Pre-Historic Art

  • Directions:

    Part I: Use the reading below to answer the questions on the handout

    Part II: follow the link below to answer

    Part I


    Art was born around 25,000 years ago, when Neanderthal evolved into our modern human ancestor. With greater intelligence came the use of imagination and the ability to create images in both painting and sculpture. Architecture came into being with the construction of ritual monuments.


         Although early artist are anonymous, most of what we know about ancient cultures is from the art that they have left behind, thus the name artifacts. Development in art happened throughout the ages as man developed a better understanding of the medium being use, painting, sculpture, and architecture.

    Pre-Historic Art- The Beginning

    Although human have been walking upright for millions of year, it was not until about 25,000 years ago that early humans “invented art”. Sometime during the last ice age, when hunters and gathers were still living in caves, the early tool making mentality gave way to the urge to create imagery.


         The first objects were not created to “look pretty” or decorate instead the images were made in an attempt to control or appease the natural forces. These images consisted of symbols of animal and people had supernatural significance and magical powers.


    The oldest surviving art objects are sculptures made from bone, ivory, stone, or antlers. These were engraved, carved in deep relief, or fully rounded in three-dimensional sculptures.

    Cave Painting:
    The first “paintings” were probably made in caves approximately 15,000 years ago. These pictures of bison, deer, horses, cattle and mammoths, and boars are located in the most remote recess of the caves, far from inhabitable, sunlit entrances.

    Why did they paint these images?

    It is unknown why early man painted these images, however, it is speculated by archaeologists that they painted them ritualistically to ensure a successful hunt. This is because the images show animals pierced with spears and arrows. In addition to the imagery in some cases gouges in the rock are present indicating that they may have used the image for target practice.


    The Discovery of Cave Art:

    Lascaux, France 1940:

    Two French boys were taking their dog out for a walk when they notice the dog had disappeared. The found the dog in a hole leading to a cave covered with thousands engravings and painting. Sealed in a dry underground chamber, the painting had survived virtually intact for more than 17,000 years. With the discovery, hordes of visitors came to see the caves; however, moisture and carbon dioxide accumulated by visitors and fungus began to creep up the walls. Since 1963, the caves at Lascaux have been closed to the public.

    First Architecture:

    The first architecture was very simple in its design. The term “post and lentil” structure is used to describe the structures design. Large slabs of rock were placed upright and then another rock was placed on top. The rocks weighted up to 50 tons! The most popular structure is that on “Stonehenge” built around 2000 b.c. in Wiltshire, England.


    The Easter Island Monoliths - How They Did It:

    If you have ever seen the construction of a modern building, you will notice the aid of bulldozers, huge cranes, and lifts. Prehistoric man did not have these luxuries, in the case of Stonehenge, hundreds of men dragged stones weighing up to 50 tons for 24 miles!

    Using crude stone picks, the statues would be carved out from the creator of a volcano. One-hundred eighty natives would move the 30-ft 25-ton statue rolling them on logs. To raise them, they would lift the statue using ropes and wooden levers to raise the statue little by little adding rocks to hold it in position.

    It took approximately 1 year to carve the statue and 2 weeks to erect it. At one time, there were some 600 of the statues on Easter Island.

    Part II:

    When you have finished reading follow the link below to answer the rest of the questions on your sheet.

    The Caves of Lascaux