[Disclaimer: OK this is a bit of a messy one! You have been warned. It might be a good idea to do it outside.]
Amazing stone age paintings have been found in caves in Britain France and Spain. Some of them are thought to have been done as far back as an amazing 40,000 years ago during the last Ice Age! Studies done on the paintings found that the paints were made of mixtures of ground up rock minerals or charcoal, and animal fats. The animal fats soaked into the rock allowing archaeologists to date the paintings using radiocarbon dating.They give us a glimpse into life in a different era with pictures of animals which are now extinct.
How to make Stone Age Paint
You will need:
- some charcoal – we used the remains of a piece of wood from the fire
- some fat or oil – we used vegetable oil
- a mortar and pestle or some rocks to grind with.
First grind the charcoal up a finely as possible in the mortar and pestle.
Add some oil to form a liquid with a paint like consistency. It will probably be still a little gritty but that is fine.
Now you can try it out. Try painting using sticks or feathers. This is quite hard! It is easiest to paint with a very fine brush. Try drawing some stick figures, animals or symbols.
Other ideas to try out
- Try using different pigments if you can find any near you. Red coloured clay or ground up coloured stones might also make good paint.
- Try other binding agents like water, eggs or saliva!
- Try painting on stones or pebbles.
- Try telling a story or leaving someone a message using a cave painting (no words!)
- Try painting by candlelight! Really! A lot of the cave paintings are found deep in very dark cave systems and would have had to be done by torch light.
What does it all mean?
Now imagine it was 30,000 years ago. You are being led through a cave down narrow damp passages, with only flickering torch light to see where you are going. Stalactites and stalagmites are throwing weird shadows on the the walls of the caverns. After walking into the mountain for half an hour you come to a huge echoing chamber. There are some men huddled near one of the walls. They have some bowls and brushes and are painting the walls. Why do think they are doing it? What do the painting and symbols mean? Who is meant to see the paintings? Why are they so deep in the cave system?
No-one really knows for sure but it is fun to wonder isn’t it?
What do you think?