Prehistoric art is all art created in preliterate, prehistorical societies, beginning in very late geological history and typically continuing until that society either develops writing or other systems of record-keeping, or establishes substantial contact with another culture that has, and prehistorians then know about them.
That's a broad definition, but there are some key words in it. Prehistoric means "before records," so this type of art would include everything from cave paintings to sculptures made out of stone to cartoons drawn on clay plates.
The term "prehistory" was first used by German historian Johann Jakob Bachmann in 1793, but it wasn't until much later that scholars began to study the material remains of past civilizations for scientific purposes. The word "prehistoric" then came to be applied to the period of time before written history began. But now we know that written history begins much earlier: around 3200 B.C., for example, people started using marks on bones to tell stories. So we can conclude that prehistoric art dates back at least as far as 3200 B.C.
Another important concept in understanding prehistoric art is its context. All historical periods are defined by what they ate and wore. For example, archaeologists believe that Neanderthals painted pictures of animals on rocks around 40,000 years ago.
Before writing, there was prehistoric art. African or Asian artefacts are the oldest. Prehistoric art is best understood as a multidisciplinary endeavor. The focus of ancient Near Eastern art is on royal figures and gods. They used materials such as stone, bone, and clay to create images of people and animals. Sculptures were often placed in temples as an offering to their deities.
Ancestors of modern artists have been created through prehistoric art. For example, a famous sculpture in the British Museum, the Venus of Willendorf, was created around 2500 B.C. Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Indians also created artistic works. However, written records from these cultures begin around 3000 B.C., so they fall into the category of ancient rather than prehistoric art.
Prehistoric art is divided up into several categories: rock art, carving, relief work, and paintings. Paintings on rocks are found in deserts across the world. These images were created by removing soil from certain areas of the rock. This makes the painting more visible. Carvings are pictures that have been carved into stones or bones. They can be found anywhere from Europe to South America. Relief work is when parts of a larger piece of sculpture are separated and saved for later reconstruction. For example, a soldier's arm might be removed from its body before being thrown away.
During the ancient time, petroglyphs and cave paintings of simplified human and wild animal motifs communicated prehistoric art. Scholars think that ancient and prehistoric art records events from prehistoric cultures, such as rituals, hunting, and group gatherings. Modern scholars believe that these drawings were made to communicate ideas about life and death, love and hate, and other topics through symbolism. For example, some animals are only found in certain regions with specific characteristics, such as a missing tail or leg. Hunters used these similarities to tell what kind of animal they were going after.
Scholars think that before writing was invented, people communicated information by using pictures instead. Like today's cartoons, ancient artists used simple shapes and designs to tell a story. For example, an artist might draw a man with big eyes and a small nose to show that he is naive. Or, they could have painted a wolf next to a deer to indicate that wolves eat deer meat. Ancient artists usually used red ochre (a form of iron oxide) and black charcoal to paint on rock surfaces because wood is too soft to allow for detailed images.
People have been communicating information through art for thousands of years. It is believed that early humans used carved bones to show what kind of animal they had killed with their spears. Later, when people started making more sophisticated artwork, they used colors and materials available to them at the time to tell a story.
The phrase "Neolithic art" in prehistoric art refers to any arts and crafts produced by cultures who abandoned their semi-nomadic lifestyle of hunting and gathering food in favor of farming and animal husbandry. These early civilizations were primarily located in the fertile crescent, currently part of modern day Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, and Palestine.
Farming requires a stable climate and abundant water sources, which are often not available in dry climates like those in North America and Europe. Thus, people began to live in fixed settlements instead of moving from place to place. They made tools using simple materials such as stone and wood, and created artwork for ceremonial purposes. Paintings on rocks and caves date back more than 10,000 years. Early farmers also domesticated animals for use as transport or meat. They also used animal bones as tools to cut down crops.
There is no standard definition of Neolithic art, but it usually includes any art dating from about 9500 to 4500 B.C. that is produced by societies who have developed a neolithic way of life. The term "neolithic" comes from the Greek news meaning new, and lithos meaning rock. This refers to the fact that most neolithic art was made from natural stones that were found in regions where they still can be seen today.