Prehistoric Art In Punch Cartoons, 1894-1984

Gregory John Michaelson* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

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Studying cartoons offers insights into popular perceptions and stereotypes of disciplines. The professionalisation of archaeology in the 19th and 20th centuries was paralleled by the development of cartoons involving prehistory. An investigation of Punch located over 600 cartoons, including 43 treating of palaeolithic art.

Painted representations of large mammals, and of hunting, predominate. Broad correspondences with known prehistoric, and wider parietal, art contrast markedly with caricatures of peoples and cultures. There is little awareness of debates around palaeolithic art, or suggestion that it might be religious, ritual, magical or liminal, though eroticism is a minor theme.

In cartoons, sensibilities are modern. Palaeolithic art is typically shown in an artist’s studio, art gallery, or domestic setting. It is made by male artists, and subject to critical appraisal, or by children, and hence primitive. As in wider contemporary presentations of prehistory, women are absent, or subordinate, here as art consumers or subjects.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2022
EventNorthern Palaeolithic and Evolutionary Anthropology Conference - Durham, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Apr 20229 Apr 2022


ConferenceNorthern Palaeolithic and Evolutionary Anthropology Conference
Abbreviated titleNOPE 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • cartoons
  • prehistoric art
  • Punch


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