Bison from the Altamira cave ceiling, 14,000 years old
There isn't real agreement between the experts about what cave paintings mean. Evidence suggests that they were not merely decorations of living areas, since the caves in which they have been found do not have signs of ongoing habitation. Additionally, the paintings are often in areas of caves that are not easily accessed.
Adept - Joy of the Mundane, 2008
Graffiti also isn't merely decoration, since most street art has a message whether it's "I was here" or "See what a great artist I am?" Graffiti is also often in areas of the city that are not easily accessed and generally not habitable (Not by people who have other places to habitate, at least).
Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh, India, 9,000 years old
Like the nameless cave men and women who created the ancient works of art, most graffiti artists get no recognition. Worse yet, their artwork is often considered vandalism which can result in its destruction or erasure. As a result, street art is often only seen by other graffiti artists.
Imparting Evil - Sara Duane, 2010
Like cave paintings, graffiti of human forms are rare and usually don't look realistic (not to say that there aren't great realistic graffiti artists). One theory goes that cave paintings had religious connotations, that drawing people was taboo and the depicted figures held a sort of magic. Similarly, once a piece of street art has been finished, they are often left alone and in some ways revered. It is a major faux pas among the artists to cover another artist's work. Some pieces of Twin Cities street art have been around for years.
Spotted hyena painting in the Chauvet Cave, 30,000 years old
Though they look faded now, cave paintings were once vibrant and bright like modern graffiti. Cave painters had a wide range of artistic skill and were varied in age like modern-day street artists. Cave paintings communicate valuable insight into the culture and beliefs of their era, as graffiti art lends similar insights to modern day life.
Cheetah by Broken Crow - Joy of the Mundane, 2008
Cave paintings are thought to be brilliant by some, simplistic by others. Graffiti is viewed in a similar manner - some see graffiti as vandalism while others see it as a raw and honest form of art. You can tell what category this girl is in.
Bonus Street Art and Prehistoric Art Comparison
In the stone age and the modern age, women are a common artistic subject.
Venus of Willendorf, 24,000 years old
Black & White Figure - Joy of the Mundane, 2008
Sara Duane-Gladden is a freelance writer and photographer in the Twin Cities area of the great state of Minnesota.