Our Upper Paleolithic ancestors lived in small, nomadic groups…the glaciers still covered northern stretches of Europe, North America and Asia. Some of the most ancient examples of Paleolithic art are small figures of people and animals…made of bone, ivory, stone or clay. These figurines are examples of sculpture in the round.
Carvers were also producing relief sculpture where the surrounding area is carved away leaving a background for the figure
A puzzling example of a sculpture in the round is a human figure with a feline head. Nearly a foot tall, this figure is larger and more complex than most Paleolithic sculpture. The artist clearly used his or her imagination to come up with this combination, representing a creature never before seen in nature. Does it represent a person wearing the ritualistic mask of a lion? Or, someone taking on the appearance and power of this animal?
Elegant, remote, but warmly human, the Woman from Brassempouy stares from her once painted eyes. Art is an expression of the human need to create images of ourselves and our kind as things of beauty, however we may define such elusive concepts as art and beauty. An egg shape rests atop a long neck…a strongly defined brow suggests deep set eyes…the squared pattern on her head could be hair or a headdress. This is an example of abstraction.
Paleolithic artists depicted women more frequently than other subjects. This Woman from Willendorf, carved from limestone, and originally covered with red ocher, seems much larger than she actually is because of the exaggerated features of her body. Figurines of women, depicting adolescence to old age, have been found at dozens of sites across Europe and the Ukraine. See The Power of Naming page 26
By carving a woman with a well nourished body, the artist expresses the condition of health which would ensure the ability to reproduce, so insuring the survival of the tribe.
Paleolithic sculpture show the ability to pose and to solve problems. These faculties are among the characteristics unique to human beings.
Rock art is in many places around the world. The oldest known examples are in western Europe. (Lascaux, France and Altamira, Spain) Artists painted images of animals and a few people…many hand prints and hundreds of geometric markings.
One scene at Lascaux is unusual because of the human figure, but also because it tells a story. This painting is believed to be the vision of a shaman.
Evidence of scaffolding, ropes, nets, baskets, simple brushes, pottery and lamps has been found in these caves.
Changes that mark the development of the Neolithic culture include: Development of organized agriculture (farming) Herds of domesticated animals (animal husbandry) Foundation of year-round settlements (villages)
The worlds first settled farming communities emerged in an area called the Fertile Crescent.
In addition to stone, Neolithic artists worked with clay. Their ceramics, or wares made of baked clay, display a high degree of technical skill and aesthetic imagination. Woman and Man, Cernavoda, Romania, c. 3500 BCE. Ceramic, height 4 ½. National Historical Museum, Bucharest.
Many Neolithic villages were made primarily of timber which became abundant after the ice age was over. In places where timber was scarce, people used stone. These settlements are the best preserved today. Skara Brae, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK
Neolithic and post-Neolithic people built megalithic monuments and sculptures for ritual purposes that are not fully understood by scholars today. The best known of these structures is Stonehenge in southern England.
Stonehenge is not the largest Neolithic stone circle, but it is the most complex. It went through at least four major building phases between 2750 and 1500 BCE. It must have had extraordinary social and symbolic importance to the region.
Given the relationship between the monuments relationship to the sun, some scholars think that Stonehenge was a kind of observatory. Anthropologists believe that it was a major site for public ceremonies, possibly planting or harvest rituals.
The period that follows the introduction of metalworking is commonly called the Bronze Age. NOTE: Bronze is copper and tin mixed together
The blacksmiths held a privileged position in society because they seemed to work magic as they transformed various metals, by heat and hammer, into useful objects or works of art.