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Transcript of Paleolithic Art
Olduvai Stone Chopping Tool
JD Hill, "From this point on, we can't survive without the things we make and, in this sense, it is making things that makes us human" ("The History of the World in 100 Objects")
Caves in Southern France:
Dordogne: Chauvet, Font de Gaume,
Font de Gaume
Venus of Willendorf (22,000 BC)
4.3 inches in length
Perhaps a fertility or ritual object
No clear facial features, but detailed body and hair
Carved from limestone (not a local stone)
2 forms of art Miniature art & Cave art:
Altamira Cave, Northern Spain: its discovery raises awareness of the existence of prehistoric art in our modern consciousness
Miniature art: the Vogelherd Mammoth (35,000 BC)
About 1.5 inches in length; carved from mammoth ivory. Perhaps the oldest artistic artifact found. Note the exceptional detail for such a small object. Miniature art is small, portable, easily transported from one place to another
Paleolithic Age: a prehistoric era in human history, dating from approximately 2.5 million years ago to about 8,000BC
Modern man begins to emerge: using stone tools (the "Stone Age").
It's difficult to really understand the degree to which we have been made by things. It's only when we go back in time to see how this began that this fact hits home. It isn't that we are the only animals to use tools; it's that we rely on them for survival and we depend on them to say who we are.
We use these things to make statements about ourselves, express our ideals, ideas, and imaginations in ways which no other animal does. Take a moment and think about all the "tools" you use everyday. How many of these tools say something about you? Do you prefer one brand to another? Can you imagine having to CREATE EVERY TOOL you have to use everyday?
Tanzania: the Olduvai Stone Chopping Tool
Found in 1831 by Louis Leakey in a river bed
It is perhaps the oldest known evidence of a man made object.
The detail and complexity of this object tells us that it is a tool fabricated, used, and re-used for a specific purpose. Man alters his environment to better suit his needs
Upper Paleolithic art flourished in
Western Europe, approximately 50,000-9,000 years ago.
Evidence of the earliest cave paintings, sculptures, and miniature art is found in
France, Germany, Spain, Romania, Russia.
Similar art is also found in South America and Australia but at later dates (7,000-2,000 BC)
The multiplicity of perspective suggests motion, or an altered state of consciousness.
Such art is often associated with shamanism, ritualistic acts, trance states.
Art would have been created after the trance, perhaps as a depiction of the trance vision, or created to help stimulate the trance (Whitley).
Discovered in 1901. Paintings date from 17,000 BC . One of the few caves that remains open to a limited number of visitors.
Why study a tool? Objects, tools, and art reveal our history--our story. We are made by our objects as much as we make our objects. Consider how your life is shaped by the technology you use (internet, smart phones, subways, etc.)
Objects tell our story: what is valuable, needed, important to us. The things we carry, the things we wear both tell the story of our community and our individual place within it.
The change in our objects indicates a change in our development and life styles. The emergence of art suggests a new spirit of creativity and the leisure to express it.
It may also indicate religion (shamanism), the development of specified societal roles (artist, shaman, etc.).
The homogeneity of representation, from the Venus objects to paintings, suggests a stability of society and community (Sieveking).
It also suggests the development of specialized functions withing society, a new spirit of creativity and wonder, and perhaps the creation of leisure time. Man, by taking control over his environment through tools, can spend time in contemplating himself and the world around him.
discovered 1879 by Maria de Sautoula
with her archeologist father
Humans occupied the entry to the cave; the greatest amount of art is found deep within
The technique of spraying the paint onto the rock using two hollowed bones;
negative prints of hands in Altamira cave
17,000 years ago
2 dates: 35,000 & 26,000 BC
The oldest known examples of cave art
discovered 1940; 17,000 years ago
one of the largest examples of cave art discovered.
one of the greatest artists of the modern world, declared after visiting Lascaux Cave:
"We have invented nothing"
most images taken from Donsmaps.com
Bte'pi, Bill, "Paleolithic Period." In Ackermann, Marshae E., Michael Schroleder, et al. Encyclopedia of World history. Facts on File. (1.10.2013)
MacGregor, Neil. A History of the World in 100 Objects. China: Viking, 2010 (print)
Prudames, David. "Making us Human". BBC The History of the World in 100 Objects. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/ (1.12.2013)
Sieveking, Ann. "Art, Paleolithic." In Gowing, Sir Lawrence gen ed. Facts on File Encyclopedia of Art, vol 1. NY: Facts on File, inc. 2005. (1.10.2013)
Whitley, David S. Cave Paintings and the Human Spirit. NY: Prometheus, 2009 (print)
Olduvai Stone Chopping Tool:
Made 1.8 Million years ago
As storytellers and communicators, it is important to consider what we presently do with these objects. In order to make sense of the world, we create stories about and with whatever we have before us. We create our own history. What types of paintings would you leave behind to tell your story?
Cave bear skull placed on a large rock (found with other small objects)--perhaps evidence of an altar
Modern image of a Przewalski's horse (wiki)
Images are both carved into the soft mud of the cave walls and ceilings, and painted. Sometimes both techniques are used.
Cave art is exceptionally realistic and representational of the actual subject depicted
Early artists often used the contours of the cave to develop a 3-dimensional appearance for the object
Note the uniformity and homogeneity of the images, regardless of the dating (35,000 BC for Chauvet, 17,000 for Font de Gaume)
The appearance of images on ceilings and without a naturalistic placement or direction or size again is suggestive of shamanism (Whitley).
Note the use of multiple techniques, and the almost humanistic representation of the animal face
The range of colors Palaeolithic man found in the natural world is quite remarkable – reds in the form of iron ore, blacks in the form of charcoal or manganese, yellows from iron oxide and whites from chalk or even burned bone or shell. Clay ochre too provided some basic colors. The artists displayed incredible ingenuity in applying these pigments to their pictures. At Lascaux, for instance, hundreds of rudimentary pigment crayons were discovered scattered around the floor. Analysis of some of these has revealed that artists used recipes to prepare them, combining the raw color with talc to increase their bulk, and adding animal and plant oils to bind the materials.
Analysis of samples of pigment from Lascaux revealed scarce manganese oxide minerals, including groutite, hausmannite, and manganite. Because there are no known deposits of these minerals in the area, more distant origins and trade-routes are inferred. The nearest modern known Manganese-rich province from Lascaux is the Pyrenees, which is 250 km from the area. The early dates attributed to these very specific oxides, and their common use in adornment and covering the dead in funerary rituals worldwide make it a reasonable speculation that the origins of mining are linked in with the need for pigment.
Lascaux Cave. These drawings are over 17,000 years old. They are suggested to have astronomical relevance.