Inspired by Pre-History Cave Art

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Inspired by Pre-History Cave Art

A visit to the Grotte Chavet 2 in southern France led to this leather tooling pattern project,  inspired by some of the best preserved cave paintings in the world.The paintings and archaeological finds date back over 30,000 years and were preserved by a rockfall. Today you can see them up close by visiting an astounding large and accurate replica cave 'Chavet 2'.

Cave paintings long eared owl

The first template is inspired by the running lions and horses paintings. These are show either side of a rock buttress giving the impression the lions are chasing after the other animals. They are shaded around the back area and muzzles to give more definition. This can be achieved in the leather with a beveller or by colouring.

Cave painting animal depictions Grotte Chavet

ANIMAL DEPICTIONS There are over 900 paintings in the cave, giving us a clear window into the animals that were around at the time. From the paintings and animal remains found, it is possible to identify bears, mammoths and rhinos. Horses, bison, ibex, reindeer, red deer, aurochs, Megaceros deer, musk-oxen, panther, and owl are also represented.

The paintings are found deep in the cavern and would are thought to be made by only a few artists. They would have worked by torchlight and the soot from the torches is still visible in places on the cave wall. They were drawn with charcoal sticks and coloured with clay and earth pigments rubbed in to create shade and texture. Notice how the lions are drawn to show perspective as though they are running together.

Reverse clay hand print on cave wall Grotte Chavet

Nearer the entrance the first paintings appear to be made by the heel of a hand covered in red clay and pressed in to the wall to make animal shapes. The fingers make eyelashes. This hand print is in negative, thought to be made by make a liquid paste of clay and blowing through a wood pipe to spray paint the rock. They are thought to be work of one artist, easily identified by the crooked bend in the little finger.

Long eared owl finger carving

OWL ENGRAVING The second template was inspired by drawing of an owl was made by fingers dragged through the wet clay walls of the cave. The atmospheric conditions due to the rockfall preserved the moisture and kept this astonishing image from drying out.

Many of the paintings are drawn to sit in to the shapes of the rock formations. The owl seen here shows the artist has drawn it to appear sitting on a branch.

These pictures show the oldest known image of an owl. It's actually the only known example of an owl in Paleolithic art. It is an engraving rather than a painting, of what has been identified as a great horned owl, and is situated on an overhanging rock next to the image of a horse. It's described as "a finger tracing of an owl in the soft outer layer of the cave wall." One description interprets the image as an owl looking backwards over its back. This engraved owl dates to sometime between 32,000 and 35,000 years ago.

To download the project templates and instructions - click here

To shop tools and leather - click here


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