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ANCIENT CAVE PAINTINGS

By: Will - Grade 4

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The earliest known rock paintings are dated to the Upper Paleolithic, 40,000 years ago, while the earliest European cave paintings date to 32,000 years ago. The purpose of the cave paintings is not known, and may never be. Evidence suggests that they weren't merely decorations of living areas, since the caves in which they've been found don't have signs of ongoing habitation.

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Also, they are often in areas of caves that aren't easily accessed. Some theories hold that they may have been a way of transmitting information, while other theories ascribe them a religious or ceremonial purpose.

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The most common themes in cave paintings are large wild animals, such as bison, horses, aurochs, and deer, and tracings of human hands. Drawings of humans are rare and are usually schematic rather than the more naturalistic animal subjects.

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Lascaux in southwestern France, contains some of the most well-known cave art, dating back to somewhere between 15,000 and 13,000 BC. Altamira (Spanish for 'high view') in Spain features drawings and polychrome rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands. It is located near the town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, Spain.

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At Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg, South Africa, now thought to be some 3,000 years old, the paintings by the San people who settled in the area some 8,000 years ago depict animals and humans, and are thought to represent religious beliefs.

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Tibetan Sand Painting

By: Amanda - Grade 6

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Tibetan Buddhist sand paintings are usually made of mandalas. In Tibetan, it is called dul-tson-kyil-khor ("mandala of colored powders").

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The sand is carefully placed on a large, flat table. The construction process takes several days, and the mandala is destroyed shortly after its completion. This is done as a metaphor for the impermanence of life.

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The mandala sand painting process begins with an opening ceremony, during which the lamas, or Tibetan priests, consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music, and mantra recitation.

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On the first day, the lamas begin by drawing an outline of the mandala to be painted on a wooden platform. The following days see the laying of the colored sands, which is effected by pouring the sand from traditional metal funnels called chak-pur. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its serrated surface; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid.

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Mandalas are formed of a traditional iconography that includes geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols, seed syllables, and mantra. Mandalas are seen as sacred places which, by their very presence in the world, remind a viewer of the immanence of sanctity in the Universe. The Buddhist purpose of a mandala is to put an end to human suffering, attain enlightenment and to attain a correct view of reality.

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Native American Dream Catchers

By: Veronica - Grade 4

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In Ojibwa (Chippewa) culture, a dreamcatcher (asabikeshiinh, the inanimate form of the word for "spider") is a handmade object based on a willow hoop, on which is woven a loose net or web. The dream catcher is then decorated with personal and sacred items such as feathers and beads.

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While dream catchers originated in the Ojibwa Nation, they were later adopted a number of different Nations. They came to be seen by some as a symbol of unity, and as a general symbol of identification with Native American cultures.

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One element of Native American dream catcher relates to the tradition of the hoop, which is held in the highest esteem, because it symbolized strength and unity.

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Traditionally, the Ojibwa construct dream catchers by tying sinew strands in a web around a small round or tear-shaped frame. The resulting "dream-catcher", hung above the bed, is then used as a charm to protect sleeping children from nightmares.

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Dream catchers are one of the most fascinating traditions of Native Americans. The traditional dream catcher was intended to protect the sleeping individual from negative dreams, while letting positive dreams through. The positive dreams would slip through the hole in the center of the dream catcher, and glide down the feathers to the sleeping person below. The negative dreams would get caught up in the web, and expire when the first rays of the sun struck them.

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African Kente Cloth

By: Paola – Grade 4

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Kente cloth, known locally as nwentoma, is a type of fabric made of interwoven woven cloth strips and is native to the country of Ghana, where it was first developed in the 12th century.

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The "kente cloth" is of the Ashanti people. It is a royal and sacred cloth worn only in times of extreme importance. Kente was the cloth of kings. Over time, the use of Kente became more widespread, however its importance has remained and it is held in high esteem in the Akan family and the entire country of Ghana.

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In Ghana, Kente is made by the Ashanti people and is the best known of all African textiles. Kente comes from the word kenten, which means "basket." The Asante peoples also refer to kente as nwentoma or "woven cloth."

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The icon of African cultural heritage around the world, Asante kente is identified by its dazzling, multicolored patterns of bright colors, geometric shapes and bold designs. Kente characterized by weft designs woven into every available block of plain weave is called adweneasa. The Asante peoples of Ghana choose kente cloths as much for their names as their colors and patterns.

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Although the cloths are identified primarily by the patterns found in the lengthwise (warp) threads, there is often little correlation between appearance and name. Names are derived from several sources, including proverbs, historical events, important chiefs, queen mothers, and plants.

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Machu Picchu ("Old Peak") is a pre-Columbian Inca site located at 7,970 ft above sea level on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru.

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Often referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas", Machu Picchu is probably the most familiar symbol of the Inca Empire. It was built around the year 1450 and abandoned a hundred years later, at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Forgotten for centuries, it was brought to worldwide attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American historian.

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Machu Picchu was built in a classic Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls. The Incas were masters of this technique, called ashlar, in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. Many junctions in the central city are so perfect that not even a knife fits between the stones.

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The Incas never used the wheel in any practical manner. How they moved and placed enormous blocks of stones is a mystery, although the general belief is that they used hundreds of men to push the stones up inclined planes.

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The space is composed of 140 constructions including temples, sanctuaries, parks and residences. There are more than one hundred flights of stone steps – often completely carved from a single block of granite – and a great number of water fountains, interconnected by channels and water-drainages perforated in the rock, designed for the original irrigation system.

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New Zealand Maori Art

By: Kaitlyn – Grade 3

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Māori culture is a distinctive part of New Zealand culture. With the growth of tourism and exposure of haka to international audiences on TV and at sporting competitions, Māori culture that was previously observed only in social gatherings with a significant Māori aspect, is increasingly seen as fundamental to New Zealand culture as a whole.

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The art of the Maori has its roots in Polynesia, but the trunk and branches of the tree are in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Maori art reflects the environment of land, forest, and mountains.

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Maori art is an expression of the unity of all things in the world. In the beginning there was Te Kore (nothingness) out of this came Ranginui (the sky) and Papatuanuku (the earth). Their children, the gods were Tane, god of forests; Tangaroa, god of the sea; Tawhirimatea, god of winds; Tumatuenga, god of war and men.

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Hei-tiki are usually made of pounamu (greenstone) and worn around the neck. They are often incorrectly referred to as tiki, a term that actually refers to large human figures carved in wood, and, also, small wooden carvings.

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It is sometimes assumed that every cut in a piece of Maori carving must have a meaning, but in fact probably much of it is purely decorative. It is important to note that the figures in Maori carving, with very rare exceptions, are not religious. They do not represent idols, but rather renowned ancestors of the tribe.