Just how did I get roped in to teaching a Lascaux Cave Art Lesson?
I am not very artistic. My drawing skills are pretty much non-existent and for me, even stick figures can even be hard to master.
However, I really LOVE history and I LOVE volunteering in my kids’ classrooms. When the PTO was looking for art moms, I jumped at the opportunity because I thought it would be a fun way to volunteer in the classroom and give me an opportunity to teach the kids.
And teaching art lessons sure beats fundraising for the PTO!
In fact, I prefer teaching an art lesson to the kids than just sitting at a center table, supervising the elementary aged kids as they sort big and little letters or work on their spelling. (Side note: I am always happy to do whatever a hard-working teacher needs help with, but I do prefer to do something more hands on like teaching the art lessons!)
We have done several lessons on the kids’ classes. Picasso. Laural Birch. Andy Warhol. Monet. It was so fun to learn about these artists and create are lessons and projects to do with the kids. My favorite lessons was the Lascause Cave Art Lesson.
The History of Lascaux Cave
Lascaux cave is located in Southwestern France in Europe. It’s about a 5 hour drive from Paris. The area is known for its many caves, in particular Lascaux, pronounced Las-ko (with a long o at the end). The cave is famous for the beautiful drawings on its walls, which have been preserved for many centuries.
In 1940, WWII was raging and the Germans were taking Europe by storm. During this tumultuous time, 4 boys on the lookout for a lost dog found Lascaux Cave. At first they wanted to keep the cave a secret but too many people heard about it and knowledge of the cave spread like wildfire. It was believed that the paintings inside were very old yet the drawings on the wall were very well preserved and were not even faded.
Because of the war, the cave was closed just months after it opened, and it became a secret storehouse for munitions for the French Resistance. When the cave reopened, so many people visited the cave that the pictures quickly started to deteriorate. The caves were closed for good in 1963 to preserve the paintings. In 1983, a replica of the caves was created. You can now only visit a replica of the art of the Lascaux Caves.
Lascaux is a complex cave system that has several different “rooms”. The largest room is called the Great Hall of the Bulls because of the large and numerous bulls painted around the room, even on the ceiling. The room is 66 feet long and 16 feet wide at its largest point. These cave walls must have looked like a huge canvas for those early artists!
Several passageways that almost resemble hallways lead off from the Hall of the Bulls. At the end of these passageways, there are several additional “rooms” that are also decorated with lots of animals and abstract symbols.
There are many paintings on the walls, mostly of animals. The most numerous animals drawn in the cave are horses. There are also lots of abstract symbols made up of dots and lines. There are 600 paintings and 1500 engravings.
Although we don’t know for sure what the pictures on the walls mean, some researchers believe they show hunting success stories or perhaps they were drawn during rituals to prepare for an upcoming hunt. We can only guess at why these early artists drew what they drew, and we can only guess what some of these pictures represent.
How were cave art paintings made?
Imagine trying to draw in a cave. It is so dark in caves that you can’t see anything, not even the walls. So how did people draw these paintings and make these engravings on the walls? Researchers believe that these early artists used lamps lit with animal fat to light up the caves so they could see. The artists then used charcoal and dirt to make the pictures with bone fragments, rocks, and their very own fingers.
Most of the pictures are yellow, red, and black. Some of the ceilings in the cave are very high, and it would have been impossible for the artists to reach by without scaffolding. Because there are holes in the walls around the pictures , it is believed that these holes were used to hold the scaffolding in place. The people could have used the scaffolding to reach the top of the walls.
Books to Accompany Your Lascaux Cave Art Lesson For Kids
Before starting this cave painting art lesson, I found some books about Lascaux cave and chose one to read. I was able to find a copy of the book at the local library.
Below are some books you might want to look for:
- The Cave Painter of Lascaux by Roberta Angeletti
- The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux by Emily Arnold McCully
- The First Drawing by Mordicai Gerstein
The Lascaux Cave Art Lesson
Using brown construction paper or grocery bags, students will create their own prehistoric drawing. This is a simple, yet engaging, art lesson for kids, perfect for elementary aged students. For an extra twist, you could tape the paper underneath the desks and turn off the lights for a more “cave-like” experience.
A complete Lascaux History and Art Lesson can be found at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You’ll get a PowerPoint presentation with pictures from the Lascaux Cave and a brief history of the cave art paintings. Detailed instructions for the art project are also included.