1. Classify types of Prehistoric art and their respective media
2. Explain how humans began to represent their world during the Paleolithic era
3. Understand the pictorial conventions employed in Paleolithic and Neolithic art
4. Explain how climatic change affected artistic production in the Neolithic era
5. Explain how shifting social systems contributed to the differences between Paleolithic and Neolithic art
6. Describe the roles of animal and human figures in Paleolithic and Neolithic art
7. Explain the purposes and techniques of monumental architecture during the Neolithic era

PREHISTORIC ART - the art that existed before "history" (the written word)

ca. 30,000 - 9,000 BCE

ca. 8,000 - 2300 BCE

Some of the fundamental terminology / concepts:
  • Paleolithic, Mesolithic & Neolithic
  • Prehistory
  • the nature of conjecture / enigmatic art
  • gender in art
  • narrative in art
  • importance of magic and ritual in life and art
  • optical (natural perspective) vs. composite view (twisted perspective)
  • wall paintings
  • incising
  • ground line
  • modeling
  • relief sculpture (low, middle, high)
  • high relief vs. in-the-round (free-standing)
  • spanning an entryway: corbelling; post and lintel; arch
  • stonehenge
  • megaliths and cromlechs (henges)
  • post and lintel

Waterworn Pebble
  • Why is this significant?
  • Where was this found?

Venus of Willendorf
  • What is the medium?
  • Name this "type" of sculpture, as it relates to the field of art and art history.
  • What is the significance of this work?
  • What may be the suggested intent / purpose of this work? Explain.

Human with Feline Head
  • How is this work significant?
  • What is the medium?
  • What is the size?
  • How is this work important?
  • What is the significance of "representing" human and animal forms in the Paleolithic period?

Woman Holding Bison Horn
  • Name this "type" of sculpture, as it relates to the field of art and art history.
  • How might you describe this work (formally), in terms of where your attention is drawn?
  • Based on the inherent visual clues, what might you suggest is meant by this work?

La Madeleine - Spearthrower
  • What is the medium?
  • How does this work further emphasize the convention used for representing a creature in the Paleolithic time period?
  • Clarity, completeness - are these qualities important, in relation to how the artist handled this particular work?

Two Bison
  • Name this "type" of sculpture, as it relates to the field of art and art history.
  • Explain the art process used in the creation of these bison. Why is the process used to create this work noteworthy? What does it suggest?
  • How large are the bison?

Altamira Cave
  • Where is this cave located?
  • Explain how / when this cave was discovered.

Altamira Bison
  • Are these depictions of bison meant to be viewed as a "herd"? Why or why not?

Hall of the Bulls (Lascaux, France)
  • Explain the two distinct approaches used to illustrate the animals found on this cave's ceiling.
  • Why might these two distinct mark-making approaches be important to us, as art historians / students of art?
  • Explain one of the debates (questions) relating to the manner in which the many animals were painted on the ceiling (namely with respect to "time"). Explain the significance of this.
  • Notice the manner in which the bulls are depicted. What is the term used to describe the perspective used here?

Spotted Horses and Negative Hands
  • Why is this work significant?
  • How is the "negative hand-print" achieved?
  • Where is this located?

Chauvet Cave - Aurochs, Horses and Rhinoceroses Wall Painting
  • What is suggested by the juxtaposition of the two rhinos in the lower portion of the wall painting?
  • Why might this be significant?
  • How is the perspective for representing the aurochs (extince long-horned oxen) different than that used in the bulls (Lascaux France)? Explain: Twisted perspective (conceptual) vs. Naturalistic depiction (optical)

Rhinoceros, man, bison
  • What do you think is taking place in this detail?
  • What is known vs. information that is hypothetical / conjecture?
  • Explain the relationship between this painted scene and the cave entrance.

TRANSITION to the Mesolithic, then Neolithic
  • What is the change in technique of painting from the Paleolithic to Neolithic periods?
  • Briefly describe the distinction between food gathering and food production during the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods.

Çatal Hüyük (Restored View)
  • Briefly describe the layout of Çatal Höyük.
  • How is this significant?
  • What was the construction material?
  • What urban design does Çatal Höyük present?
  • Summarize the differences between the shrines and houses of Çatal Höyük.


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