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Stone Age Synopsis:

Prehistoric human beings, the homo sapien sapiens species to which we belong, evolved in Europe and the rest of the world about 120,000 to100,000 years ago (Stokstad, 32). The earliest members of this species resided in Africa and then spread to Europe and other continents. The term prehistoric denotes the fact that there was no written language at this time. There is no historical writings of this period, only the art and architecture that survives today. Using these remains we are able to further divide the prehistoric period, or Stone Age, into the following: the Paleolithic, or Old Stone Age, consisting of the Lower, Middle, and Upper phases; the Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age; and the Neolithic, or New Stone Age. Conclusion Without the written word it is very difficult to follow the developments of prehistoric man. The art that remains from this period, however, gives us a clearer picture of what life was life at this time and the changes that occurred. Early sculpture reveals the tools available and the creative ability of prehistoric man. Cave paintings portray developments in animal husbandry and farming techniques. Architecture reveals the transition from a nomadic to a domesticated lifestyle. Prehistoric art is therefore valued not only for its aesthetic qualities, but as a key to early human cultures.

(Material) Source: Stokstad, Marilyn. Art: A Brief History. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000.


Stone Age

Paleolithic Old Stone Age c. 30,000 - 9,000 B.C.
(Lower, Middle, and Upper)
Mesolithic Middle Stone Age c. 9,000 - 8,000 B.C.
Neolithic New Stone Age c. 8,000 - 1,500 B.C.


Circa (ca.)
Fetish - object believed to possess magical powers
Relief - carving or sculpture
Ocher - mineral pigment
Spirit Trap - form or vessel to house departed spirit, so the spirit doesn't roam
Contour - outline and bulk of solid
Free Standing Sculpture
Obsidian - vitreous volcanic stone easily chipped into fine cutting edges
Cromlech - circular arrangement of megaliths
Trilithon - tripartite stone structure (two vertical stones capped by lintel)
Twisted perspective - representation of object showing simultaneous views of object from different angles






DJB Quick Notes:


~Paleolithic peoples of Franco-Cantrabrian region: Cro-Magnon
~climate - tundra
~predominate food source - reindeer
~naturalistic animal representations with suggestions of movement


~human figures more prevalent, with movement, tools, and devices depicted, but in stylized fashion
~figures portrayed on rock walls and cliffs rather than deep in caves


~architecture develops
~non-indigenous artifacts found, indicating trade
~villages develop with enclosing walls
~"plastered” human skull from Jericho - found separate from body
~"spirit trap” defined: form or vessel that houses the spirit to prevent the spirit from wandering
~abstract ideas - formation of formal structured religions, related to settled existence
~Catal Huyuk pronunciation: katul hoyook

DJB In-Depth Notes:

Unlike the Paleolithic artist, who tried to represent the concept of fertility with an abstract figure, the Neolithic sculptor converts an abstract concept (a godess) into a human figure