Perhaps, the most interesting subject in this whole world is us — human beings. Knowing about the way we evolved over thousands of years ago and survived through all the ages is fascinating. We have clearly emerged as the fittest, according to Charles Darwin, since in our struggle for existence, we survived, and there were many who didn’t. Even in those pre-historic times, human beings had the inclination to create something of their own and one evidence of that is cave paintings.
These cave paintings are like a gold mine of information for historians and archaeologists. If you are a history buff, you might want to visit some of these caves and look at these paintings yourself. If talking about them causes goosebumps, imagine how it will feel to see them upfront?
Apollo 11 Cave, Namibia
This cave in Namibia is probably the oldest you will come across. The paintings found here date back to about 25,000 to 27,000 years ago. The paintings are of domestic animals and geometric patterns. Quartzite slabs were found in the cave where the paintings were found as well as several white and red paintings. Apart from the usual animals and pattern, pictures of bees can also be viewed which gives us an insight into what these prehistoric men saw around them at that time. These are the oldest cave paintings found in Africa and is located 250 km from Keetmanshoop.
Bhimbetka Caves, India
The archaeological site of Bhimbetka Rock Shelters is almost 30,000 years old. The rock art seen here is the oldest in the Indian subcontinent and one of the largest pre-historic complexes. Located close to the city of Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh, which is at the heart of the country, Bhimbetka attracts a lot of tourists who come to see its fabulous cave paintings. These works of art provide a glimpse into the lives of early humans. There are pieces of evidence that prove that the place was a settlement even during the Stone Age. Initially, the locals thought it was a Buddhist site, and it was not until 1957 when the caves were recognized for what they really were. Several more caves were discovered and extensive excavations took place here. In 2003, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Lascaux Caves, France
In Southwestern France, there lies a whole complex of caves with over 600 wall paintings which are mainly of animals and plants. It is estimated to be about 17,000 years old. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it receives a steady flow of tourists who come to see the paintings done thousands of years ago. It was discovered when an 18-year-old boy’s dog fell in a hole. In the 1940s, the caves were restored and opened to the public. However, within just 20 years, the dust, carbon dioxide, moisture, and heat were proving to be a threat to the paintings. Hence, the caves were closed to the public in 1963. They were restored and a new system has since been in place that monitors the condition of the paintings on a daily basis.
Altamira Cave, Spain
Another well-known cave can be found in Spain that is located near the town of Santillana Del Mar. Discovered in the 19th century, the paintings in this cave are about 36,000 years old. The fact that early humans were intelligent enough to have artistic expressions were not known until then, and it took researchers a lot of convincing to make people believe it. The archaeologist who played a pivotal role in its discovery, Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, faced a lot of skepticism and was even ridiculed. However, various other reports started coming in of cave paintings that were found in other parts of the world. Hence, the Altamira Caves were established as genuine and a great discovery. Unfortunately, Sautuola didn’t live long enough to see his work being finally accepted. Since the cave paintings were subjected to heat, humidity, and carbon dioxide since their discovery, researchers started noticing damages, hence, the caves were closed for a long time to restore the paintings. It was briefly opened to the public after its restoration, but in 2003, the caves were permanently closed, and a replica cave was built nearby. The image of the bison from Altamira has become iconic, and sad enough, this image is the closest we’ll ever see of the actual painting.
The study of our past and our future is fascinating. If early history intrigues you, visiting one of these caves should be in your bucket list!