Natural Earth Paint through the Ages: The Prehistoric Era May 31 2017
This is the first blog post in our series of articles in which we are capturing the historical uses of Natural Earth Paints through the different eras. Enjoy!
The Prehistoric Era
Natural Earth pigments were the earliest recorded materials used by our ancient ancestors to make paint and various mediums. Prehistoric Art illustrates the earliest advances of human creativity through cave paintings, sculptures and architecture. We can see artistic practices dating as far back as 500,000 years ago implemented by Homo Erectus, our ancient ancestors.
The oldest cave painting known today is from El Castillo, in Northern Spain and stands as a symbol of our human evolution and the beginning of the natural art movement. Most people don’t realize the scale and intensity of these cave paintings but you can start to understand in the photo below of the Altamira caves. Archaeologists have discovered that the Altamira cave painters were the only ones who used powdered fossil amber as the binder for their natural paints.
Prehistoric artists used pigments that were found nearby in the Earth such as limonite and hematite (reds, orange, yellows and browns), greens from oceanic deposits, blues from crushed stones and manganese ore, charcoal from the fire and white from ground calcite or chalk.
A recent discovery of a 100,000-year-old paint-making workshop was discovered in a South African cave a few years ago. The archeologists found hundreds of pieces of red ocher stone, special ocher grinding stones and tools made from animal bones. Large abalone shells were also found in the cave, which was situated near the Indian Ocean, were used to mix the paint. The pigments were mixed with natural binders to make paint. These binders were made from vegetable juices, plant oils, urine, tree sap, animal fat, bone marrow, blood, and albumen.
The most famous cave paintings at Lascaux were studied and tested for 3 years by Claude Couraud. He discovered that the binder they used was simply cave water which was really effective because it was rich in calcium carbonate.
These natural colors from the Earth would stand the test of time even with the ever changing environment. The old masters would travel many miles in order to harvest a solid supply of Earth pigments for their creations. They were innovative, using twigs to produce drawn or linear markings, collecting feathers to unify areas of pigment and constructing brushes from horsehair for a better application of paint.
Prehistoric people illustrated their environment, lifestyle and beliefs through visual description. Today, Natural Earth Paint is devoted to utilizing our old ways of creation and continuing their journey for beauty and durability using naturally non-toxic ingredients and the most archival paint on the planet. We offer a selection of safe and professional quality natural Earth paints as an acknowledgement to all the ancient seeking painters who came before us and started an artistic revolution that should never be forgotten.
Written By: Taylor Ann Hansen