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					Pre-Historic Art
                  2,500,000 BC
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
             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
                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

                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.
Cave Snail
(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

Anatomically modern man replaces Neanderthal
            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.
Animals from
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
                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
  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
                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
  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

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
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
                    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
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.

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