How do we know the prehistoric art pieces we found were not just some back alley graffitis?



Every suggested meaning of prehistoric art is always either spiritual, proto-scientific, or socially meaningful.

How do we know they weren’t just some random graffitis from random people back then, similar to the tons of shitty wall-arts we see in our cities?

I guess we find them in isolated caves because that’s the only ones that were able to “survive” this long.

In: Culture

Graffiti has meaning behind it, whether religious or against a greater power. Its purpose is to send a message where many people can see it.

We don’t really. There’s a lot of evidence that suggests that ancient art found was literally no different from how we’d make it today. Even if you want to ascribe it some reverence a step above above “graffiti”, it’s equally likely that someone made a kind of mural and everyone was like “woah sick art Brad!”

Everything we find has to be interpreted through our modern viewpoints, our modern culture, our own way of thinking. Most stuff gets filtered through the lens of archeologists first, some of which maybe take their job super seriously and don’t have much sense of humor about their finds. That’s kind of changing though, it’s becoming pretty common knowledge that things like penis drawings found in Pompeii are obviously not religious virility tokens and are the same thing as bathroom stall graffiti. Take scientific interpretation with a grain of salt.

You’re presupposing that back alley graffiti *isn’t* art. The idea of “real art” that is somehow more meaningful than just drawings is something that came long after humans first started creating representational images. The fact that quasi-humans were creating those images at all is what’s significant. It’s a huge step forward in our development as a species. Any additional spiritual or cultural significance beyond that is pure speculation.

Speaking about the cave drawings in southern France and northern Spain:

Some of the art is extremely well-formed, like the ones in Lascaux. Those weren’t haphazardly drawn—there was training and practice. We also see stylistic differences by area and time, meaning there was communication about the art and learning involved—a spread of communication. The art also features specific themes, indicating subject matter wasn’t random. Dick and pussy drawings can be found at these sites, too. Interestingly, the earliest drawings are the most realistic when pornographic. As time goes on, the most recent images (still over 10,000 years old) are the most abstract and stylized, giving us insight into the artists’ mindset when drawing. A lot of stuff might be more casual—like a popular subject was handprints. Putting dye on the hand then pressing the hand onto the cave wall, or putting the hand on the cave wall and then blowing the dye onto the wall around the hand so we get a negative print.

But one thing that’s important to remember is that there was a lot of labor involved in creating these drawings, so they couldn’t have been done casually or haphazardly. While it’s easy to pick up a can of spray paint today, it was a laborious and skilled process to create the white, black, yellow, and brown shades of color used by the artists. There was experimentation to create the colors. grinding, mixing, and then transportation of all of the colors to the spot where the drawings were made