Prehistoric period :- Races and culture
The distant past when there was no paper or language or the written word, and hence no books or written document, is called as the Prehistoric period. It was difficult to understand how Prehistoric people lived until scholars began excavations in Prehistoric sites.Piecing together of information deduced from old tools, habitat, bones of both animals and human beings and drawings on the cave walls scholars have constructed fairly accurate knowledge about what happened and how people lived in prehistoric times.Paintings and drawings were the oldest art forms practiced by human beings to express themselves using the cave wall as their canvas.
The drawings and paintings can be catagorised into seven historical periods. Period I, Upper Palaeolithic; Period II, Mesolithic; and Period III, Chalcolithic. After Period III there are four successive periods. But we will confine ourselves here only to the first three phases. Prehistoric Era art denotes the art (mainly rock paintings) during Paleolithic Age, Mesolithic Age and Chalcolithic Age.
Paleolithic Age Art
The prehistoric period in the early development of human beings is commonly known as the ‘Old Stone Age’ or ‘Palaeolithic Age’.
We did not get any evidence of paintings from lower or middle paleolithic age yet. In the Upper Palaeolithic period, we see a proliferation of artistic activities. Subjects of early works confined to simple human figures, human activities, geometric designs, and symbols. First discovery of rock paintings in the world was made in India (1867-68) by an Archaeologist, Archibold Carlleyle, twelve years before the discovery of Altamira in Spain (site of oldest rock paintings in the world). In India, remnants of rock paintings have been found on the walls of caves situated in several districts of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Bihar, and Uttarakhand. Some of the examples of sites early rock paintings are Lakhudiyar in Uttarakhand, Kupgallu in Telangana, Piklihal and Tekkalkotta in Karnataka, Bhimbetka and Jogimara in Madhya Pradesh etc. Paintings found here can be divided into three categories: Man, Animal, and Geometric symbols.
Mesolithic period Art:
- The largest number of paintings belongs to this period.
- Themes multiply but the paintings are small in size.
- Hunting scenes predominate
- Hunters in groups armed with barbed spears pointed sticks, arrows, and bows.
- Trap and snares used to catch animals can be seen in some paintings.
- Mesolithic people loved to point animals.
- In some pictures, animals are chasing men and in others, they are being chased by hunter men.
- Animals painted in a naturalistic style and humans were depicted in a stylistic manner.
- Women are painted both in nude and clothed.
- Young and old equally find places in paintings.
- Community dances provide a common theme.
- Sort of family life can be seen in some paintings (woman, man, and children).
Chalcolithic period Art:
- Copper age art.
- The paintings of this period reveal the association, contact and mutual exchange of requirements of the cave dwellers of this area with settled agricultural communities of the Malwa Plateau.
- Pottery and metal tools can be seen in paintings.
- Similarities with rock paintings: Common motifs (designs/patterns like cross-hatched squares, lattices etc)
- The difference with rock paintings: Vividness and vitality of older periods disappear from these paintings.
Some of the general features of Prehistoric paintings
- Used colours, including various shades of white, yellow, orange, red ochre, purple, brown, green and black.
- But white and red were their favourite.
- The paints used by these people were made by grinding various coloured rocks.
- They got red from haematite (Geru in India).
- Green prepared from a green coloured rock called Chalcedony.
- White was probably from Limestone.
- Some sticky substances such as animal fat or gum or resin from trees may be used while mixing rock powder with water.
- Brushes were made of plant fiber.
- It is believed that these colours remained thousands of years because of the chemical reaction of the oxide present on the surface of rocks.
- Paintings were found both from occupied and unoccupied caves.
- It means that these paintings were sometimes used also as some sort of signals, warnings etc.
- Many rock art sites of the new painting are painted on top of an older painting.
- In Bhimbetka, we can see nearly 20 layers of paintings, one on top of another.
- It shows the gradual development of the human being from period to period.
- The symbolism is inspiration from nature along with slight spirituality.
- Expression of ideas through very few drawings (representation of men by the stick like drawings).
- Use of many geometrical patterns.
- Scenes were mainly hunting and economic and social life of people.
- The figure of flora, fauna, human, mythical creatures, carts, chariots etc can be seen.
- More importance for red and white colours.