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Appreciate the enormous span of time represented by the prehistoric period (the longest period in art's history).
Recognize that many of the works of art probably were thought to have some kind of magical power in the affairs of humanity and the cosmos.
Learn of the divisions into which historians have placed the flow of time in the prehistoric period.
Gain an understanding of the stylistic changes that accompanied the transition from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic period.
Grasp the fundamentals of the techniques involved in early art production
Otherwise known as Old Stone Age, the Paleolithic period marked the development of the human species. Prehistory is considered the period that includes ALL human existence before the emergence of writing. Art is only one clue to understanding Early Human life and culture and is of interest to not only art historians but also archeologist and anthropologist - Art along with fossils, pollens, and other finds - help us understand early human life and culture. Because so few items cover SUCH a large period of time, the study of prehistoric art is a very speculative area of art history. These people were nomadic (meaning they moved around a lot) people who were hunters and gatherers. They “hung out” in caves with their stone tools and sometimes they even decorated their surroundings with cave paintings and rock carvings.
Paleolithic art (Old Stone Age) (Paleo =old + lithic =stone) (35,000-10,000 B.C.)
There is much that is still unknown about the purposes of these paintings but most scholars believe they were used as part of ceremonies and rituals before hunting and/or in initiation rites for young men.
It seems clear from their locations deep in the caves--often in areas difficult to access--that they were not intended as art for art's sake.
1-4. Hall of Bulls, Lescaux, France, 15, 000 –13,000 B.C. http://departments.ozarks.edu/hfa/slgorman/HIstudyaids.htm#chap1paleo
Subjects: primarily animals (rhinos, felines, bison, horses, bear, ibex, reindeer, auroch, mammoths; signs human representation is rare--negative and positive hand prints, half animal/half human figures Techniques: dirt pigments combined with animal fat sprayed or brushed on figures outlined or modeled with pigment; perspective (twisted or composite) and frontal views; no ground line or landscape. http://www.rose.edu/faculty/nmiller/Svy1/Svy1wk1.html 1-2 Dead Bison , Altimira, Spain. 14,000 –12,000 B.C. 1-7 Rhinocerous, wounded man, and disemboweled bison , Lescaux, 15000- 13,000 B.C.
There is no evidence to suggest these images were narrative (tell stories), since the images were painted in random order, and many times superimposed one over the other. The animals convey no sense of movement (like running or walking), even though you see four legs. This was more to describe the animal more accurately. You can note that the images also show two horns on the bulls or goats, even though the body is in strict profile. 1-11 Two Bison, clay relief at Le Tuc d’Audoubert, 12,000 B.C. http://www.rose.edu/faculty/nmiller/Svy1/Svy1wk1.html
Title: Spotted Horses and Human Hands Date: Horses 25,000–24,000 BCE; hands c 15,000 BCE Medium: Paint on limestone Size: individual horses are over 5' (1.5 m) in length. Source/Museum: Pech-Merle Cave, Dordogne, France
Many of them make artistic use of color and texture, using the natural contours of the rocks to suggest the shapes and curves of the animal's body and create surprisingly “naturalistic” drawings There is a close relationship between animal and man in these early cultures and killing an animal sees often to have been a ritual act. It is a relationship of reverence that is far different from our relationship with animals today. Killing, then, becomes not simply slaughter but a recognition of your dependency on the voluntary giving of this food to you by the animal who has given its life. The hunt is a ritual. Central focus was on the hunt, with the clan moving from place to place (nomadic) with changing climate, seasons, and availability of animals and food sources . 1-1 Bison ceiling, Altimira, Spain 1-4. Hall of Bulls, Lescaux, France, 15, 000 –13,000 B.C. http://departments.ozarks.edu/hfa/slgorman/HIstudyaids.htm#chap1prehist
1-12 Bison with turned head , incised bone, from La Madeleine, Dordogne, France, 12,000 B.C. 1-5 Chinese Horse c. 15,000-10,000 BC Lascaux, France http://www.rose.edu/faculty/nmiller/TV1103/TVwk1.html
Sculpture found is in relief and in-the-round. It was small enough to carry in a pouch or your hand. Possibility the animals functioned as totems, while the female figures (no male figures have been found) were fertility symbols. They are called "venus" figures, but their symbolism was different from the Greek goddess of love. They are considered to be an expression of sexual power and childbirth (mother-earth symbol). 1-8 Venus of Willendorf , c. 28,000-23,000 B.C. The Lady of Brassempouy Carved in ivory. Size: 1 1/2 inches Brassempouy, France, 22,000-20,000 B.C. http://www.rose.edu/faculty/nmiller/TV1103/TVwk1.html 3-4 inches = meant to be portable The “so-called” Venus of Willendorf, was found in 1908 by the archaeologist Josef Szombathy near the town of Willendorf Austria .
“ Venus” – the ideal woman Venus de Milo , 130-120 BC, marble, 6 ½ ft, Ancient Greece The Birth of Venus , Sandro Botticelli, 1485, oil on canvas
Today’s ideal woman? If the Venus of Willendorf was discovered today, do you think she would have wound up with the same name?
Traditionally architecture has been a term applied to the enclosure of spaces with at least some aesthetic intent.
During the upper Paleolithic period huts and shelters were created. Because, the building of even the simplest of structures requires some imagination and planning, these structures are considered architecture.
There are even examples of some shelters that were far more complex than a simple hut. Some were constructed with branches and hides, some had floor that were colored with natural colorants and there are some well preserved examples of dwellings in Russia and Ukraine regions that were constructed using woolly mammoth bones as a base and there were believed animal hides protecting the outer layer.
Neolithic Art (New Stone Age) 8000 - 3000 BC Otherwise known as New Stone Age, the Neolithic period was a time when people were living in real village-like settings, with farms including animals (now domesticated), crops (grains and eventually rice) and even items that we consider art. (These people are still, essentially hunters and gatherers). Things like pottery and woven items were typical creations of the people of this time period. Functional art you might say. The melting of glaciers of the Ice Age is beginning to have profound changes ALTHOUGH these changes occur VERY slowly. This change did not occur overnight and at the same time for different groups of people, but gradually over thousands of years.
Architecture Neolithic people began to build structures to serve as dwellings and storage spaces, they also used this area as an area to keep their animals. Neolithic people, like their Paleolithic predecessors, continued to construct buildings out of wood and other plant materials. People clustered their dwellings in villages and eventually larger towns, and outside their settlements, they built tombs and ritual centers. Around 4,000 BC, Neolithic settlers began to strategically locate settlements at sites that were easy to defend- near rivers, on plateaus, or even in swamps. The Fertile Crescent becomes the center of some of the oldest cities.
Neolithic Art in the Ancient Near East
The oldest known settled communities have been discovered in the fertile crescent in the Tigris/Euphrates river valley
In addition to agriculture these sedentary settlements also originated weaving, metal working, pottery, and counting and recording with tokens.
New sites are discovered each year but the oldest and most studied three are Jericho in the West Bank, Ain Ghazal in Jordan, and Catal Hoyuk in Anatolia
Jericho Great Stone Tower
Jericho began as a small town and then went through a period of rapid expansion around 8000BCE.
The village grew to a town that covered 10 acres.
By 7500 BCE the town was believed to have a population of over 2000 people and was surrounded by a ditch and a five foot high wall creating a total wall height of approximately 13 feet.
Attached to this wall is a round stone tower with an inner staircase leading to the summit.
Later becomes one of the first areas of plant domestication.
The plaster skulls of Jericho are believed by some archaeologists to be a form of ancestor worship. Human skulls were covered in plaster to recreate the features of the deceased person and then the skulls were kept beneath the floors of homes. This skull is one of a group of seven that were discovered in Jericho. Plaster Skull with inlaid cowrie shell eyes, Jericho, 7000 – 6000 BCE
Ain Ghazal is located near Amman, Jordan in what was ancient Palestine.
The most striking finds in Ain Ghazal are two caches of plaster statuettes and busts. These figures can be dated to the mid 7 th millennium
The figures are built of plaster which has been molded over a frame of reeds and grasses. The figures have also been finished with bitumen, a primitive form of tar, and cowry shells to create realistic eyes. Artists further finished the statues by adding painted hair, and in some cases, body paint or tattooing.
These figures differ from the Palaeolithic examples of sculpture in the sophistication of their creation and in their size, the largest figures being 3 feet in height
Human figures, from Ain Ghazal, Jordan, ca. 6750-6250 BCE. Plaster, painted and inlaid with cowry shell and bitumen, 3' 5 3/8 high
Catal Hoyuk A Town Without Streets
Catal Hoyuk was flourishing city between 7000 and 5000 BCE. Twelve levels of building have been excavated by archaeologists at the site.
Catal Hoyuk's prosperity appears to have come from a thriving trade in obsidian, a volcanic glasslike stone used in the manufacture of tools and weapons.
This town seems to be one of the first attempts at urban living. The city plans seem to be laid out in a regular pattern with one notable exception. There are no streets. All the homes in Catal Hoyuk are adjoining and have no doors. Access to the homes is from a door that also serves as a chimney on the roof.
This layout actually provided greater stability for the structures and also created an easily defensible position
Catal Huyuk 6500-5500 BCE
Catal Hoyuk A Town Without Streets
Finally, the homes in Catal Hoyuk were found to contain painted and decorated rooms. While many archaeologists have named these decorated spaces shrines, their actual function is by no means certain.
These rooms display wall paintings, plaster reliefs, animal heads and bucrania, bull skulls.
Bull Horns, believed to be a symbol of male potency are prominently displayed in these rooms, often next to plaster breasts, symbols of female fertility
The rooms also contain small terra cotta figurines, the largest being about 12 inches in length
Landscape with volcanic eruption(?),wall painting from Level VII, Çatal Höyük, Turkey, ca. 6150 BCE
Neolithic art (New Stone Age--(6,000-1,500 B.C.)
Human beings learned to manipulate nature, they invented agriculture, which allowed production of a food surplus which allowed human to begin to live in such fixed village settlements.
Western Europe’s Megaliths and Henges
In Western Europe there are no town sites that parallel the activity seen in the Near East. However as early as 4000 BCE these cultures developed a type of massive architecture using huge rough hewn stones, some weighing 50 tons and standing 17 feet high.
The sheer size of the stones have caused archaeologists to name then megaliths and the cultures who erected them as megalithic.
While megaliths are common throughout modern Europe, the arrangement of the stones into a circle surrounded by a ditch seems to be exclusive to the British Iles
The most famous of these British henges is of course Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain.
http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/m/megaliths.html Post and lintel construction Passage graves have corridors built with Series of “dolmens” made of large stone slabs. These constructions were covered with earth to create a mound
It took mathematical calculations to align the major heel stone with the rising of the sun on Mid-Summer's Eve (Summer Solstice), and setting of the sun on Mid-Winter's Eve. We can understand how important it would be to Neolithic man to have an awareness of natural phenomena's like eclipses, and the cycle of the seasons. Stonehenge (Salisbury Plain), c. 2000 B.C. Purpose? calendar? astronomical computer? ceremonial center? 1-21 Stonehenge http://www.rose.edu/faculty/nmiller/art1103_nmiller/course/CDlec1.html
Sun Tunnels Nancy Holt, 1974, Utah Sun Tunnels documents the making of Holt's major site-specific sculptural work in the northwest Utah desert. Completed in 1976, the sculpture features a configuration of four concrete tubes or "tunnels" that are eight feet long and nine feet in diameter. The tubes are positioned to align with the sunrise and sunset of the summer and winter solstices, and are also pierced by holes that allow light to be cast in patterns of constellations. A kind of American Stonehenge, Sun Tunnels charts the yearly and daily cycles of the sun, and calls attention to human scale and perception within the vast desert landscape.