Recorded History...Cave Art

This classroom activity will give students a hands-on experience creating prehistoric paints and prehistoric cave art. Individuals should come away with a better understanding of early man's struggles to create pigments and paints; then to create images on rocky surfaces.

Materials needed:

  • charcoal crushed to a fine powder
  • multiple colors of dirt...black, red clay, etc.
  • lard
  • crushed berries of different colors
  • bowls to mix paints
  • paint brushes
  • stones with a relatively flat surface
    (poured concrete pavers will also work)

Students can be divided into small groups, however this project works best with each individual creating their own prehistoric work of art. It is best to mix up paints ahead of time and then let your students create smaller quantities to appreciate the process.

Creating the Paints

  • To create blacks, reds, and browns...mix one of the substances-charcoal, clay, or dirt-with the lard. It will take a few tries to get the consistency right. If it is to dry, and more lard; if it is too wet, add more substance.
  • Reds and purples can be made by crushing raspberries or blackberries and diluting slightly with water.
    If you prefer powdered tempera paints can be used to represent different things in the environment...yellow for sulfur, brown for dirt, orange for clay, red and purple for berries, etc.

Once paints have been mixed have students recreate famous cave paintings on their stone or paver. If you prefer...kraft paper can be used. Tape the paper in awkward positions such as on the underside of a table. In this position students can appreciate the challenges of painting in a real cave.