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 paleolithic

 Prehistoric Art. Paleolithic.

Posted on March 9, 2012 3:54 pm by ElenaComment

Paleolithic Art (old stone)

30,000-10,000 B.C

Human beings at this time were strictly hunter-gatherers, which mean that they
were constantly on the move in search of food. They were also egalitarian,
which meant that both women and men enjoyed similar freedoms. The art was
portable or stationary, and both of these art forms were limited in
scope. Paleolithic period observe a considerable period of times in the history
of man, Artistic skills develop by those ancient people constitute the base of all
the future techniques applied in the history of art later.

Trying to characterize the art of a period covering most of human history is not
an easy task since Paleolithic art intricately is subordinate to the
archaeological and anthropological studies made by professionals in the
attempt to compile and get to know the greater amount of information.
Portable art in Paleolithic period
This type of art could be move or transport.During the period of the upper
Paleolithic art was necessarily small and portable objects, mainly consisted of
figurines or small decorated objects. These objects were carved (in stone, bone
or horn) or modeled with clay or elaborated from wood.

We will refer to the majority of portable art from this time as figurative, whether
what was depicted was an animal or a human figure.

The figurines found are often mentioned by the name of “Venus”, which are
unmistakably figures suggesting pregnant females with protuberance of sexual
and reproductive organs.
Perforate stick. Paleolithic Art.

Stationery Art in paleolithic period

Stationery art was precisely that: it does not move. The best examples that
exist are found in the cave paintings in Western Europe created during the
Paleolithic period. These paintings were made from combinations of minerals
and mixing then using for the wed base the internal substance of bones and
carbon, blood and fat of animals and sap from the trees. The
pigments obtained and mixed with the wed base were applied to the surface of
the cave wall.

It has been statement (and is only an assumption) that these paintings served
as some sort of ritual or magical propitiatory purpose, they are far from
the entrance of the caves in which everyday life was carried out. The cave
paintings not only contain figurative art, which means that many elements are
more symbolic than realistic. The exception clearly, here, is the representation
of animals, which are vividly realistic (human are represented, on the other
hand with simple stroke of lines like a stick or stake form) .

There is a curious element in these caves paint’s , you could figure that been
done in the darks places of this natural rock formations should be there traces
of smoke of torches, but there is no present of this type of stains, which gave
rise to an investigation by specialists to know how they were able to create
these paintings in the darkness and from where did they get the necessary

Remains of kind of candles or primitive lanterns were found in those caves that
used animals fat that do not produce toxic and burn slowly, that’s why smoke
or grease traces of black soot on the surface of the walls or ceiling of the caves
are not present.

The Lascaux painting in France shows that they used almost exclusively black,
yellow and red pigments in those caves, had not been found any blue or green
pigments, as neither the use of white pigment despite being a natural
substance of whitish color here in abundance.

In cave painting; first man mark the outline of the figures with a rudimentary
carving tool made from stone fragments. they remarked later the contours in
black. Pulverized pigments obtained from plants and mixed with animal fat and
marrow with organic substances properties are later applied . The application
of color was done directly on the figure, using fingers, rough brushes and
spatulas. The moisture of the rock would provide the necessary adhesion. This
can be considered as a foretaste of what would later be the technique of fresco.
The lack of light in the caves and a constant humidity help to its preservation
for centuries. They are in a very good condition considering the time in which
they were created.

Important cave painting examples are located in:

France: Chauvet, Cosquer, Cussac, Font-de-Gaume, Lascaux, Les Combarelles,

Les Trois-Freres, Niaux, and Rouffignac.

Spain: Altamira.

Although there are some others 300 to 400 sites that have been documented.
All of them provided rich information one way or another about this painting
techniques, thematics and level of skills reach by this ancient artist.

Principal characteristic of Paleolithic art period

– The Paleolithic Venus in stone carvings were made in small size and easy to

– Predominant representation of animals in the painting.

– The only human figure were outlines with a simple stroke resembling stakes.

– The use of rituals and dances to promote favorable climatic conditions and
other circumstances of welfare such as healing the sick.

– Paintings with limited color range using several methods predominantly the
use of hands for the application of the paint as well as coarse brushes and
rudimentary stakes.

– Use of the forms of protruding rocks to give a feeling of depth and relief.
Neolithic Art


• What is Neolithic Art?

• Historical Chronology
• Characteristics and Types
• Pottery
• Ornamentation and Portable Carvings
• Megalithic Architecture
• Rock Art
• Major Centres of Neolithic Arts and Crafts
Enthroned Goddess of Catal Huyuk - Catal Huyuk (c.7,500-5,700 BCE)
(c.6,000 BCE) Terracotta sculpture. - Mehrgarh (c.7,000-2,500 BCE)
Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
For more about ancient carvings, • Related Articles
see: Prehistoric Sculpture.

For the earliest 100 artworks, see: Oldest Stone Age Art.

What is Neolithic Art? (Definition)

In Prehistoric art, the term "Neolithic art" describes all arts and crafts created
by societies who had abandoned the semi-nomadic lifestyle of hunting and
gathering food in favour of farming and animal husbandry. Not surprisingly
therefore, ancient pottery including terracotta sculpturewas the major artform
of the Neolithic, although human creativity of the age expressed itself in a good
many different types of art, including prehistoric engravings and hand stencils,
as well as a variety of mobiliary art(sculpted statuettes, personal adornments).
In addition, the construction of religious temples, shrines and tombs to serve
the new sedentary culture led to the development of megalithic art and a form
Thinker of Cernavoda of monumental stone architecture using megaliths (petroforms).
(5,000 BCE)
National Museum of Romania.
A magnificent example of Historical Chronology
terracotta sculpture from
the Neolithic era.
The Neolithic period - which heralded the beginning of civilization - witnessed a
CHRONOLOGY OF massive change in lifestyle across the world. From the time that the Ice Age
PREHISTORIC ART finished (about 10,000 BCE), the old Paleolithic hunter-gatherer existence
• Aurignacian Art started to disappear, as the herds of reindeer and other animals went
(40,000-25,000 BCE) north. Cave art disappeared as people began to adopt a more settled existence,
• Gravettian Art based on agriculture, the rearing of domesticated animals and the use of
(25,000-20,000 BCE) polished rather than chipped stone tools. However, there is no single date that
• Solutrean Art marks the beginning of the Neolithic, since agriculture became established at
(20,000-15,000 BCE) different times in different parts of the world.
• Magdalenian Art
(15,000-10,000 BCE) • In the Americas, it lasted from 2,500 BCE to about 500 CE
• Mesolithic Art • In Northern/Western Europe, the Neolithic lasted from 4,000 to 1,800 BCE
(from 10,000-variable BCE) • In Central Europe, it lasted from 5,500 to 2,000 BCE
• Neolithic Art
• In East Asia, it lasted from 6,000 to 2,000 BCE
(Ends about 2,000 BCE)
• Bronze Age Art
(c.3500-1100 BCE)
• Iron Age Art • In Southeast Europe, it lasted from 7,000 to 2,500 BCE
(c.1100-200 BCE) • In Africa, Near East, South-East Asia, it lasted from 8,000 to 2,500 BCE

NOTE: The above dates are very approximate only, as

disagreement among scholars persists about when exactly the
Neolithic started and finished in differing geographical regions.
For more dates, please see: Prehistoric Art Timeline(from 2.5
million BCE).

Characteristics and Types of Neolithic Art

As in all eras of Stone Age art, what happened in everyday life had a major
impact on the art of the period. Paleolithic man had focused all his energies on
hunting for food and procreation - as illustrated by the Lascaux cave
paintingsand the fertility symbols known as Venus figurines, respectively. In
contrast, Neolithic man found that cultivating crops made life much more
secure. Indeed, as Neolithic farming settlements gained control of their food
supply and became less vulnerable to predators, several things happened.
First, the population expanded significantly: from 8 million to 65 million within
5,000 years. Second, communities became more aware and more protective of
their "territory". They frequently merged with others, creating larger
settlements and (ultimately) cities. Thirdly, they became more organized and
more hierarchical. Lastly, Neolithic man began to develop systems of belief in
supernatural deities. Each of these social developments had an impact on the
art of the period.


Pottery is still considered to be the diagnostic artifact of the Neolithic,

notwithstanding that Japanese Jomon pottery and some Chinese
pottery predates the Neolithic by several millennia(!). For the world's earliest
ceramic pots, see: Xianrendong Cave Pottery (c.18,000 BCE), the slightly
later Yuchanyan Cave pottery (16,300 BCE) and the Amur River Basin
Pottery (14,300 BCE) across the Siberian border in Russia's Far East. For early
ceramics in Europe, see: Vela Spila Pottery (15,500 BCE) from Korcula Island,

Ceramic art in the Near East is usually separated into four periods: the Hassuna
period (7,000-6,500 BCE), the Halaf period (6,500-5,500 BC), the Ubaid period
(5,500-4,000 BC), and the Uruk period (4,000-3,100 BC). During the Hassuna
period, low-fired pots were made from slabs, undecorated and unglazed. But by
the Halaf era, wares were decorated with intricate painted designs, as well as
incised patternwork and burnished. With the invention of the potter's wheel in
Mesopotamia during the Ubaid period, pottery manufacture was revolutionized,
enabling increasingly specialized craftsmen and mould-makers to supply the
growing demand for new shapes and new types of vessels. See also: Pottery
Timeline (from 26,000 BCE).

In Neolithic India, pottery was in use during the Mehrgarh Period II (5,500-
4,800 BCE) and Merhgarh Period III (4,800-3,500 BCE), as well as during the
later Indus Valley civilization (3300-1300 BCE). In Europe, clay-fired ceramics
originated during the era of Paleolithic art - see, for instance, the Czech
statuette known as the Venus of Dolni Vestonice (c.26,000 BCE) - and
thereafter developed in fits and starts. In Africa, the earliest pottery dating
back to at least 9,500 BCE was unearthed by Swiss archeologists in Central

Good examples of Neolithic pottery include:

• Chalcolithic Pottery from Persia (5,000-3,500 BCE)

Ceramic pots ornamented with human, bird, plant or animal motifs.
[See also: Art of Ancient Persia (from 3,500 BCE).]

• Samarra and Halaf Plates from Iraq and Syria (5,000 BCE)
Ceramic ware decorated with figurative or abstract patterns.
[See also: Mesopotamian Art 4,500-539 BCE.]

Ornamentation and Portable Carvings

A more static domestic existence created a huge demand for aesthetic

decoration and embellishment. As a result,crafts were developed as well as
various forms of decorative art and design. Murals began to appear in houses;
as did small statues, and patterns for pottery and textiles. True, most ancient
art remained essentially functional in nature, but Neolithic culture also wanted
beauty. Thus new creative techniques were invented to satisfy this primitive
urge for ornamentation, as exemplified by Chinese jade carving (from 4900
BCE) and Chinese Lacquerware (from 4,500 BCE). A good example is the Pig
Dragon Pendant (3,800 BCE, Liaoning Provincial Institute of Archeology,
Shenyang, China), an ancient Chinese jade carving made by artists of the
Hongshan Culture. [See also: Neolithic Art in China: 7500-2000 BCE.]

Neolithic culture was also noted for its stone carvings and ceramic sculpture.
Fine examples include:

• Jiahu Carvings, Yellow River Valley, China (7,000–5,700 BCE)

Tortoise shell carvings, and the 33 Jiahu flutes carved from the wing bones of
cranes, which are among the world's oldest musical instruments.
• Vidovdanka (5500-4700 BCE)
Terracotta figurine from Vinca-Belo Brdo. Now in National Museum of Serbia.
• Thinker of Cernavoda (5,000 BCE)
Extraordinary iconic figurative sculpture made during the Neolithic Hamangia
culture. Now in the National Museum, Bucharest, Romania.
• Fish God of Lepenski Vir (5,000 BCE)
Sandstone sculpture of a man-god figure, found in the Danubian Settlement of
Lepenski Vir, Serbia.
• Priest-King of Mesopotamia (3,300 BCE)
12-inch Limestone statuette from the Uruk culture of ancient Iraq. Now in the
Louvre Museum, Paris. For other later Mesopotamian cultures, please
see: Assyrian art(1500-612 BCE) and Hittite art (1600-1180 BCE).
• Kneeling Bull with Vessel (3,000 BCE)
One of the earliest treasures of silver metalwork, crafted by Mesopotamian
silversmiths during the Proto-Elamite Period. Now in the Metropolitan Museum
of Art, New York. [See also: Mesopotamian Sculpture.]
• Ram in a Thicket (2,650-2,550 BCE)
One of the greatest examples of Sumerian art from ancient Iraq.

Megalithic Architecture

As Neolithic settlements grew in size so did the need for rules and social norms.
This led to, or coincided with, the development of religious belief systems and
the worship of deities. This in turn led to the gradual emergence of
monumental religious architecture for shrines and tombs, which evolved
alongside the religious beliefs that it celebrated. The most famous examples of
such works are the Egyptian Pyramids (c.2650-1800 BCE). For more detailed
information, please see: Ancient Egyptian Architecture (3,000 BCE to 200 CE)
and Early Egyptian Architecture (3100-2181 BCE).

Other important Neolithic sites include:

• Gobekli Tepe (c.9,500-7,500 BCE)

The most important post-Paleolithic structure of the Stone Age. Begun during
the Mesolithic era, completed in the Neolithic.
• Nevali Cori (c.9,000-7,000 BCE)
Sister site to Gobekli Tepe.
• Catal Huyuk, Anatolia (c.7,500-5,700 BCE) [see below]
Large Neolithic and Chalcolithic proto-city in southern Turkey.
• Mehrgarh, Pakistan (7,000-2,500 BCE) [see below]
One of the most important archeological sites of the Neolithic period in
Southern Asia. See also: Indian Sculpture (3300 BCE - 1850).
• Ggantija Temple complex, Gozo (c.3,600 BCE)
Believed to be a fertility cult centre.
• Gavrinis Passage Grave, Brittany (c.3500 BCE)
Decorated with spirals, mazes, anthropomorphic "shield" motifs.
• Newgrange Megalithic Passage Tomb (c.3300 BCE)
Extensive necropolis noted for its engraved pictographs, including spiral and
rhombus-shaped motifs, as well as concentric circles, herring bone patterns,
zig-zags and axes.
• Zuschen Tomb Gallery Grave, Germany (c.3300 BCE)
Featuring decorative dots symbolizing cattle, carts and ploughs.
• Knowth Megalithic Tomb Complex (c.2500 BCE)
Estimated to contain one quarter of all the megalithic art produced in Europe.
• Stonehenge Stone Circle (c.2600 BCE)
The world's most famous assemblage of large upright stones (menhirs).

Rock Art

In Africa, Oceania and Australia, the Neolithic era is characterized by

outdoor rock art, including petroglyphsand a diminishing amount of cave
painting, notably hand stencils and other pictographs and petrograms. Here is a
short list of the most famous examples of rock art created during the Neolithic

• Burrup Peninsula Rock Engravings

One of the world's largest collections of petroglyphs dating from Paleolithic,
Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. Pilbara, Western Australia.
• Ubirr Rock Paintings
Aboriginal paintings created throughout the Stone Age up to the modern era.
Arnhem Land, Northern Territory.
• Bradshaw Paintings
Different styles of human-figure paintings (Tassel, Sash, Elegant Action Figures
and later Clothes Peg Figures) in the Kimberley area of Australia, created
throughout the Late Stone Age.
• Coldstream Burial Stone (6,000 BCE)
Rock engravings on quartzite stone, found by the Lottering River, Western
Cape Province, South Africa.
• Sydney Rock Engravings (5,000 BCE)
Figurative rock carvings of people and animals incised into sandstone, in NSW,
Australia. [See also: Aboriginal Rock Art.]
• Dabous Giraffe Engravings (4,000 BCE)
Taureg Culture petroglyphs of elephants, antelopes, crocodiles and cattle,
discovered in Agadez, Niger. [See also: Tribal Art.]
• Elands Bay Cave (4,000 BCE)
Famous for its collages of several hundred hand stencils, in the Western Cape,
South Africa.
• Niola Doa (Beautiful Ladies) (3,000 BCE)
Monumental engraved paintings of female figures on the Ennedi Plateau, Chad.
[See also: African Art.]

Major Centres of Neolithic Arts and Crafts

Catal Huyuk (Catalhoyuk) Archeological Site (c.7,500-5,700 BCE)

This UNESCO World Heritage Site, with an estimated population of around

10,000 and composed entirely of mud-brick buildings, is the most extensive
and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. Excavations showed that all
rooms had been kept meticulously clean, while the dead were buried in pits
beneath the floors and hearths. Colourful murals were painted on interior and
exterior walls throughout the settlement. Some one hundred clay figurines of
women - such as "The Enthroned Goddess of Catal Huyuk" (c.7,000 BCE), a
Mother Goddess figure about to give birth while seated on a throne - were
sculpted in marble, blue and brown limestone, alabaster, calcite, basalt and
terracotta. Another 1900 figurines were sculptures of animals. Although no
temples have been identified, heavily decorated chambers may have been
shrines or public places of worship. Mural paintings featured hunting scenes,
aurochs and stags, as well as images of men with erect phalluses. A painting of
the village, against a scenic background featuring the twin mountain peaks of
Hasan Dag is reputed to be the world's first example of landscape painting. The
inhabitants of Catal Huyuk cultivated crops and domesticated sheep and cattle,
although hunting continued to be a major food-gathering activity.

Mehrgarh Archeological Site (c.7,000-2,500 BCE)

Situated on the Kacchi Plain of Balochistan, Pakistan, this 495-acre site is one
of the oldest known centres of Neolithic farming and animal husbandry in South
Asia, from which some 32,000 artifacts have been excavated to date. It is also
a significant producer of Neolithic pottery. Scientists have classified the
occupation of the site into several different periods, as follows. Mehrgarh Period
I (7000-5500 BCE) was Neolithic and aceramic (devoid of pottery). Ornaments
made from limestone, lapis lazuli, sandstone, turquoise and sea shells have
been discovered, along with statuettes of women and animals. The discovery of
these statuettes is highly significant: it means that Mehrgarh was responsible
for the oldest known ceramic cult figurines in South Asia, made even before the
site's first pottery. It was only in Mehrgarh Period II (5500-4800 BCE) and
Mehrgarh Period III (4800-3500 BCE) that craftsmen began making pottery.
During Period II the potter's wheel was introduced. Mehrgarh craftsmen also
made glazed faience beads and terracotta figurines decorated with paint and
ornaments, as well as button seals in bone and terracotta and bone,
embellished with geometric designs. Further cultural and artistic developments
occurred during Period IV (3500-3250 BCE), Period V (3250-3000 BCE) and
period VI (c.3000-2600 BCE). By 2,000 BCE, the quality of Mehrgarh's pottery
appears to have suffered due to mass production, and also because of a
growing interest in bronze and copper.

The Mesolithic Period

Mesolithic Art

During the Mesolithic period, humans developed cave paintings, engravings, and
ceramics to reflect their daily lives.


Compare and contrast the Mesolithic period with the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods


Key Points

 The Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age is an archaeological term used to describe specific
cultures that fall between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic Periods.
 The use of small chipped stone tools called microliths and retouched bladelets are the key
factor to identify the Mesolithic as a prehistoric period.
 Mesolithic people likely continued the art forms developed during the Upper Paleolithic
Period, including cave paintings and engravings , small sculptural artifacts , and early
megalithic architecture.
 The most extensive collection of Mesolithic rock art has been found on the Mediterranean
coast of Spain. These paintings consist of human and animal figures in scenes of hunting
and early agricultural activities, such as collecting honey.
 A Mesolithic pendant excavated in England bears striking similarities with contemporary
pendants produced in Denmark. Whether this points to intercultural contact or travel
across vast expanses is unclear.

Key Terms

 Microlith:A small stone tool.

 Mesolithic:A prehistoric period that lasted between 10,000 and 5,000 BC.
 Megalith:A construction involving one or several roughly hewn stone slabs of great size.

The Mesolithic Period, or Middle Stone Age, is an archaeological term describing

specific cultures that fall between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic Periods. While the
start and end dates of the Mesolithic Period vary by geographical region, it dated
approximately from 10,000 BCE to 8,000 BCE.

The Paleolithic was an age of purely hunting and gathering, but toward the Mesolithic
period the development of agriculture contributed to the rise of permanent settlements.
The later Neolithic period is distinguished by the domestication of plants and animals.
Some Mesolithic people continued with intensive hunting, while others practiced the
initial stages of domestication. Some Mesolithic settlements were villages of huts ,
others walled cities.

The type of tool used is a distinguishing factor among these cultures. Mesolithic tools
were generally composite devices manufactured with small chipped stone tools called
microliths and retouched bladelets. The Paleolithic utilized more primitive stone
treatments, and the Neolithic mainly used polished rather than chipped stone tools.
Backed edge bladelet: Mesolithic tools were generally composite devices manufactured with small chipped
small stone tools called microliths and retouched bladelets.

Art from this period reflects the change to a warmer climate and adaptation to a
relatively sedentary lifestyle, population size, and consumption of plants—all evidence
of the transition to agriculture and eventually the Neolithic period. Still, food was not
always available everywhere, and Mesolithic populations were often forced to become
migrating hunters and settle in rock shelters. It is difficult to find a unique type of artistic
production during the Mesolithic Period, and art forms developed during the Upper
Paleolithic (the latest period of the Paleolithic) were likely continued. These included
cave paintings and engravings, small sculptural artifacts, and early architecture.

Mesolithic Rock Art

A number of notable Mesolithic rock art sites exist on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.
The art consists of small painted figures of humans and animals, which are the most
advanced and widespread surviving from this period in Europe and possibly worldwide.
Notably, this collection is the largest concentration of such art in Europe. The human
figure is frequently the main theme in painted scenes. When in the same scene as
animals, the human runs towards them. Hunting scenes are the most common, but
there are also scenes of battle and dancing, and possibly agricultural tasks and
managing domesticated animals. In some scenes gathering honey is shown, most
famously at Cuevas de la Araña en Bicorp.
The Man of Bicorp: The Man of Bicorp holding onto lianas to gather honey from a beehive as depicted on an
8000-year-old cave painting near Valencia, Spain.

The painting known as The Dancers of Cogul is a good example of the depiction of
movement in static art. In this scene, nine women are depicted, something new in art of
this region, some painted in black and others in red. They are shown dancing around a
male figure with abnormally large phallus, a figure that was rare if not absent in
Paleolithic art. Along with humans, several animals, including a dead deer or buck
impaled by an arrow or atlatl, are depicted.
Dance of the Cogul: El Cogul, Catalonia, Spain.

The native Mesolithic populations were slow in assimilating the agricultural way of life,
starting solely with the use of ceramics . It took a thousand years into the Neolithic
period before they adopted animal husbandry (which became especially important to
them) and plant cultivation. When they eventually developed interest in the more fertile
areas utilized by the late Danubian cultures, they compelled the Danubian farmers to
fortify their settlements.

Bronze Age Art

History of Art Timeline - Prehistoric Art Timeline - Prehistoric Art - Earliest Art
Bronze Age Art (c.3000-1100 BCE)
History, Characteristics

• Mesolithic Art (very approximately 10,000 - 6,000 BCE)

• Neolithic Art (very approximately 6,000 - 2,000 BCE)

Art from the Bronze age (c.3000-1100 BCE), an important period linking
the Stone Age with the Iron Age, was a reflection of the environment of the
time. The Bronze Age was characterized by the production of the
metal bronze(an alloy of copper and tin), the development of a wide range of
Monumental Bronze Head (c.1100 BCE)
Overlaid with gold foil. One of the
functional and precious metalwork, and an increase in economic productivity
extraordinary Sanxingdui bronzes: and the consequent emergence of skilled workers, many of whom were
masterpieces of the Bronze Age involved in artistic activity, albeit of a semi-functional nature. Ornamental and
in China.
decorative designs on helmets, body armour, swords, axe-heads and other
weapons became more widespread. Ceramic designs became more elegant,
and a new range of ceremonial/religious artifacts and artworks began to
emerge. Also, late prehistoric sculpture blossomed, taking full advantage of
bronze casting methods.

Bronze Age Cauldron

(National Museum of Ireland)


For a review of prehistoric art forms
including painting, sculpture and
decorative arts, see: Ancient Art.
The best examples of Bronze Age art appeared in the 'cradle of civilization'
around the Mediterranean in the Near East, during the rise of Mesopotamia
(present-day Iraq). For details, see: Mesopotamian art (c.4500-539 BCE)
and Mesopotamian Sculpture (c.3000-500 BCE). For the earliest art forms in
Mesopotamia, see: Sumerian Art(c.4500-2270 BCE). Egyptian art was also
established during the Bronze Age, in the form of monumental architecture -
notably the Egyptian Pyramids - and also included a range of murals, pottery
and sculpture. Persian art was equally advanced, while Aegean art in the form
of the Cycladic, Minoan and Mycenean cultures also emerged during this time,
as did Assyrian art (c.1500-612 BCE) and Hittite art (c.1600-1180 BCE). Within
a few centuries Greek art proper would appear, along with Etruscan and
later Roman art. In several of these regions, the emergence of cities, the use of
written language and the development of more sophisticated stone and metal
Minoan Vase (1700-1425 BCE)
A masterpiece of ancient pottery
working, made it possible to increase the type and quality of art produced. In
from Bronze Age Crete. the Far East, Neolithic Art in China(7500-2000 BCE), was followed by Xia
Dynasty culture(c.2100-1600), Shang Dynasty art (1600-1050) and Zhou
DIFFERENT FORMS OF ARTS Dynasty Art (1050-221) all of which became famous for their bronzes - see
For definitions, meanings and
explanations of different arts, also: Traditional Chinese Art: Characteristics. For more dates in the early
see Types of Art.
history of East Asian culture, see Chinese Art Timeline (18,000 BCE to present).
For more about architectural visual Examples of Bronze Age art within the Mediterranean area include: a wide
arts during the Bronze Age, see:
Architecture: History & Styles. range of painted ceramics, frescomurals, including landscapes as well as
figurative pictures of humans and animals. Religious relief and free-
standing sculpture, mostly carved from stone, although wood carving was also
common. There were paintings of Gods, and a range of artistic tributes to Kings
and secular rulers were also seen. A particularly rare Bronze Age statue is
the Palaikastro Kouros (1480-1425 BCE), a chryselephantine sculpture carved
from a hippopotamus tooth, found on the island of Crete. During this period,
art began to assume a significant role in reflecting the community, its rulers
and its relationship with the deities it worshipped.

Bronze Age art in Europe is exemplified by megalithic art, like engravings and
other petroglyphs, at Newgrange Megalithic Tomb (c.3300 BCE), the
larger Knowth Megalithic Tomb (c.2500 BCE) and the Stonehenge stone
circle (c.2600 BCE).

As the Bronze Age came to an end around 1100 BCE, the history of art reveals
a widening cultural gap between Northern and Mediterranean Europe. Climate,
the presence of minerals and other precious metals, security, social cohesion
and trade were all factors which favoured faster economic development, which
in turn led to a faster growth of the arts (especially painting and metalwork) in
the regions of the South, and along the principal European waterways like the
Rhine and the Danube.

Iron Age Art

History of Art Timeline - Prehistoric Art Timeline

Prehistoric Art - Earliest Art of the Stone Age - Oldest Art

Iron Age Art (c.1100-200 BCE)

History, Characteristics

• Mesolithic Art (very approximately 10,000 - 6,000 BCE)

• Neolithic Art (very approximately 6,000 - 2,000 BCE)

In contrast to the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, development during the Iron
Dying Gaul (c.232 BCE) by Greek Age (c.1100-200 BCE) was much faster and more visible. It witnessed
Sculptor Epigonus. the widespread use of iron and iron tools, resulting in greater prosperity
and a huge upsurge in metalwork, especially around the eastern
For a review of prehistoric art forms Mediterranean. During the period of the Iron Age,
including painting, sculpture and the Minoan and Mycenean civilizations declined, while Greek art dazzled the
decorative arts, see: Ancient Art. Mediterranean basin, especially Greek sculpture and painted Greek pottery. At
the same time the first Etruscan art also appeared, but it was the Hellenic
culture of ancient Greece which dominated, along with Egyptian and Persian
art. In central Europe, Celtic art proved influential, notably in the field of

The Vix Krater (c.500 BCE)

Wine-mixing vessel discovered in
the famous grave of the "Lady of Vix"
in Burgundy. It is the largest known
metal vessel of antiquity.

Only after Greece began to lose its power at the end of the Iron Age (c.200
BCE onwards) did Roman art begin to appear, and this was created largely by
Greeks in the Hellenic style. Unfortunately, many of the paintings and other
artworks from this period have been destroyed, leaving us with only a relatively
small legacy of architectural and portable art works (like vases) by which to
gauge the artistic activity of the day.

Broighter Collar (1st Century BCE) In the history of art, Mediterranean Iron Age civilization is classified into
A delicate tube of gold decorated in several smaller periods, most of which reflect the artistic activity in Greece.
the Celtic La Tene style.
(National Museum of Ireland)
These are: the Dark Ages (c.1200-900 BCE), the Geometric Period (c.900-
700 BCE), Oriental-Style Period (c.700-625 BCE), the Archaic
For more about architectural visual Period (c.625-500 BCE), the Classical Period (c.500-323 BCE), and
arts during the Iron Age, see: the Hellenistic Period (c.323-27 BCE).
Architecture: History & Styles.
For definitions, meanings and
explanations of different arts,
see Types of Art.

During the Dark Ages, the Greek world temporarily fell into chaos due to
external pressures. The smaller, poorer constituent kingdoms which emerged
could not support the luxury arts that had flourished in the Bronze Age palaces
of the Minoan and Mycenaean empires. Most painting and sculpture were lost
and the arts went into decay. Fortunately, by 900 BCE, Athens reasserted itself
and the arts - notably ancient pottery (painted vases) - regained their earlier
importance. During the Geometric Period, vases were produced in geometric
shapes to facilitate maximum decoration and narrative. During the Orientalist
Period, vases became less geometric, and depicted more heroic scenes from
Greek history. See also Daedalic-style Greek Sculpture. During the Archaic
period, these historical motifs were initially replaced by stereotyped animal or
human figures, although by 500 BCE even more complex mythological scenes
had reappeared. See Archaic-style Greek sculpture and Archaic-style Greek
Throughout the first four periods of the Iron Age, vase painting largely mirrored
monumental art - meaning, painting and decoration of buildings and other
monuments. Many temples and other public buildings were decorated with
friezes and wall-paintings.

During the Classical Period, Greek art became less decorative and more
dignified. Painting depicted political and military successes. Noted muralists of
the time included Polygnotus, Micon, Apollodorus (invented skiagraphia or
shadow-painting), Zeuxis, Apelles, and Parrhasius. Both linear-style and more
subtle shading styles were practised. Sculpture, relief, pedimental and free-
standing, was more widespread and has survived better. Art historians sub-
divide the sculpture of this era into Early Classical, High Classical and Late

The Hellenistic Period, beginning with the death of Alexander the Great,
witnessed more developments in both Greek painting and sculpture. Artists
became employed by rulers who utilized their talents to promote their image
and secular claims. As Rome gained in political power, Etruscan art began to
recover from its domination by Greece. Remains of tombs in Etruria display
paintings with quite sophisticated chiaroscuro effects.

Iron Age arts in Northern and Central Europe owed much to the influence
of Celtic metalwork art, but remained limited in design and quality by
comparison with Mediterranean examples. By far the best examples of central
European civilizations include the Hallstatt and La Tene styles of Celtic culture.

Few secure cities emerged in the North during this time, leaving fewer
opportunities for painting and sculpture. Instead, art was limited to personal
adornments, cooking or drinking vessels, along with decoration and
ornamentation of weaponry, horse tack, boats and other functional items. (For
more about Celtic crafts in Ireland during this period, please see the history of
Irish art.)

In Chinese art, the end of the Iron Age witnessed the supreme example
of ceramic art in the form of the huge collection of terracotta sculpture, known
as The Terracotta Army. (c.240-210 BCE), which was followed by four centuries
of Han Dynasty Art (206 BCE - 220 CE).