2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 30
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


BATTLES, Denise A., Department of Geology and Geography, Georgia Southern Univ, P.O. Box 8149, Statesboro, GA 30460 and HUDAK, Jane Rhoades, Department of Art, Georgia Southern Univ, P.O. Box 8032, Statesboro, GA 30460, dbattles@gasou.edu

The teaching of geology in conjunction with art is an appealing approach to non-majors science instruction. An introductory-level course, "Art and Geology," has been developed as a means of allowing students to explore the unexpected connections between these two disciplines. The course is organized into distinct modules which provide an overview of fundamental geologic and art concepts. The format is non-traditional and highly interactive, integrating content learning with hands-on activities. Classes meet in two-hour-long blocks, a structure conducive to incorporating significant student activities.

The topic of European ice age cave art is well-suited for launching this course and constitutes the first thematic module, occurring over two class meetings. In preparation for the first one, students are assigned readings that provide background on ice ages, Cro-Magnon art, European cave art, and the origins of human creativity. They also explore the excellent official websites for Lascaux and Chauvet caves, which include image-rich virtual tours and information on age, setting, and significance of the decorated sites. The session begins with an overview of relevant geologic and art concepts and leads into a discussion of the reading and web materials. A discussion of the origin of caves is supported by the investigation of calcite's reaction in dilute acid. Mineral properties of hardness and streak are examined in the context of earth materials used in cave paintings. Absolute and relative dating techniques are considered, as are issues of preservation of ancient materials, the incomplete nature of the geologic record, and human evolution. A provocative case study is presented in order to illustrate the scientific method; in small groups, students consider the "problem" and develop hypotheses and possible tests.

The next session focuses on art. To prepare, students are given instructions on collecting and creating natural pigments and then develop their own from local earth materials, such as red clay. They bring these to class, along with natural "brushes" and rocks large enough to paint. With cave art images as their inspiration, students create, both individually and in groups, naturalistic and symbolic art on simulated cave surfaces, using multiple techniques consistent with those of actual cave paintings.