AP®︎/College Art History
- Key points for studying global prehistory
- Our earliest technology?
- Paleolithic art, an introduction
- Origins of rock art in Africa
- Apollo 11 Stones
- Camelid sacrum in the shape of a canine
- Rock art in North Africa
- Running horned woman, Tassili n’Ajjer
- The Neolithic Revolution
- Bushel with ibex motifs
- Anthropomorphic stele
- Jade Cong
- Working jade
- Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (UNESCO/NHK)
- Ambum Stone
- Tlatilco figurines
- Tlatilco Figurines
- Terracotta fragments, Lapita people
Periods and definitions
- Prehistory (or the prehistoric period) refers to the time before written records, however, human expression existed across the globe long before writing.
- Writing emerged at different times in different parts of the world. The earliest writing is found in ancient Mesopotamia, c. 3200 B.C.E.
- Often, art history texts begin with the prehistoric art of Europe. However, very early art is found worldwide.
- Homo sapiens (modern humans are a subspecies) - homo sapiens migrated out of Africa between 120,000 and 50,000 years ago.
- The stone age is a prehistoric period when stone implements were widely used. The stone age is divided into the Paleolithic (old stone age) and Neolithic (new stone age). After the Stone age, the next periods are known as the bronze age and the iron age.
- Historians distinguish the Neolithic period by the transition from people living as hunter-gatherers to the development of farming and the domestication of animals. The "Neolithic revolution" allowed people to create a more settled way of life. This happened at different times in different parts of the world. The first agriculture occurred in southwest Asia—in an area historians call the "fertile crescent."
- Prehistory was a time of major shifts in climate and environment.
- Modern archaeology uses a stratigraphic process, where archaeologists precisely record each level and the location of all objects.
- The earliest peoples were hunter-gatherers (until about 12,000 years ago) who created imagery in many different media—fired ceramics, painting, sculpture and who built architecture.
- The oldest “art” found to date are rock paintings and sculpture from c. 77,000 years ago.
Jade Cong, c. 3300 - 2200 B.C.E., Liangzhu culture, Neolithic period, China (The British Museum)
- In Asia, we have found Paleolithic and Neolithic cave paintings that feature animal imagery (in the mountains of Central Asia and Iran). Animal imagery has also been found in rock shelters throughout central India. In prehistoric China, we find ritual objects created in jade, (beginning a 5,000-year tradition of working with the precious medium). Ritual, tomb, and memorializing arts are found across Neolithic Asia, including impressive funerary steles from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
- In Europe, we have found small human figural sculptures (central Europe), cave paintings (France and Spain), and outdoor, monumental stone assemblages (British Isles) that date from the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods.
- In the Pacific region, people migrated from Asia approximately 45,000 years over land bridges. The earliest created objects have been dated to c. 8,000 years ago. The Lapita peoples, who moved eastward from Melanesia to Polynesia beginning about 4,000 years ago, created pottery with incised geometric designs that appear across the region in multiple media today.
- On the American continent, peoples who migrated from Asia (before 10,000 B.C.E.) first made sculptures from animal bone and later from clay.
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Want to join the conversation?
- Anyone know how to condense this into easily "memorable" tips? I'm studying this part and I don't like notes to just help me... I really need to memorize a lot of art.(2 votes)
- Hello Daniel101,
I also happen to be studying for the 250 and agree there is a lot of art, so especially for the paleolithic and neolithic periods I created a map and labeled where each piece of art originated, what time it was supposedly, and other details that describe the artwork. I don't know if this approach will help you, but it did help me to look at the distribution and change in artwork over time from a different angel. I hope this works for you, its just a friendly tip. Good luck on your studying.(11 votes)
- I searched the internet and most of the sites date the oldest rock painting to be nearly 40000 yrs old. Is there really a prehistoric art which is 77000 yrs old ?(2 votes)
- Will this section include pottery from the Neolithic? I know that scholars make several divisions of the Neolithic Age, based on the development of pottery.(2 votes)
- What does the 'c.' before some of the given dates stand for?(1 vote)
- can you still find rock paintings and sculptures today at musems and art exhibits .(1 vote)
- Yes, there are many museums around the world that have art from the early ages of mankind. A quick Google Search will show you the ones close to you.(1 vote)
- I'm interested in the earliest created(by human) objects. How would I learn more about the said subject? I also wonder what they mean by migrating.(1 vote)
- Migrating is the action of people groups moving from one place to another, following the seasons or the food supplies, or going from one homeland to another. When a group of people migrates "outward", they are emigrants. When a group of people migrates "inward", they are immigrants.(1 vote)
- What do you mean by "land bridges"? I thought the concept of land bridges was a theory before the Pangea theory came together.(1 vote)