prehistoric - De Anza College

Introduction to Study of Art History
How Old is It? Chronology
History of Ownership? Provenance
Subject Matter? (Narrative? Iconography, Attributes?)
Who Made It (Artist Name, Attribution? Connoisseurship)
Who Paid for It? Patron/Patronage
Form & Style:
Shape (2D),Form (3D)
Values (lights/darks)
Space, Color, Texture
Materials & Methods (or Technique?)
Paleolithic Art
Old Stone Age
(Paleo= old)
(Lith= stone, from Greek)
Anonymous. Wall painting: Horses, Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pont-d’Arc,
Ardèche gorge, France. ca. 30,000 BCE.
Approx. height: 6'.
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Map: Major Paleolithic caves in France and Spain.
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The Beginnings of Culture in the Paleolithic Era
What characterizes the beginnings of human culture?
• Agency and Ritual: Cave Art — Most scholars believe that cave
paintings possessed some sort of agency—that is, they were created to
exert some power or authority over the world of those who came into
contact with them. The caves may have served as some sort of ritual
space. At Chauvet, the use of color suggests that the paintings served
some sacred or symbolic function.
• Paleolithic Culture and Its Artifacts — Homo sapiens were
hunter-gatherers, whose survival depended on the animals they could
kill and the foods they could gather. The tools they developed were far
more sophisticated than those of their ancestors. They carved small
sculptural objects which appear to be the first instances of what we
have come to call “art.” The most famous of these is the Willendorf
Venus. The Paleolithic peoples from the Ukraine area built houses
using long curving tusks probably covering the structure with hides.
Anonymous. Wall painting with bird-headed man, bison, and rhinoceros,
Lascaux Cave, Dordogne, France. ca. 15,000-13,000 BCE.
Approx. length: 9'.
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Anonymous. Wall painting. Detail of Horse. Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pontd’Arc, Ardèche gorge, France. ca. 30,000 BCE.
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Anonymous. Woman (Venus of Willendorf), found at Willendorf, Austria.
ca. 25,000-20,000 BCE.
Height: 4".
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 Studio Technique Video: Sculpture Carving
Chapter 1 – The Rise of Culture: From Forest to Farm
Anonymous. Methods of carving: Woman holding an animal horn, Laussel,
Dordogne, France. ca. 30,000-15,000 BCE.
Height: 17-3/8".
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Map: The Great river valley civilizations ca. 2000 BCE.
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The Rise of Agriculture in the Neolithic Era
How do we distinguish the Neolithic from the Paleolithic? What is a
• Neolithic Jericho
— Located in the Middle East, Jericho is one of the oldest known
settlements of the Neolithic era. Skulls of the dead were found with
features rebuilt in plaster and painted to look like the living ancestor.
The houses at Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands are made entirely of
stone. The walls are made by corbeling, furniture was built into the
walls. The houses in the village were connected by a series of
• Neolithic Ceramic Figures — It is a simple step from forming clay
pots and firing them to modeling clay sculptural figures and using the
same firing process. Examples of clay modeling can be found in some
of the earliest Paleolithic cave sites. Not all figures were fired.
• The Neolithic Megaliths of Northern Europe — Megaliths are a
distinctive kind of monumental stone architecture that appears in Britain
and France. These works were constructed without the use of mortar
and represent the most basic form of construction. Upright stones
stuck into the ground are menhirs. The dolmen consists of two posts
roofed with a capstone, or lintel. The most famous megalithic structure
in the world is the cromlech known as Stonehenge.
Discussion Question: How does the post-and-lintel construction
technique work? How does each key component contribute to the
Anonymous. Early Neolithic wall and tower, Jericho, Jordan. ca. 7500 BCE.
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Anonymous. Plastered skull from Jericho. Pre-pottery Neolithic B period.
ca. 7000-6000 BCE.
Life size.
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Anonymous. Beaker with ibex, dogs, and long-necked birds, from Susa,
southwest Iran. ca. 5000–4000 BCE.
Height: 11-1/4".
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