Prehistoric art


Art comes from the Latin Ars , which refers to the various creations of the human being that try to give a sensitive and delicate approach to routine aspects of daily life, whether based on imagination or reality; If the artist mixes art with prehistory, he will obtain prehistoric art that links all those events of prehistory, creatively expressing them with the help of linguistic, plastic or sound resources ; making known their point of view or their perception of the time.


What is prehistoric art?

Prehistoric art includes all those human manifestations of artistic value, which were carried out in primitive times , even before the first writings were discovered.


What is prehistoric art

These artistic expressions were carried out, mostly for religious and cultural purposes, they were used for rituals, however, they were also made to narrate history, thus including the various facets of the human being at the time, that is, family, hunting , war, survival, hierarchy, power and they even practiced this art for fun; thus encompassing all social aspects of humans.



The main characteristics of prehistoric art are:

  • Schematism.
  • Symbolism .
  • Abstraction.

History and evolution

The oldest manifestations originate after the phenomenon called glaciation , this time was called Paleolithic, where homo sapiens fundamentally expressed themselves in this way through amulets or in order to perform rituals, thus using figures such as animals, they created this type of art on materials that resist the passage of time, such as wood, bark, various fibers or leather; generally using colored earths.

In the Upper Paleolithic , the Neanderthal man collected materials of various shapes and colors, thus demonstrating the capacities of the human being to express ideas and emotions using techniques such as painting, sculpture and, rarely, architecture; Similarly, rummaging through this ancient art, are anthropomorphic prints, hands, feet, among others.

During the Neolithic , both social, economic and cultural changes took place that are reflected in artistic representations, thus giving rise to human, pictorial and sculptural representations, including the first forms of ceramics.

Entering the age of metals, the human being expands horizons and it is not only about survival, the sense of belonging is born, it is here when the nomadic man becomes sedentary, new objects are born, such as swords, spears, bangles; commerce comes to light, the first fabrics and architecture appear on a large scale, this in addition to generating an artistic change, triggered a spiritual one, since the cult of the sun developed, thus determining the appearance of megalithic monuments.


The stages of prehistoric art are:

  • Paleolithic:  all the art that was expressed in this stage was through stone or animal skins , since they were the resources that most of the men knew how to use, who at the time were called cavemen .
  • Neolithic: in this stage what is called commercialization began , here is when human beings expand their creations, they no longer only use stone or leather, they begin to create representative sculptures, they leave their caves and typical walls to display their creations; which time later they begin to change for other things, that is, to sell them since their art has a value.
  • Metal  age : in the metal age, everything that happened so far was catapulted and developed greatly , art was no longer expressed only in sculptures or paintings, it was manifested through tools that men created, such as swords. , spears, coupled with this the accessories did not take long to appear as the bracelets; architecture increased on a large scale, this being not only an artistic movement but a great evolution for society.

Types of prehistoric art

There are two outstanding types of prehistoric art, they are the following:

  • Rock art : drawings that were made on rocks or on the walls of caves, some of these are perhaps 40,000 years old , however, they were preserved thanks to their locations in the caves .
  • Mobile art: this includes a wide range of ceramics and other ornamental and ceremonial objects that were given one or another shape that was in constant variation, the cardial printed ceramic, is located in one of the oldest phases of the Neolithic and was characterized by printing on mollusk- based ceramics .


Generally, these had a higher proportion on the walls and ceilings of the caves where humans took refuge , mostly depicting in those paintings the animals they hunted, ritual or magical scenes, such as the fertility rite; They used materials such as charcoal and different colored earths mixed with water or animal fat.


The sculpture of prehistoric art was made in stone or bone and in various reliefs traced in the caves. One of the most relevant works of art is Venus de Willendorf , a statuette of female forms that present some hypertrophied anatomical areas, this was known as a fertility divinity , its discovery took place in 1908, in a Paleolithic settlement in soil Austrian. In addition to this, the reliefs and engravings in ivory, bone and reindeer antlers also have relevance, since they were detailed in a realistic way in their forms and attitudes; both sculptures and animal drawings, were created with the belief that it would bring luck in future fighters.


It originated in the time of metals, at the beginning it was based on wooden and clay constructions, however, over the years and with this several war attacks, they were strengthened in this field, thus making stone towers and walls , thus reinforcing the defense of their structures.

Prehistoric art by continent

In Africa , the first manifestations were paleolithic and counted, such as the Venus of Tan-Tan or as the Blombos cave located in the South African Republic, in which there are balls with incisions and geometric motifs ; cave paintings predominated in North Africa, despite the cultural quality of the continent, the findings of prehistoric art are few. In addition to this, there are rural towns that until then conserve ancient rock art customs , despite the currently prevailing patterns.

In America , the first works of prehistoric art have a schematic, non-figurative air, extremely simple, one of the great cave finds in America is the so-called cave of the hands, located in Sta Cruz, Argentina. Some researchers note that in Argentina many findings have been found that refer to the hands, therefore, some type of sequence with a hidden meaning is suspected. Added to this in North America, some nomadic peoples maintained the customs of the stone age and although they were not very advanced in terms of modernity , their structure was strong.

The Venus of Berekhat Ram is one of the most significant pieces of prehistoric art in Asia.

As for Europe , the painting stands out more, in which no more than two colors are used although the color of the stone used as the base, the engraving and the relief is used, some demonstrations are the Los Caseres Maltravieso cave or the paintings on the ceiling of La Cueva de Altamira, Cantabria.

Importance of prehistoric art

The relevance of these art samples throughout history is rooted in the roots of evolution, as homo sapiens goes from being primitive to creating a civilization by itself, coupled with this, the amount of knowledge that our ancestors, so that in this way we honor and admire the step by step of what we enjoy today; Without these movements we would not only be behind historically, but also culturally if there was a void, the imagination or that capacity and desire to create would not be so effusive.

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