Exploring the Caves of Lascaux

Exploring the Caves of Lascaux

Author: Brian Ausland
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European Prehistoric Art

Allow students to watch this video in advance of starting on the Caves of Lascaux virtual exploration activity. It will provide students a background in where some of the earliest art forms exist in the world, and what anthropologists believe to be some of the originating reasons early humans started to visually represent the world they lived in.

Source: National Geographic

Caves of Lascaux

The discovery of the monumental Lascaux cave in 1940 brought with it a new era in our knowledge of both prehistoric art and human origins. Today, the cave continues to feed our collective imagination and to profoundly move new generations of visitors from around the world.

To celebrate this prehistoric wonder, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication's is pleased to present its latest multimedia publication – an update of the original Lascaux website, which was first put on line in 1998. The new site has been entirely reworked in both form and content, reflecting the latest advances in archaeological research.

Students will use this site as a means to explore in teams of two (an observer / a recorder) and complete the accompanying worksheet to document their findings.

Source: French Ministry of Culture and Communication under Norbert Aujoulat, Heritage Curator, Head of Art parietal National Center for Prehistory

Explorers Worksheet

Student explorers in teams of two will use this worksheet as a guide through the Caves of Lascaux virtual website shared in this lesson. As the two student explorers sit at a given computer, one will need to navigate through the cave and the other is responsible for documenting the required information for each section of the cave.
Students can switch off alternating these duties if they would like.
This activity takes approximately 20-30 minutes time and requires students to notate information, draw, and make some basic assertions about what they are seeing in the cave.

Full Screen

Source: Worksheet developed by Brian Ausland

Hand Paintings of Early Humans

This site is an exploration of how many early humans around the world commonly made stencils of their own hands to represent themselves.
You can cover some of the main information from the article while students browse the various types of hand-art that exists from around the globe, or you can have student read themselves and then explore the hand-art as a group.
It is important to note that, in the Caves of Lascaux there is hand-art, similar to those displayed on this site, but there is also direct representation of the human form.

Source: Bradshaw Foundation - Origin Series

Student Hand-Art Activity

Now that students have explored a cave, identified common forms of early human representations from around the world...it is their turn to create their own hand-art using simlar methods as those of their early ancestors. 

To do this activity, simply have

  1. individual packets of powdered water flavoring, or Kool-Aid for each student (preferrable red or purple in color...so cherry or grape)
  2. a plain sheet of brown construction paper or cut out comparably sized sheets from brown paper grocery bags or lunch bags
  3. one or two spray bottles with water
  4. colored markers


Have students take their paper and smash it up into a ball, then flatten it back out as smooth as possible to give it a wrinkled, rock-like look. 

Have them each carefully open their powdered flavor packets and place their hands palm-down on the center of their brown, crinkled paper with their fingers spread far apart as possible.

When they are ready, (they can indicate by raising their other hand) spray the top of their hand lightly with the water bottle as you walk around the classroom. Spay just enough to dampen their hand primarlily with just enough spread on the spray to dampen the outline of their hand on the paper.

Then instruct them to lightly sprinkle a very small amount of their powdered flavoring around the outline of their hand while it is still pressed firmly on their paper. (if students use too much, it will bleed through the paper and under their hand and not create a nice, sharp relief of their hand)

Once they are done, have them pull their hand directly up from the paper and be prepared to have your activity timed so that this occurs at the end of the day, or right before lunch or another break.

Their hands will be colored as well, so having some sanitation wipes of some kind is helpful for quick clean-up.

When the hand-art has had time to dry (which takes about 10-20 minutes if you did not spray too much water on them initially), the students can then take a marker and create a symbol in the center of their hands that represents them in some way, maybe what they consider their core personality.

Once you collect each of the students hand-art stencils, you can put them up together on a common wall area in your class and create your own cave art wall. Students can try to figure out who belongs to which hand based ont he symbols, or parents can try to guess when they come into school.

Below are pictures taken from a group of 6th graders (11-12 yr. olds) that participated in this full activity. Enjoy.

Source: Pictures courtesy of Brian Ausland