Handprints at the El Castillo cave in Spain, where paintings have been dated to as far back as 40,800 years ago.
"It is clear that skill in art, beginning with body adornment, was a precondition of human progress, including the production of tools and the forming of successful societies. Art came before everything. It certainly came before writing--a comparatively recent development; all forms of writing originally evolved from pictograms. It almost certainly came before speech, at least forms of speech expressing notions which were at all complex. By learning to record visible objects, and express ideas, by engraving or painting on relatively flat, two-dimensional surfaces, humans produced visual aids to such speech noises as they were originally able to make; these aids in time were reflected in refinements in speech noises, expansion of vocabulary, and the evolution of syntax. The evolving genetic coding which made humans rationalize themselves into art was the same force which produced rational speech noises, so that the two processes were intimately connected from the start."
Paul Johnson, Art: A New History
Thinking about this startling passage, reminded me of this: Tai, the elephant featured in the Water for Elephants film, painting, as shown in the video (you have to go through it aways).
And it also makes me wonder if painting and playing with crayons on plain or colored paper (not coloring books) is important to a child's mental development and ability to express themselves in language, not just on the paper itself.
I remember when I had just turned four years old and put some spring green and black and white crayon marks on a piece of paper. I was extremely proud, because I felt the colors captured the image of cows in a field. My mother disagreed and said these markings did not look like cows, because they were not in the shape of cows. I was chagrined. I have no idea of the effect of this experience on my mental life, but its significance, at least, was such that I never forgot it. Perhaps it was the first time I felt that I had truly drawn more than a meaningless scribble. But the question still stands, do the endeavors to represent real objects in drawing help develop a child's thinking capacity and increase their abilities in language?