From the moment in 1879 that cave paintings were discovered at Altamira , scholars wondered why the hunters of the Old Stone Age decided to cover the walls of dark caverns with animal images like those found at Altamira, Pech-Merle, Lascaux and Vallon Pont D’Arc.
Scholars have proposed various theories including that the painted and engraved animals were mere decoration, but this explanations cannot account for the narrow range of subjects or the inaccessibility of many of the representations.
In fact, the remoteness and difficulty of access of many of the images and indications that the caves were used for centuries, are precisely why many researchers have suggested that the prehistoric hunters attributes magical properties the images they painted and sculpted.
According to this argument by confining animals to the surfaces of their cave walls, the Paleolithic hunters believed they were bringing the beats under their control. Some prehistorians have even hypothesized that rituals or dances were performed in front of the images and that these rites served to improve the hunters luck.
Still others have stated that the animals representations may have served as teaching tools to instruct new hunters about the character of the various species they would encounter or even serve as target for spears.
In contrast, some scholars have argued that the magical purpose of the painting and relief was not to facilitate the destruction of bison and other species.
Instead, they believe prehistoric painters and sculptors created animals images to assure the approval of the herds on which Paleolithic peoples depend for their food supply and for their clothing.
A central problem, that seem to have been diet staples of Old Stone Age peoples are not those most frequently portrayed.
Other scholars have sought to reconstruct an elaborate mythology based on the cave paintings and sculptures suggesting that Paleolithic humans belived they had animal ancestors.
Art in the Old Stone Age