What We Can Learn From Cave Paintings

STORY BY Candace Bryan

Published: May 30, 2013

Growing up I remember learning very little about cave paintings, other than that they existed and wasn’t it “neat” that humans have been creating art for thousands and thousands of years. However, I recently read an article on BBC News that actually got me thinking about the importance of cave paintings.

The article explained that recently in of Mexico, almost 5,000 new cave paintings were discovered at over eleven different sites in the Burgos region. 1,550 of those were found in a single cave. Looking at photographs of the cave painting, they don’t seem to enlightening. There are a lot of stick-people and abstract scratching on the walls. So why is their discovery so newsworthy?

As it turns out, much can be learned from cave painting, including from the mere fact that they exist. In this most recent case of discovery, archaeologists were shocked to find the paintings, because previously it had been believed that no ancient peoples had lived in the region. But these cave paintings showed them that three different groups of hunter-gatherers lived their long before European settlers came. Also, although no specific time has yet been determined for the various paintings, one cave contained a portrayal of an ancient hunting weapon never before found in Mexico’s Tamaulipas state.

All the little things archaeologists learn from these painting are interesting, but what we really learn is how much archaeologist (and we) don’t know about the world we live in. In our digital age, we seem to think all knowledge and all truths are known, out there somewhere on the internet and easily found with Google. But really, the compendium of mankind’s knowledge is very small and limited, and we are constantly discovering new facts that not only illuminate new truths, but also challenge what was accepted as truth before.

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