Skip to content

The Mind in the Cave

14 November 2019

Experimental archaeology helps solve the mystery of making cave painting at Being Human Festival

Millennia-old, cave painting may be one of the earliest and most mysterious forms of art, but how was it made by our prehistoric ancestors in the deepest darkest caverns?

Exploring this blindfold will be lucky participants taking part in The Mind in the Cave at three UK locations as part of the Being Human Festival in November.

In hands-on sessions devised by Cardiff University academics and the artist Paul Evans, participants will use charcoal and other materials available tens of thousands of years ago.

The aim is to compare line quality and form with original cave paintings. Did the ancient cave artists make their art from memory or did they use observational sketches?  How and where did they practice?

The sessions take place at National Trust properties in Wales and Weston Park Museum in Sheffield.

Professor of Bioarchaeology Jacqui Mulville, who originated Guerrilla Archaeology, said:

“Using the same biological mechanisms - eyes and hands and brains - as our ancient ancestors, The Mind in the Cave will offer an innovative and new experimental viewpoint that promises to re-discover the secrets behind the inspiration and methodologies that led to the creation of these extraordinary images. Exploring both abstract and figurative images the Mind in the Cave will offer new ‘lines of enquiry' in the truest sense.”

Each event will have a two-stage experimental drawing workshop for participants led by artist, addressing abstract and representational forms found in ancient cave art.

Participants will create blindfold drawings to induce ‘entoptic phenomena’ – the mysterious shapes and forms that we see in the darkness when our eyelids are shut – and drawings of animals from memory.

Mind in the Cave takes place at Weston Park Museum, Sheffield on Saturday 16th November (11am-4pm),  Dinefwr Park, Carmarthenshire Sunday 17 November (11am-3pm) and Dyffryn Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan on Saturday 23rd November (11-4pm). Sessions are free but entry fees may apply.

Follow #MindInTheCave19 for latest updates.

Being Human is the UK’s national festival of the humanities. The 2019 festival (14 - 23 November) also features this year’s ten New Generation Thinkers including historian Dr Emily Cock from the School of History, Archaeology and Religion.

Share this story