Prehistoric Art (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic)
Context Through History: Why DoWe Produce Art?
● express personal thoughts and feelings● communicate with others.● create a more favorable environment.● record a time, place, person, or object.● commemorate important people or events.● reinforce cultural ties and traditions.● seek to affect social change.● tell stories.● explain the unknown.● worship.● do something no one else can (or has yet done).● increase our global understanding.
Useful Terms for the Coming Unit● Paleolithic: 2.6 Million BCE – 10,000 BCE● Franco-Cantabrian: A style of art associatedwith Paleolithic southwest France and northernSpain.● Semiotics: The study to signs and symbols.● Petroglyph: A rock engraving consisting oflogograms and pictographs.● Pictograph: A simple symbol referring to thesubject to which it illustrates.● Logogram: An individual character or symbolthat represents a word.
More...● Aurignacian: A culture based in Europe andsouthwest Asia. Created zoomorphic and firstrepresentational sculptures (45,000- 35,000 to27,000 BCE).● Magdalenian: A culture of the Upper Paleolthicin western Europe. Mostly resided in thePyrenees region (15,000-7,000 BCE).● Style: Qualities shared by other works of thesame artist, period, or area that help categorizethe characteristics into a broader field.● Representational Art: Art that directlyreferences its subject matter.
… and more...● Radiocarbon Dating: A method of measuringCarbon 14s half-life (5,730 years). It is one ofthe most accurate methods of dating ancientartifacts.● Nomadic Culture: Hunting and gatheringcommunity culture that depended on travel.● Cro-Magnon: The earliest Homo Sapien.Appeared in 33,000 BCE.● Neanderthal: Primitive relative to the HomoSapien. May have split from our species asearly as 700,000 years ago. Went extinct in30,000 BCE
When Did We Start?● The visual language is a the closest humanityhas ever come to attaining the a universallanguage.● As defined by a western canon, visual artsbegan approximately 35,000 years before thefirst written language (about 40,000 BCE in theNerja Cave).
Art Mobilier: Portable Art● Statuettes cut from soft stone or animal bone.● Objects painted onto small stone● Minor reliefs found in caves.● First decorative works.● First items of value.
Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel(32,000 BCE)● Zoomorphic: Animal-shaped● Anthropomorphic: Giving humancharacteristics to an animal.● This is the oldestanthropomorphic sculpture inexistence.● Carved from ivory.
Bone From Chaffaud Grotto, France● Reindeer foot-bone from the le Chaffaud grottowith a depiction of two hinds. One of the firstfinds of palaeolithic portable art (30,000-25,000BCE).
Venus● A style of sculptural forms that take therepresentational form of a fertile woman.● The reproductive features of the such figureswere exaggerated to emphasize the importanceof women in such a community.● They were very small and mobile.
Magdalenian People● Descendants of the Cro-Magnon (earliestmodern humans).● Appear throughout Europe during the UpperPaleolithic (Old Stone Age 40,000-10,000 BCE)and early Mesolithic Period (10,000 BCE –5,000 BCE). The dates: 15,000-7,000 BCE● They set up semi-permanent residence andmaintained a hunter gathering lifestyle.● Similarities in Upper Paleolithic paintingsindicate a possible continental network of earlycommunication between groups.
Cave Painting Characteristics:-Keen observation skills-Very realistic-Very sophisticated-Figures are always seen in profile-Natural formation of caves was used-Proportionate-Overlapping-Rarely see people, usually spiritual leaders,stick people-No ground line (the base line for which a figurestands in painting and sculpture)
Subject Matter● Paleolithic Animals: A heavy emphasis is placedon animals, signifying the importance of thesecreatures to early humans. They were a sourceof food, shelter, and warmth. Paleolithicportrayal of animals is focused on the animalsrather than the people.● During the Mesolithic and Neolithic Periods,focus is drawn more towards the humans(perhaps sometimes interacting with theanimals). This suggests the early developmentof society through as stronger portrayal ofhuman achievement through cooperativeactivities such as hunting.
Chauvet (ca. 30,000 BCE)● Horse Head (One of 14different identified species ofanimals portrayed in Chauvet.● Lion Pride Hunting Bison
LASCAUX CAVEArtist: UnknownDate: Circa 17,000 BCEPeriod: Upper Paleolithic
Discovered in 1940 by four boys and their dog.Hunts were drawn on the wall like a comic strip.The story of the hunt goes from the left to theright, until the prey is captured. These pictureswere possibly used to tell stories. Including oneabout a man who was killed by a bison.About 2,000 years newer than the paintingsat Chauvet, one interesting feature is the lack offierce animals. Contains the famous Hall ofBulls
Tuc DAudoubert Bison(Circa 15,000 BCE)Approximately 60 cm inlength
La Madeleine(17,000 BCE – 10,000 BCE)● One of the most exquisite example ofMagdalanien culture, La Madeleine is a rockshelter found in France.
Cuerva de las Manos 13,000-9,000BCE, Argentina
Mesolithic Period(10,000 BCE - 5,000 BCE)● Follows the Paleolithic Period● Starts at the end of the last ice age.● Transitional period from hunting-gatheringtechniques to primitive agriculture.● Distinguished by improvements to stone tools.The tools were generally smaller and finer thanthat of the Paleolithic.● Mesolithic introduces pre-agricultural habits,including domestication.
Mesolithic Social Change● Warmer post-glacial period provided moresuitable land for permanent settlements.● Less migration of animals provided moreopportunities for humans to master theirhunting techniques and methods of fulfillingtheir own needs.
Mesolithic Subject Matter● As stated previously, Mesolithic art began toexplore humans in activity rather than a pureappraisal of animals. Animals and humans werein scenes together (often hunting scenes). Thissuggests the dawn of proto-agriculture.● Animal subjects were now become candidatesfor domestication.● Beginning in tail end of the Upper Paleolithic,around 15,000 BCE, we begin to see a declinein figurative forms and a stronger presence ofpictographs.
...Continued● The end of the ice age may have introducedcultures from northern Africa to Europeanculture. This may have caused change in stylewhen examining the human form. Humanfigures appeared to be more slender.● The period also introduce the first drastic split inrepresentation. Though stylistically similar,works of the Franco-Cantabric culture was zoo-centric, while the newer culture of the Levanteprovided more scenes of social developmentand community building.
Neolithic: The New Stone Age● Cultural period beginning as early as 9,000BCE in southwestern Asia and about 4,000BCE in Europe.● Marked by the beginning of settled societiesthrough agriculture. This period is also knownas the Agricultural Revolution.● Ended in 6,000 BCE in southwestern Asia and2,400 BCE in Europe.● Introduction of abstraction.
Neolithic Art of Southwest Asia(9,000 BCE – 6,000 BCE)
Jericho, Palestine● One of the first continuously used permanentsettlements in the world.● Settled circa 10,000 BCE● Pre-pottery community.● Houses were sun-dried clay huts with mudplaster. They were often only five meters inlength.
Jericho, Palestine● By 9,400 BCE, there were about 70 separatedwellings in the area.● Largest accomplishment was the establishmentof a large defensive stone wall. It was about 3.5meters in height and two meters thick.● Population could have been between 2,000-3,000 people.● Agriculture-based community.
Stone Tower8000-7000 B.C.E.Jericho, Palestine● Earliest large stone structure● Possible celestial significance● Other theories suggest that itmay be an floodingpreventative, defensive tower,or religious site.
Çatalhöyük6000-5900 B.C.E.Turkey● first known settlement of urban brick● no streets (fortification) (sound structurally)● constructed of mud brick● painted walls● Hosted early agriculture harvesting wheat,pistachios, peas, and almonds.
Human figures from Ain Ghazal6750-6250 B.C.E.Jordan-cowry shells for eyes-when found:appeared to havebeen built ritually-white plaster builtover a core of reedsand twine-was painted orangeand black for hair andclothing
Landscape with Volcano6150 B.C.E.Catal Huyuk, Turkey● first acclaimed landscape● narrative but not historically specific● first imagery depiction of no humans or animals
Deer Hunt5750 B.C.E.Catal Huyuk, Turkey● large groups of organized humans● rhythmic repetition of basic shape customaryfor period● Composite View (Twisted Perspective): A formof representational art where part of the figureis shown in profile while other parts are shownfrontally. In this case, the head is profile whiletorso is frontal
Neolithic Art of Europe(4,000 BCE - 2,400 BCE)
Linear Pottery Culture● Most prevalent in central Europe from 5,500BCE until 4,500 BCE.● Vessels were very simple cups, jugs, vases,and bowls. Did not include lugs.● Though portable, they were used for localpurposes (kitchen use and short distancetransport). This is a product of settled life.
Megaliths (5,000 BCE -2,000 BCE)● Means great stone● Refers to any hug, human-built or assembledstructure or collection of stones.● Typically refers to monumental architecture(large man-made structure of stone or earth)● Purpose of these structures include: burial sitesfor the elite and masses, temple, astronomicalobservatory, and meeting place.● Mostly found in Brittany, France and the BritishIsles.
Types of Megaliths● Dolmens● Cairns● Henges● Menhirs● Monoliths● Stone Circles● Stone Alignments
Monolith● A structure or statue carved from one solidpiece of stone (no stacking of multiplematerials); a large, single block or piece ofstone used in a megalithic structure.● Structures like Stone Circles and StoneAlignments (Stone Rows) were the built from aseries of monoliths.● Stone Circles and Stone Alignments (StoneRows) first appear in large numbers around theBritish Isles and Brittany (1,300 recorded stonecircles).
MenhirA single standing stone. When standing on itsown, it is a monolith. When a part of a stonecircle or stone row, it is a Menhir.
Stone Rows: Carnac Stones,France(4,500 BCE – 3,300 BCE)● Carnac is home to over3,000 prehistoric stonestructures.● The Menec Alignment isthe largest set of rows atthe site consisting ofeleven parallel lines.● 1,165 meters x 100meters
Upper Erme Stone Row, England3,500 BCE3,300 Meters Long
Swinside Stone Circle, Ireland(3,500 BCE – 3,200 BCE)
Post and Lintel / Post and Beam● Architectural technique where two large verticalsupports to suspend a horizontal structure inthe air.● A stone structure that uses this method is calleda trilithon
Dolmens (4,000 BCE – 3,000 BCE)● Single Chamber tomb.● At least three vertical supports and one stoneslab roof.● Uses the Post and Lintel method ofconstruction.● Means “Stone Table”
Cairns● A man-made collection of rocks. In other words,a pile of rocks.● This is a phenomenon that is not specific toEurope. It can be found on nearly all continents.● In the British Isles and Brittany, they wereprimarily used as early burial chambers.
Passage Tombs● Large structures consisting of narrow passagesmade of large stones through a post and lintelmethod.● They could hold one or many burial chambers.
Barrow● Elaborate version of thepassage tomb takingthe form of a mound.● Mostly found innorthern Europe.● Tumulus (pl. Tumuli):Term given to any kindof earth-coveredmound. Barrow is aterm used specificallyfor prehistoric tumuli.
Newgrange Mound, 3,200 BCE.Ireland● Built before the Pyramids of Giza andStonehenge.● Purpose of structure was a tomb (necropolis).
Art of NewgrangeThe stone boulders on the exterior ofNewgrange were marked with various circularand rectilinear shapes. The forms appear to bedecorative and share little pictographic value.
Henge● A circular Neolithic earthwork.● Contrary to popular belief, they do not need astone fencing.● Lined by at least ditch.
Stonehenge2550-1600 B.C.E.England97 ft. diameter24 ft. high● most complicated megalith site● lintels weigh as much as fifty tons● possible astronomical observatory
Stonehenge I (Circa 3,100 BCE)● No stones.● A larger circle nearthe site of modernStonehenge.● Ditch was dug andfilled with animalbones and ancienttools. Wood postsmay have oncestood around theditch.