Before going into the details of the facts to provided here, it is important for us to explore the times before history was actively recorded by discussing the meaning of the word ‘prehistoric’. The term prehistoric literally means ‘before history’ and it covers the thousands of years before the ancestors of man discovered writing. In prehistoric ages, Homo sapiens made use of art as the only written medium for transferring their thoughts for the sake of posterity. Prehistoric art forms are divided into three distinct eras which are:
- The Lower Paleolithic: which occurred 500,000 years ago and defines the period when the only art forms of Homo erectus were scratches on cave walls using animal bones.
- The Middle Paleolithic: this occurred 50,000-100,000 years ago and by then, man had discovered how to draw and paint crudely.
- The Upper Paleolithic: occurred 10,000-50,000 years ago and is defined as the period man began to paint as well as create figurines and other items for domestic use.
This article will attempt to provide 10 facts that cut across the eras explained above which can be used as reference points when writing an essay on prehistoric art.
- Prehistoric art forms were drawn for definite purposes and these purposes were generally ritualistic and to glorify the hunt. Other prehistoric drawings depicting seasonal animals were also attempts by prehistoric man to document the seasons as they came and went.
- Prehistoric men truly resided in caves and carried out most of their activities in hiding. This is due to the fact that they hid from predators as well as the ever changing elements of nature. Although prehistoric men drew on sand and rocks, the ravages of time eclipsed these drawings and we have only the cave art to tell us about their culture.
- Prehistoric artist actively believed that depicting an object or item in art form was a way of putting a binding spell on the drawn item. Therefore while they drew animals in clear details to cast hunting spells on the animals, they abstained from drawing exact depictions of themselves in order not to create binding spells. Although the belief in one Supreme Being would come later in time, prehistoric humans believed in hunting gods and fertility goddesses as can be seen in their works of art
- Prehistoric Drawing and Painting Materials: the art forms in the middle and upper Paleolithic era were much more developed than the bone pickings and scratches of the lower Paleolithic era. Prehistoric artists made use of their fingers, bird feathers and animal bones as drawing tools. While for painting, prehistoric artist took advantage of the different types of clay to produce red, brown and yellow colors. And for black, charcoal and mud mixed with cave water was used in creating the color black.
- Prehistoric Art and Painting Techniques: while most people associate prehistoric art with the backwardness of the cave man, prehistoric art shows otherwise.
In the caves of La Vache, archaeologists discovered charcoal tracings underneath the animal paintings depicted on its walls. This showed advanced drawing techniques such as sketching to achieve accuracy.
Also, hollowed bones and feathers were used as painting tools which goes to show the advanced spray painting techniques used in prehistoric art.
- Prehistoric Art, Sculpture and the Pictures Depicted: studies show that earlier art forms from the prehistoric era were usually drawings or animals with arrows or spears in them while humans were hardly featured till later in the middle Paleolithic.
So prehistoric art forms contained mainly animals such as Bison, cattle, reindeer, mammoths and aurochs. Further analysis of prehistoric art forms showed that 75% of these art works were created by hunters while a mere 15% were created by gatherers.
Human sculptures and art works began to feature in prehistoric art during the upper Paleolithic period in the form of stick sketches and the Venus figurines.
- Prehistoric Art and Location: prehistoric art works have been unearthed in caves and archaeological sites all over the world but the most notable mentions are:South Western France and Northern Spain which are home to over 350 sites where cave paintings have been discovered. Prehistoric art works from these regions are jointly known as Franco-Cantabrian cave art.
Other notable mentions are southwestern Germany, South Africa, India and China.
- Where are the Oldest Cave Paintings Located? Radiocarbon dating techniques have been applied to most cave paintings found across the globe to determine their ages and the facts show that:
El Castillo cave paintings in Cantabria Spain are the oldest paintings that have been discovered to date. Its age is set at approximately 39,000 BCE.
Next is the Leang Timpuseng cave in Indonesia which is dated to have been painted in 37,500 BCE. Third is the Chauvet cave in France created around 30,000 BCE.
- Prehistoric Art and Sexual Depictions: although it took a while for prehistoric artists to start depicting humans in their paintings and sculptures, early figurines showed that the female form were more popular objects of interest than the male form.
These early sculptures of women figures always followed the artistic format of a large breasted woman with protruding stomach and hip regions. They might have been viewed as sexual in this modern age.
- Prehistoric Art included Sculpture: Although most art works from the prehistoric age were cave drawings and paintings, the middle and lower Paleolithic age witnessed the inclusion of sculpting as a means of creating art in prehistoric times.
Bas-relief techniques were used in creating sculptures as can be seen from the Venus of Laussel sculpture and prehistoric artist made use of limestone and unfired clay in sculpting these objects.
Here is where we come to the end of the cool facts on prehistoric art works which can be used when drafting case study on prehistoric art. These facts were provided to aid your research and writing process if giving such a project. So do not hesitate to use them as reference points where and when the need may arise. Additionally don’t hesitate paying a visit to our 20 topics for a case study on prehistoric art as well as our genre specific guide.
Wikipedia: Prehistoric Art. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prehistoric_art
Visual Art Encyclopedia: Prehistoric Art of the Stone Age. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/prehistoric-art.htm
Francis, G. (2007). Religious Awareness in Art Forms from Prehistory to Today 3-5 http://www.crossroadsnyc.com/files/Greene_CaveArt.pdf
Laura, T. (2007). Introduction to Prehistoric Art, 20,000-8,000 B.C. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/preh/hd_preh.htm
Kiaren, J. (2005). Female Figurines of the Upper Paleolithic. http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-europe/venus-figurines-european-paleolithic-era-001548
Alan, D. (). Venus Figurines of the European Paleolithic: Symbols of Fertility or Attractiveness? http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-europe/venus-figurines-european-paleolithic-era-001548
Soffer, O. & Adovasio, J. (2000). Textiles, Basketry, Gender and Status in the Upper Paleolithic. http://www.unl.edu/rhames/courses/current/venus1.pdf