Prehistoric Art

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The first art that we can recognize appears in association with the remains of fully modern people. These people were just like us, although their lifestyles depended on hunting and foraging for food or, later, on pastoralism and subsistence agriculture. It is possible that earlier peoples might have decorated their bodies and clothes or marked trees or features in the landscape but, if they did, evidence of their art has not survived. Recognizable art dates from at least 38.000BC in Europe. Africa, and Australia. There are also controversial claims for rock art of similar age in South America. Works of this early period are not simple. They do not show development in the manner of a child’s drawing, that is, gaining competence and accuracy in realistic representation before perhaps achieving a more mature confidence for abstraction. Instead, the oldest known works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and engravings, seem to show all these qualities at once.
They are the products of minds as intellectually capable and sophisticated as our own. In Europe and Africa, early works of art depict animals and humans and include symbols. The former may be drawn or sculpted realistically or represented by the clever emphasis of a distinctive characteristic, such as the tusks of the mammoth or the horn of a rhinoceros. Paintings, low relief sculptures, and engravings adorned areas of caves and rock shelters where hunter-foragers lived. They also covered dark caverns and recesses visited less frequently where light from fires and lamps illuminated occasions which probably had special social and spiritual significance. With the spread of farming as a way of life, people began to settle in villages, and territories were defined. Drawings like maps and landscapes appeared, along with domesticated animals and more human figures. Changing styles of decorated pottery became the designer labels of successive generations of prehistoric peoples. Of all the known prehistoric works of art, some 70 per cent may be attributed to hunter-foragers, 13 per cent to herders and stock raisers, and 17 per cent to people with an organized economy (farmers, livestock breeders, and the like). The cave art of all social groups consists of five principal motifs: human figures, animals, tools and weapons, rudimentary local maps, and symbols or ideograms.These motifs occur on portable objects (engraved, sculpted or claymodelled) and immovable surfaces (rock paintings and engravings).

European Cave and Rock Art

The cave and rock art of the later Old Stone Age or Upper Paleolithic (which ended in about 10,000bc) is especially famous and has certain particular characteristics. In these oldersites, large pictures of animals are only rarely associated with human figures, whereas in more numerous. Within sites, one animal may be more frequently represented than others. Some animals may be restricted to certains parts of the cave, others may occur throughout. Animal associations vary but compositions including particular pairs of animals, such as bison and horses in Europe or elephants and giraffes in Africa, are known. On both continents mythical beasts including half animal, half human creatures are occasionally depicted. Portraits of people are rare and landscapes, plants, fruit, and flowers are unknown. In Africa, south of the Sahara, and in present-day Tanzania (Kondoa and Singida in the Rift Valley), ancient hunters left black and yellow paintings and graffiti in granite caves and sandstone galleries. Later polychrome works are also found here, including ideograms, paintings, handprints and rare human figures, together with the traditional association of elephants and giraffes. In densely inhabited North Africa, art is found on rock walls at the root of mountain massifs such as Tibesti and Tassili, now surrounded by vast deserts.
In Europe, some 200 caves and rock shelters are known to contain art. The majority dccur in France and Spain, and a few in Italy, Portugal. Romania, and Russia. The oldest sites are attributed to the Aurignacian period (36,OOO-3O,OOObc). It is notable that paintings and figurines of this phase often depict dangerous animals such as lions, bears, hyaenas, and woolly rhinoceroses, as well as humans, horses, and other food animals. Handprints and dot motifs also appear. The colours used were produced from ochre (reds and yellows), manganese dioxide (violet and black) and charcoal (black). These minerals were pulverized on stone palettes and mixed with animal fat to moisten them before they were applied with the fingers, bone spatulae or brushes. Stone engraving tools known as burins were used to engrave and carve portable works. In the later European periods of the Solutrean-Magdalenian (24,000-12,OOObc), large low relief sculpture, engravings, clay modelling, and big compositions including many animals are characteristic at sites such as Roc-de Sers, Lascaux, and Niaux in France.
In some sites like Altamira in Spain (the first example of cave art to be discovered), wooden scaffolding must have been used to paint the remarkable friezes on high walls and ceilings. In the Near and Middle East, Paleolithic art made its first appearance prior to 12,000вс.
Archaic hunter-foragers of central Arabia left art in the form of shallow to deep engravings, while, in India, some of the rock paintings of the Vindihya Hills may date from about 14,000bc. However, many of the earliest depictions drawn in yellow have been over-painted with scenes in red dating from the Bronze Age and white historical pictures. The red paint was obtained from plant stems and leaves

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