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Jah's Mural

Subject: Art, History
Grade: 6-8, 9-12

Brief Description

Students complete a problem-based social science lesson that will help them learn more about ancient Europe while they work in groups to construct their own knowledge.


Students will

  • Learn about the role of Grimaldi or Cro-Magnon people in ancient France.
  • Create a mural, a diorama, or another project that will depict animal life in the Paleolithic period.
  • Analyze information about the Paleolithic period, and illustrate how the Grimaldi people recorded their history in the caves of France.


Paleolithic, Cro-Magnon, shaman, artisan, Lascaux, cave paintings, Grimaldi, prehistoric, ancient

Materials Needed

pen, paper, shoe boxes, construction paper, transparencies

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students look for a solution to a problem associated with the Grimaldi people.

  • Open the lesson by asking students to explain how we record history today.
  • Next, show students pictures of the cave art created by the Grimaldi people in the caves of ancient Europe. Some possible resources include Visit the Cave, Cave Paintings, and The Cave at Lascaux.
  • Explain to students that in ancient times, the people of Paleolithic Europe used caves as religious sanctuaries and places to document their culture and important historical events.
  • Share with students the "Problem Statement" [see below]. Explain that they will work in groups to solve the problem. They will use print and electronic resources to define terms they don't understand in the statement, determine the size of each animal represented in Jah's proposed mural, and predict how many animals might fit in the area available to Jah. They make reports defending why or why not they would include particular animals in Jah's mural. The report should also tell us how people in Paleolithic Europe lived.
  • Challenge students to make dioramas or drawings showing how Jah's mural might look.
  • Students will present oral reports, using at least two overhead transparencies, to share their research with the class.

The Problem Statement
During the Paleolithic period, early humans traveled great distances in search of metals, fine stone to work, and wild game to eat. Around 18,000 years ago, Kinte Jah, leader of the Grimaldi tribe of Spain, had recently arrived in France. He had gone to France in search of valuable trade goods he might sell at home. The Spaniard was a skilled artisan and hunter. As leader of the tribe, he was also its shaman.

In Spain, Jah had sculpted many Venus statuettes. The Grimaldi, or Cro-Magnon, people regarded the Venus statuettes as fertility symbols. After trekking across much of southern France, Jah found large game animals at Lascaux. There he found abundant game, including reindeer, horses, and cattle. To celebrate their good fortune, Jah and his companions decided to record their good luck by painting a mural in a nearby cave.

Other artists had already left drawings in the Lascaux Cave. There was 17 feet of empty space situated 5 feet aboveground in a dark part of the cave. In addition, there were no large boulders Jah and his companions could stand on to paint the wildlife mural in that part of the cave.

Jah had two problems:

  • Determining the number of life-size animals he could paint in the available area.
  • Devising how to paint a wildlife scene in such a dark part of the cave, 5 feet above the cave's surface.

Working in groups of four, students design the mural Jah might have painted in the Lascaux Cave. Murals can be made inside shoeboxex or drawn on construction paper. In preparing thier projects, students should describe and explain the steps they would follow to make the mural a success. Research that includes print and electronic resources should lead to pictures or dioramas of the scene and written and oral reports.


Observe students as they work in groups to solve the problem. Grade students on how well they perform the varied tasks associated with the projects. After completing their projects, students should be able to summarize how people lived in prehistoric Europe and demonstrate how they would solve Jah's problem. The work associated with the project should be documented in their portfolios.

Submitted By

Clyde Winters

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