Cave painting: Altamira
Image of a bison in the cave at Altamira, Northern Spain. According to most recent research results, the paintings are up to 40,000 years old.
Rameessos / Wikimedia Commons


Spraying, tatooing, drawing

If the earliest cave paintings emerged in the region at least 40,800 years ago, this would support the notion that rock painting began about 41,500 years ago with the arrival of Homo sapiens in Western Europe and that decorating caves was part of their cultural repertoire.

Alistair Pike, archaeologist talking about cave paintings in northern Spain

Like thousands of years ago, people also mark their living environment using symbols today. Stone-Age rock paintings and large city graffiti are both expressions of this impulse. A desire that human beings have had since time immemorial to make their mark on the world and leave traces of their life behind. People in the Stone Age already used spray techniques on the walls of caves. Their fixed association with a certain location and extreme durability set these drawings apart from markings on the human body. Tattoos express the personal roles and identities of people and, once the person whose skin bears them dies, the tattoos also cease to exist.

Stone Age hunter-gatherers used pigments to apply their personal markings which Nature conveniently provided in hand-sized pieces. In our times, technology has come to dominate this area.