Pre-Historic Art 2,500,000 BC LOWER PALEOLITHIC ERA BEGINS The first of three time periods of the Paleolithic - an era which witnessed several Ice Ages and glaciations, and during which early hominids like Australopithecus afarensis, Australopithecus africanus, and Paranthropus robustus, developed first into Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis, then into Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, and Homo heidelbergensis, before metamorphosing into Homo sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis and ultimately anatomically modern man (eg. Cro-Magnon man). Human evolution is defined via the development of stone tools, a process which impacts on the development of ancient art. 290, 000 Earliest art: The Petroglyphs of Bhimbetka - cupules and other rock art found at Auditorium Cave, Bhimbetka and at Daraki-Chattan Cave, both in Madhya Pradesh, Central India, and both dated c.290,000 - 700,000 BCE or later. These are the oldest known prehistoric works of art, and the first examples of art from India. Cupule and meander petroglyph on a boulder at the Auditorium Cave, Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh, India Acheulian Prehistoric Site. (c.290,000-700,000 BCE) What Are Cupules? Cupules are the earliest known prehistoric art, have been found on every continent except Antarctica, and were produced during all three eras of the Stone Age - Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic - as well as in historical times. They have been described as "the most common motif type in world rock art". The actual term "cupule" was invented recently by the world-famous archeologist Robert G. Bednarik, in an attempt to provide a consistent name for a phenomenom which hitherto had been called "pits", "hollows", "cups", "cupels", "cup stones", "pitmarks", "cup marks" - even "pot-holes". Much of the information about cupules contained in this article is gratefully derived from Bednarik's cogent analysis of the existing manifestations of this extraordinary art form. Rock Art from Bhimbetka - 7000 BCE Created over 250,000 years after the first petroglyphs and cupules were produced at the Auditorium Cave. What are Petroglyphs? - A Definition The term "petroglyph" stems from two Greek words ("petros" meaning rock, and "glyphein" meaning to carve) and means simply "rock carving." 230, 000 Venus of Berekhat Ram, rock figurine, (dated c.230,000 - 700,000 BCE). This is the oldest known Stone Age figurine. Venus of Berekhat Ram, dated from 230,000 to 500,000 BCE. Venus of Berekhat Ram The early Stone Age figurine of Berekhat Ram (Birkat Ram), discovered in hills north of Israel, is believed to be one of the oldest pieces of prehistoric sculpture known to archeology. Although initially highly controversial - as paleontologists preferred to see it more as a product of natural erosion rather than a deliberate human act of creativity - its status now seems more secure following the discovery of a second similar and contemporaneous figurine - the Venus of Tan-Tan, in Morocco. The Venus of Berekhat Ram was found by archeologist N. Goren-Inbar (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) during archeological excavations on the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel during the summer of 1981. The lithic figure comprises a tuff pebble made of basalt, containing marks suggestive of the head, body, and arms of a female human. Microscopic analysis by Alexander Marshack appears to confirm that humans were responsible for the figurine. 200, 000 MIDDLE PALEOLITHIC ERA BEGINS 100, 000 High point of Levallois culture, an advanced flint-knapping culture. Earliest African art appears, the Venus of Tan-Tan, quartzite figurine, (dated c.200,000 - 500,000 BCE) Venus of Tan Tan 70, 000 Blombos Cave engravings with cross-hatch designs on two pieces of ochre rock. Possibly the very earliest form of Tribal Art. One of the engraved stones at Blombos dating from about 70,000 BCE. Blombos Cave Snail Beads (75,000 BCE) The prehistoric archeological site known as Blombos Cave is located in a limestone cliff, some 100 metres from the sea on the southern coast of South Africa, about 180 miles east of Cape Town. Ochre is a naturally occurring red iron oxide, commonly used by prehistoric hunter-gatherers as a colouring pigment for body-painting. In the Blombos caves, archaeologists discovered hundreds of lumps of this material, including pieces which had been ground into crayons. Their honed points suggested they were employed for design purposes, although as yet no cave painting has been discovered. 70, 000- 40, 000 Oldest prehistoric art of Europe: the La Ferrassie cave cupules. 40, 000 UPPER PALEOLITHIC ERA BEGINS Anatomically modern man replaces Neanderthal man. 33, 000- 30, 000 Swabian Jura ivory carvings, Vogelherd, Hohle Fels Caves, SW Germany. These sculptures are the first known figurative sculptures of the Stone Age. Ivory Carving of Mammoth, Vogelherd Cave, from about 33,000 BCE. Ivory Carving of Horse, Vogelherd Cave, from about 33,000 BCE. In 2006, archeologists from the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology at the German University of Tübingen unearthed the first completely intact mammoth ivory figurine from the Upper Paleolithic era of the old Stone Age. Dated to 33,000 BCE, it is the oldest figurative carving known to archeology, the oldest piece of European sculpture and one of the most outstanding examples of late Stone Age art. Archeologists and art historians have always considered the creation of figurative art to be a key indicator in human evolution. These new finds reveal the outstanding artistry of the Stone Age inhabitants of the Swabian Jura and chronicle an aesthetically-appreciative culture that was far from primitive. 30, 000 Venus of Kostenky, mammoth ivory carving, earliest of the venus figurines and the oldest known Russian sculpture. Venus figurines are European miniature carvings (in ivory, bone, stone or clay) of obese female figures with exaggerated body parts and genitalia. Venus of Kostenky (30,000 BCE) The bone Venus of Kostenky is the oldest known piece of figurative sculpture in Russia and the earliest example of 3-D fine art from the Upper Paleolithic Stone Age - the period dating roughly from 40,000 to 10,000 BCE during which Homo sapiens neanderthalensis was replaced by anatomically modern man. One of a large number of "Venus Figurines" created during this period, it should not be confused with its sister figurine, the limestone Venus of Kostenky, which was found at the same site but dates from a later period. Because this sculpture is much more true-to-life than many of its counterparts, it does not easily fit the usual fertility or supernatural explanations, given for the cultural significance of venus figurines. Instead, one feels that the sculptor was simply trying to portray a real person. First known cave painting appears in France. Chauvet cave painting and ideomorphs, France. Chauvet is the earliest known example of Stone Age cave paintings, although they are monochrome in composition. Horses Heads from Chauvet Cave dating to about 30,000 BCE. Fighting Animals from Chauvet dating to about 30,000 BCE. Grotto Chauvet, near Vallon-Pont-d'Arc in France, was discovered quite by chance in the Ardeche gorge in 1994, by three speleologists - Jean-Marie Chauvet, Eliette Brunel-Deschamps and Christian Hillaire - while they were surveying another cave nearby. Inside the Chauvet grotto, the trio found a huge network of galleries and rooms, about 400 metres in length, whose floor was littered with palaeontological remains, including the skulls of bears two wolves. Some of these bones had been arranged in special position by the previous human inhabitants. Amazingly, the entire labyrinth had remained untouched and undisturbed since Paleolithic times, due to a landslide that had blocked the entrance. Paleolithic experts still don't understand the purpose or functionality of prehistoric parietal art. One of the more common theories - based on the subject matter of the murals, and the fact that Chauvet, like many caves, was not used as a place of regular habitation - is that it functioned as a centre of ritual or magical ceremony. Chauvet doesn't contain the earliest art of prehistory, but it does house the earliest cave murals and exemplifies the rising cultural level of man during the last period of the Stone Age. 25, 000 Venus of Willendorf, obese female oolitic limestone sculpture, Austria. Venus of Willendorf (c.25,000 BCE) The carving was discovered in 1908 by Austrian archeologist Josef Szombathy during systematic investigations of the local Gravettian settlements in lower Austria, near Krems. This "celebration" of what would have been rare corpulence, might be a factor in the work's interpretation. In other words, such a body shape might have been worth ritualization. The fact that no equivalent male figures have been unearthed need not undermine this theory. First because few male Stone Age figures of any description have been discovered, second because female bodies have traditionally been hallowed as fertility symbols, not unlike the Virgin Mary of modern Christianity. 17, 000 Lascaux painted caves featuring "Hall of the Bulls", France. Cave Painting in "Hall of the Bulls" dating from about 17,000 BCE. Painting of Auroch in "Hall of the Bulls" dating from about 17,000 BCE. A Cave Mural of Lascaux located in the Shaft of the Dead Man (15,000 BCE). Discovered by teenagers Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon Coencasin in September 1940, the Lascaux subterranean complex is situated close to the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne region of southwestern France. Containing some of the finest prehistoric polychrome cave paintings, dating from 17,000 BCE, the Lascaux caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Famous display chambers include The Great Hall of the Bulls, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the Lateral Passage, the Painted Gallery, the Chamber of Engravings, and the Chamber of Felines. What makes the prehistoric painting at Lascaux so different, is the huge scale of some of the animal pictures, and their exceptionally realistic portrayal. One of the bulls (aurochs) in the Cave of the Bulls is 17 feet (5.2 m) wide - the biggest animal image ever found in a Stone Age cave. In total, there are some 2,000 figurative pictures, including 900 animal forms, of which some 600 have been identified. In addition, there are many abstract images and symbols. As is the case in most Upper Paleolithic painted caves, there are almost no images of human figures at Lascaux. Only one appears to exist - a prone stick-like figure, in the Shaft of the Dead Man. 15, 000 Altamira cave paintings: "Sistine Chapel of Stone Age Art", Spain. Painting of a Bison (c.15,000 BCE) Polychrome Cave Painting from Altamira (c.15,000 BCE) Discovered in 1879, by paleo-archaeologist Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, Altamira is the only painted cave in which signs of domestic human habitation are evident in a chamber with paintings. Usually, only the initial entrance area of the cave was used as a shelter, with the rest of the cave being reserved for art only. The focus of these paintings is bison. Possibly this is because of the unique contribution made by this animal to Paleolithic life, which included its meat for food, its fur and hide for clothing and foot-coverings, and its horns, teeth and hooves for use as tool making equipment. The caves's main ceiling display features a herd of multi-coloured bison in different poses. Other animals portrayed in the cave's murals include reindeer, wild boar and goats - all native to Cantabria - with, as usual, no accompanying flora, vegetation or landscape. 10, 000 MESOLITHIC ERA BEGINS This is associated with a wide variety of races, including the Azilian Ofnet Man (Bavaria); several types of Cro- Magnon Man, brachycephalic humans (short- skulled), dolichocephalic humans (long-skulled). The Mesolithic is a transitional era between the hunter- gatherer culture of the Upper Paleolithic, and the farming culture of the Neolithic. In areas with no ice (eg. the Middle East), people transitioned quite rapidly from hunting/gathering to agriculture. Their Mesolithic period was therefore short, and often referred to as the Epi-Paleolithic or Epipaleolithic. In 10,000 BCE we witness the end of the Pleistocene geological epoch and the beginning of Holocene Epoch. Start of Chinese Pottery. Chinese pottery Ever since the Stone Age, China has led the world in ceramic art and design. Its pottery workshops have inspired us with their modelling, glazes, firing techniques, painting and enamelling, and its porcelain remains the finest ever made. Despite the discovery of unfired Chinese pottery, supposedly dating from 33,000 BCE, during the Paleolithic era, most scholars believe that the earliest known ceramic ware produced in China dates from Mesolithic times (c.10,000- 5,500 BCE) and was strictly functional earthenware, hand-made (by coiling) and fired in bonfires. Decoration was achieved by stamping, impressing and other simple methods. However, based on archeological excavations at Xianrendong, in Jiangxi province, it seems that early Chinese potters soon began to produce a range of delicate, polished and coloured vessels for more ceremonial purposes. 9, 500 Cuevas de las Manos (Cave of the Hands), stencils, paintings, Argentina, the earliest known prehistoric art of the American continent. 7, 000 Jiahu turquoise carvings, bone flutes, Henan Province China. Oven-fired pottery appears in Mesopotamia where farming begins. Pigs domesticated. People settle on the banks of the River Nile. Six complete bone flutes excavated from Jiahu Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology of Henan Province, Zhengzhou, China The archaeological site of Jiahu in the Yellow River basin of Henan Province, central China, is remarkable for the cultural and artistic remains uncovered there. These remains, such as houses, kilns, pottery, turquoise carvings, tools made from stone and bone—and most remarkably—bone flutes, are evidence of a flourishing and complex society as early as the Neolithic period, when Jiahu was first occupied. Fragments of thirty flutes were discovered in the burials at Jiahu and six of these represent the earliest examples of playable musical instruments ever found. The flutes were carved from the wing bone of the red-crowned crane, with five to eight holes capable of producing varied sounds in a nearly accurate octave. The intended use of the flutes for the Neolithic musician is unknown, but it is speculated that they functioned in rituals and special ceremonies. 5, 000 Linear Ceramic culture emerges in France, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic. Thinker of Cernavoda, terracotta fine art sculpture, Romanian Hamangia culture. Fish God of Lepenski Vir, sandstone carving of therianthropic figure, Serbia. Sculpture from Lepinski Vir Fish-God, Lepinski Vir . All the sculptures were carved from round sandstone cobbles found on the river banks. The sculptures can be separated in two distinct categories, one with simple geometric patterns and the other representing humanoid figures. All of these figural sculptures were modelled in a naturalistic and strongly expressionistic manner. Only the head and face of the human figures were modelled realistically, with strong brow arches, an elongated nose, and a wide, fish-like mouth. Many fish-like features can be noticed. Along with the position which these sculptures had in the house shrine, they suggest a connection with river gods. Thinker of Cernavoda This male figurine was found in the lower Danube in Cernavoda, Romania. The end of the Ice Age at around 10,000 BC and the warmer climate that followed brought about the end of the highly developed hunting culture. Deep in thought, the Thinker is unique in that it does not appear to be a hunting or fertility idol, but rather a reflection of human introspection. 4, 000 NEOLITHIC ERA Mesolithic Era ends in Europe, superceded by the Neolithic (New Stone Age), a much more settled form of existence, based on farming and rearing of domesticated animals. (Light plough introduced in Europe.) The major art form of the Neolithic art was ceramic pottery. Silk production begins in Asia. 4, 000- 2, 500 Earliest megalithic architecture, like: the megalithic arrangement at Évora, in Portugal (from 5,000); Breton Cairn of Barnenez (from 4,450); the tombs and monuments of Carrowmore, Cúil Irra Peninsula, Ireland (from 4,300). UN World Heritage site of Newgrange (from 3,300) and Stonehenge (stonework dated c.2,800 BCE). Front view of Newgrange with white quartz facade The Megalithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange was built about 3200 BC. The kidney shaped mound covers an area of over one acre and is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated with megalithic art. The 19 metre long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. It is estimated that the construction of the Passage Tomb at Newgrange would have taken a work force of 300 at least 20 years. The passage and chamber of Newgrange are illuminated by the winter solstice sunrise. A shaft of sunlight shines through the roof box over the entrance and penetrates the passage to light up the chamber. The dramatic event lasts for 17 minutes at dawn on the Winter Solstice and for a few mornings either side of the Winter Solstice. Megalithic mounds such as Newgrange entered Irish mythology as sídhe or fairy mounds. Newgrange was said to be the home of Oenghus, the god of love. The Passage Tomb at Newgrange was re-discovered in 1699 by the removal of material for road building. A major excavation of Newgrange began in 1962; the original facade of sparkling white quartz was rebuilt using stone found at the site. Stonehenge, UK Summer solstice at Stonehenge 3, 500 Mesopotamian civilization begins (Iraq). Emergence of Uruk, first city-state. First wheeled vehicles appear in Europe. Ancient Persian art includes the intricate ceramics from Susa and Persepolis. Oldest known prehistoric bronze sculptures produced in the Maikop culture of the Russian North Caucasus around 3,500, using simple arsenic bronze process. 3, 500- 1, 750 Sumerian civilization (S. Iraq). First writing system (hieroglyphs). Cuneiform script 3200. 3, 300 Egyptian art and civilization begins. First walled city. Pharoah Namer unites Egypt 3100. 3, 200 Sumerian civilization develops its own monumental architecture - a type of stepped pyramid called a ziggurat, built from clay-fired bricks, finished with coloured glazes.