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The next oldest prehistoric art from the Lower Paleolithic comes almost at the end of the period. The dominant Paleolithic culture was Mousterian, a flake tool industry largely characterized by the point and side scraper, associated in Europe with Homo neanderthalensis. This was not a period of great invention - plain hand-axes, for instance, were still regularly employed - but major improvements were made in the basic process of tool-making, and in the range and proper utilization of manufactured implements.

Towards the end of the period, Mousterian tool technology was enhanced by another culture known as Levallois, and practised in North Africa, the Middle East and as far afield as Siberia. The name Mousterian derives from the type-site of Le Moustier, a cave in the Dordogne region of southern France, although the same technology was practised across the unglaciated zones of Europe and also the Middle East and North Africa.

Tool forms featured a wide variety of specialized shapes, including barbed and serrated edges. These new blade designs helped to reduce the need for humans to use their teeth to perform certain tasks, thus contributing to a diminution of facial and jaw features among later humans. Mousterian Man was able to standardize the tool-making process and thus introduce greater efficiency, possibly through division and specialization of labour.

Tool-makers went to great efforts to create blades that could be regularly re-sharpened, thus endowing tools with a greater lifespan. Their production of serrated edge blades, special animal-hide scrapers and the like, together with a range of bone instruments such as needles suggesting the use of animal furs and skins as body coverings and shoes reveal a growing improvement in cognitive ability - something illustrated by Neanderthal Man's success in hunting large mammoths, an activity which required much greater social organization and cooperation.

Levallois Flake-Tool Culture c. Named after a suburb of Paris, the Levalloisian is an important flint-knapping culture characterized by an enhanced technique of producing flakes. This involved the preliminary shaping of the core stone into a convex tortoise shape in order to yield larger flakes.

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Levallois culture influenced many other Middle Paleolithic stone tool industries. One of the few works of art dating from the Middle Paleolithic, is the pair of ochre rocks decorated with abstract cross-hatch patterns found in the Blombos Caves east of Cape Town. See also: Prehistoric Abstract Signs. They are one of the oldest examples of African art , and have been dated to 70, BCE. It is probable that towards the end of the Upper Paleolithic, human artists began producing primitive forms of Oceanic art in the SW Pacific area, and very early types of Tribal art throughout Africa and Asia, although little has survived.

See also the cupules at the La Ferrassie Neanderthal cave in France. The Upper Paleolithic is the final and shortest stage of the Paleolithic Age: less than 15 percent of the length of the preceeding Middle Paleolithic. When referring to Africa it is more commonly known as the late Stone Age. In addition to more specialized tools and a more sophisticated way of life, Upper Paleolithic culture spawned the first widespread appearance of human painting and sculpture, which appeared simultaneously in almost every corner of the globe.

Also, from the start of the Upper Paleolithic period, the Neanderthal Man sub-species of Homo sapiens was replaced by "anatomically modern humans" eg. The five main tool cultures of the Upper Paleolithic were 1 Perigordian aka Chatelperronian; 2 Aurignacian; 3 Gravettian; 4 Solutrean; and 5 Magdalenian.

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The era saw the construction of the earliest man-made dwellings mostly semi-subterranean pit houses , while the location of settlements indicates a more complex pattern of social interreaction, involving collective hunting, organized fishing, social stratification, ceremonial events, supernatural and religious ritual. Other developments included the beginning of private property, the use of needle and thread, and clothing. The Upper Paleolithic period witnessed the beginning of fine art , featuring drawing , modelling, sculpture, and painting , as well as jewellery , personal adornments and early forms of music and dance.

The three main art forms were cave painting , rock engraving and miniature figurative carvings. During this period, prehistoric society began to accept ritual and ceremony - of a quasi-religious or shaman-type nature. As a result, certain caves were reserved as prehistoric art galleries, where artists began to paint animals and hunting scenes, as well as a variety of abstract or symbolic drawings. Cave art first appeared during the early Aurignacian culture, as exemplified by the dots and hand stencils of the El Castillo Cave paintings c.

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Examples of Gravettian art include the prehistoric hand stencils at the now underwater Cosquer Cave c. But without doubt, the most evocative art of the period is the Gargas Cave hand stencils 25, BCE , featuring a chilling array of mutilated fingers. During the Solutrean period, prehistoric painters influenced by late Gravettian traditions began work on their magnificent polychrome images of horses, bulls and other animals in the Lascaux Cave from 17, BCE , and the Spanish Cantabrian Cave of La Pasiega from 16, BCE.

Further afield, Aboriginal rock art began in the north of Australia, where the first 'modern' humans arrived from SE Asia. Ubirr rock art and Kimberley rock art are both believed to date from as early as 30, BCE, as are the ancient Burrup Peninsula rock engravings in the Pilbara, Western Australia. All these Australian Paleolithic sites are famous for their open air engraved drawings, whereas almost all the European engravings were created inside caves: the leading exception being the Coa Valley Engravings, Portugal 22, BCE.

Upper Paleolithic artists produced a vast number of small sculptures of female figures, known as Venus Figurines.

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During the following Gravettian culture, more appeared, such as: the Venus of Dolni Vestonice ceramic clay figurine: c. Other non-female examples include the ivory Lion Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel c. Stone Age relief sculpture is exemplified by the Dordogne limestone relief known as the Venus of Laussel c. Tool-making received something of an overhaul. Out went the old hand axes and flake tools, in came a wide range of diversified and specialized tools made from specially prepared stones. They included spear and arrow points, and a signature figure-eight shaped blade.

Hafted tools appeared, as did the harpoon, specialist fishing equipment and a range of gravers or burins and scrapers. In addition to flint, materials like bone, ivory, and antlers were utilized extensively. Aurignacian Culture about 40, - 26, BCE. One of several cultures which co-existed in Upper Paleolithic Europe, it was also practised as far away as south west Asia, its name derives from the type-site near the village of Aurignac in the Haute Garonne, France. Aurignacian art also witnessed the first significant manifestations of fine art painting and sculpture: a phenomenom which continued throughout the rest of the Upper Paleolithic era.

Notable examples include the red abstract symbols at El Castillo , the monochrome cave murals at Chauvet and Coliboaia , and the early venus figurines from across Europe. Other Aurignacian rock art included hand stencils, finger tracings, engravings, and bas-reliefs. In addition, Aurignacian humans produced the first personal ornaments made from decorated bone and ivory, such as bracelets, necklaces, pendants and beads.

This growing self-awareness, together with the birth of fine art, marks the Aurignacian as the first modern culture of the Stone Age. No particular art is associated with this culture. Gravettian Culture about 26, - 20, BCE. Personal jewellery continued to be manufactured, and more personal property is evident, indicating an increasing degree of social stratification. Gravettian art is immensely rich in both cave painting and portable sculptural works.

The former is exemplified by the wonderful stencil art at Cosquer cave and the coloured charcoal and ochre pictures at Pech-Merle cave. Curiously, Solutrean tool-makers appear to have developed a number of uniquely advanced techniques, some of which were not seen for several thousand years after their departure. In any event, Solutrean people produced the finest Paleolithic flint craftsmanship in western Europe.

However, around 15, BCE, Solutrean culture mysteriously vanishes from the archeological record. Some paleoanthropologists believe there are affinities between Solutean and the later North American Clovis culture as evidenced by artifacts found at Blackwater Draw in New Mexico, USA , indicating that Solutreans migrated across the frozen Atlantic to America. Other experts believe that Solutrean culture was overcome by a wave of new invaders. Perhaps because of its focus on tool technology, Solutrean art is noted above all for its achievements in engraving and relief sculpture - see, for instance the fabulous rock engravings and frieze at the Roc-de-Sers Cave c.


Experts believe that the artists who created the cave murals at Lascaux and La Pasiega were influenced either by late Gravettian or early Magdalenian culture. Ancient pottery also appeared at this time in East Asia. The oldest known sherds come from the Xianrendong Cave Pottery c. After this comes Yuchanyan Cave Pottery c.


For more chronological details, see: Pottery Timeline. Magdalenian Culture about 15, - 8, BCE.

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Magdalenian is the final culture of the period and the apogee of Paleolithic art, of the Old Stone Age. Magdalenian tool technology is defined by the production of smaller and more sophisticated tools from barbed points to needles, well-crafted scrapers to parrot-beak gravers made from fine flint-flakes and animal sources bone, ivory etc , whose specialized functions and delicacy testify to the culture's advanced nature.

Magdalenian culture attached a growing importance to aesthetic objects, such as personal jewellery, ceremonial accessories, clothing and especially fine art. Indeed, the cultural horizons of Magdalenian people are easily appreciated by studying the upsurge of drawing, painting, relief sculpture of the period, exemplified by the Altimira Cave paintings - whose symbolism in particular represents the first attempt by humans to impose their own sense of meaning on a relatively uncertain world - as well as the Addaura Cave engravings 11, BCE whose style is remarkably modern.

This unstoppable trend would - within only a few millennia - lead to the appearance of pictographs, hieroglyphics and written language. For details, see: Magdalenian Art. In the case of Mesolithic and Neolithic , this is because their defining characteristics appeared at differing times according to the ice conditions of the region or country. In the case of the Bronze and Iron Ages, this is because certain civilizations developed metallurgical skills at different times. Thus, there are no universal dates for the beginning and end of these eras, so our focus is on Europe. Mesolithic Culture c.

The Mesolithic period is a transitional era between the ice-affected hunter-gatherer culture of the Upper Paleolithic, and the farming culture of the Neolithic. The greater the effect of the retreating ice on the environment of a region, the longer the Mesolithic era lasted. So, in areas with no ice eg. Their Mesolithic period was therefore short, and often referred to as the Epi-Paleolithic or Epipaleolithic. By comparison, in areas undergoing the change from ice to no-ice, the Mesolithic era and its culture lasted much longer.

NOTE: The term "Mesolithic" is no longer used to denote a worldwide period in the evolution of European cultural evolution. Archeological discoveries of Mesolithic remains bear witness to a great variety of races. These include the Azilian Ofnet Man Bavaria ; several later types of Cro-Magnon Man; types of brachycephalic humans short-skulled ; and types of dolichocephalic humans long-skulled. As the ice disappeared, to be replaced by grasslands and forests, mobility and flexibility became more important in the hunting and acquisition of food. As a result, Mesolithic cultures are characterized by small, lighter flint tools, quantities of fishing tackle, stone adzes, bows and arrows. Very gradually, at least in Europe, hunting and fishing was superceded by farming and the domestication of animals. Azilian was a stone industry, largely microlithic, associated with Ofnet Man. Tardenoisian, associated with Tardenoisian Man, produced small flint blades and small flint implements with geometrical shapes, together with bone harpoons using flint flakes as barbs.

Maglemosian northern Europe was a bone and horn culture, producing flint scrapers, borers and core-axes.

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Mesolithic art reflects the arrival of new living conditions and hunting practices caused by the disappearance of the great herds of animals from Spain and France, at the end of the Ice Age. Forests now cloaked the landscape, necessitating more careful and cooperative hunting arrangements. European Mesolithic rock art gives more space to human figures, and is characterized by keener observation, and greater narrative in the paintings.

Also, because of the warmer weather, it moves from caves to outdoor sites in numerous locations.