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The History of Drawing

What would you draw or write if you were given a piece of paper and a pencil?

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Make sure you understand these words before you read the text. Use the dictionary in the link collection to look up new words:

  1. image
  2. skill
  3. improve
  4. artist
  5. sketch
  6. preparatory
  7. create
  8. event
  9. carving
  10. depict
  11. moose
  12. hunting
  13. sign
  14. contemporary

The history of drawing


The History of Drawing

What is Drawing

Drawing is not only an art but also the recording of a visual image on paper. It isn't easy, but drawing skills improve with constant practice. Many experienced artists have the habit of sketching whenever something, a movement or a small detail, catches their eyes. Sculptors and painters use drawings as preparatory studies for their works of art. Architects and engineers make drawings for technical purposes.

Rock carving

Looking Back

The history of drawing is as old as the history of humans. Long before people invented writing, they painted pictures on cliffs or on the walls of their caves to express themselves. We don't know whether the cave artists created their pictures and symbols to express their artistic senses, or whether they wished to communicate messages. Most likely, the cave painters combined pictures, symbols and signs to express thoughts and feelings and to record important events.


The rock carvings found on cliffs in Norway date from the end of the Stone Age (4000-5000 years ago) to the end of the Bronze Age (about 2500 years ago). The oldest carvings often depict images of animals such as moose, reindeer, fish and birds. Anthropologists believe that the images symbolise hunting and the culture of the hunters during the Stone Age. Very few of these images show humans.

Signs and symbols like those found in the caves and rock markings are called "proto-writing" or pictograms. Endless varieties of proto-writing or pictograms exist, and have been created by people during all stages of human history.

When Norway hosted the Winter Olympics in 1994, the organisers chose pictograms inspired by rock carvings to symbolise the various types of sports represented at the Olympics.
In our own age, road signs, diagrams, instructions of all kinds exemplify contemporary versions of proto-writing or pictograms.

Tasks and Activities

Pair Work

The picture above shows a collection of pictograms from Vancouver International Airport. Can you suggest what they are symbols for? Discuss with a partner and note down your conclusions and then compare with others in the class.


Use the dictionary at the top of the page to translate the following words into Norwegian.

carving, cave, cliff, contemporary (adj), depict, exemplify, express (v), image, preparatory, sculptor


Use Google to search for some examples of rock carvings in Norway and around the world. Find out how old they are and what they represent.

Sist oppdatert 03.03.2017
Tekst: Anne Scott Hagen (CC BY-SA)
Rettighetshaver: NKI Forlaget


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