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Just watched a few documentaries about cave paintings. While I acknowledge the importance of discovery, I can't help but question one simple thing - why are there so few paintings in those caves? Paintings ranging from 40K to 20K years old, placed a few feet apart. Does this mean the cave was occupied by countless generations of people, who all kept on painting? Shouldn't literally every inch of the wall surface be covered in paintings after that many years? Even if one person discovered how to paint say "negative hands", wouldn't that person paint hundreds of them all over the place, considering that painting must have been among the few available free time activities?

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    the problem with cave paintings is that really, we know almost nothing about the people, why they painted the caves in the first place, ect. another issue is that they are also guessing at the ages of the paintings, they go in and say, hrm well we found a spear head from x years ago, and we found a pot shard for y years ago, 2 different styles of painting, must be from x and y years ago. that leads to very little facts about the paintings, and largely just hypothesis about them. – Himarm Feb 9 '15 at 20:50
  • Caves themselves are not so common - Here in Ontario, for example, I would have to drive a considerable distance to find any good ones worth spelunking in. – Pieter Geerkens Feb 9 '15 at 22:35
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    Cave paintings were done with extremely base materials, and not designed for lasting long. Most shallow caves would lose the painting pretty quickly. What have been found are those in caves deep enough to be isolated from the external weather (and probably who were not occupied later by animals); and even those have a problem dealing with the disturbances that human visitors cause (v.g., highest humidity due to breathing). For example, visits to Altamira Caves are highly restricted. – SJuan76 Feb 10 '15 at 0:23
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    Perhaps cave painting was not a primary or widespread occupation of people in those days. (What percentage of modern people are spelunkers?) – jamesqf Feb 10 '15 at 0:31
  • I don't see how this involves factual history. Questions soliciting opinions or theories on unknown phenomena are not on-topic. – Tyler Durden Feb 10 '15 at 0:46