovered in cave art in different locations?

    • Was this article helpful?