• Category Archives Prehistoric Art
  • Copper, Bronze and Iron Ages art.


    The age of copper


    It is a period of the prehistory, located between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. The copper was one of the first metals used by man, using it primarily in its natural state because they did not know yet the mechanisms by which the mineral could melt.

    It was not until man perfected the techniques of making pottery that was possible to achieve success with the experimentation of metallurgical processes. With the development of new technical achievement they start adding other metals obtaining new alloys. This are the case of arsenic and Tin which later gave rise to bronze.

    Most manufactured items were tools type like axes, punch and double use (axes-pick, hammer or hoe), ornaments like (rings, bracelets and pins) they were more for decorative use, rather than used as utilitarian piece, manufactured stone artifacts were much stronger and more durable.


    As mentioned; the improvement of ceramic techniques play a key role in the understanding of new techniques for metalworking as well. Those ceramic vases are done in this period with excellent quality, red or wet wood, profusely decorated with horizontal bands (burned) or printed, with geometric, striped, or chess patterns.


    the cuneiform glass and the ceramic rope pottery
    the cuneiform glass and the ceramic rope pottery


    The cuneiform glass 

    Was a chalky- litho manifestation in the elaboration of ceramic that manifested along Europian territories and is by its inverted bell-shaped and richly decoration why is called by this name, they have generally been found in funerary contexts.

    The rope ceramic pottery 

    Is a pottery decorated with strings of rope and is associated with the introduction of the metal in the North of Europe.

    Apart from ceramics, the elements that best defines this archaeological horizon are the funerary tributes that usually consist, almost invariably of a ceramic glass ornaments manufactured in bone, with a characteristic V drilling buttons, pendants of clay in the form of  spirals of gold, the abundant of the so-called “Palmela” arrows, triangular daggers in copper and perforated plates (medium grade metamorphic rocks).



    The Age of Bronze – 2500-800 B.C.


    The age of bronze is characterized by important milestones in the history of mankind. At this Age occur a greater spread of agriculture and animal husbandry and the mastering of a new materials – metal: copper and its alloys. At the beginning of  metals period occurs a greater contact among peoples living in vast territories.

    This process of socialization and contact is especially manifest in the Eurasian steppe territories, where the period of paleo metal started the productive economy of cattle breeding. In many aspects it was related to the new technical advances, such as wheeled vehicles still in the period of late bronze – with the use  of horses for several tasks.

    Changes in the technological aspect stand out that improve  economical  aspects which  generated an intensification of trade to and from long distance, a certain specialization labor and social differentiation increased in this period in which is  detected a clear proliferation of new trades and some craft specialization.


    Bronze Age metal work


    Elaborated objects for personal use or domestic purpose also marked the different social aspect in which the wealthy had access to more elaborate and ornate objects, been those differences extended as well to funeral matter. Also are the quality of weapons they can reach, among general aspects of urban life. Not in all regions was that way; for example in America metallurgy does not seems to have socio-economic implications, was only more in the technical aspect.  

    The art of bronze age has some specific characteristics.

    • Becomes more diverse and spreads widely geographically.
    • The petro glyphs (rock paintings).
    • Paint on smaller objects, sculptures and steles.
    • They make frequent use of ornament and artistic images for decoration of tools and household goods.

    In the art of bronze  period is to highlight the fact that in each region were produced some changes in their development of metal creations, because each region had a particular characteristic.


    The Iron Age 2000 and 1500 BC


    This is an Historical period during which the iron replaced bronze as the material of manufacture of instruments and weapons.

    Iron seems to have been widely used for the first time by the Hittites in the Middle Orient region and spread from there to Europe, South Asia and North Africa. In Europe the first objects were obtained by hammering, is unknown if they only melt down them or added carbon too; aspects that was already known to the Hittites.

    The Iron Age is the last period of prehistory prior to the beginning of the story with the invention of writing. The era of the iron was developed in the first Millennium before Christ in the Iberian Peninsula and is the final stage of the age of metals. The biggest advantage of the iron over the bronze lay in the fact that the ore to extract the mineral were much more abundant and therefore more economical compared to the bronze.

    It wasn’t necessary any alloy and constituted an admirable material  manufacturing saws, axes and nails. It was, however, much more difficult to work and they never managed to get a temperature sufficiently high during prehistoric times to melt iron in mold, except in China. The material was simply heated in an oven; separating iron from slag; then reheated the iron turned on a single block, and, finally, working the metal through the use of the hammer to obtain the required shape.

    The process differed radically from the manufacture of copper or bronze objects, it is not surprising that the iron working was not a direct evolution of working the bronze which was used mainly to elaborate items of personal adornment, such as pins or mirrors. The iron strong characteristics were used more for tools and weapons. The gold and silver continued to be prestigious materials, employees to do, for example, the torques (heavy bracelets worn by warriors Celts).



    Iron Ages tools and Military technology


    Military technology designed to take advantage of the use of iron was originated in Assyria; the trade of iron between Assyria and the independent city of Troy was already well established at that time, and the secret of its production was jealously guarded by the Assyrians.

    The Celts peoples in Europe start using iron for tools and weapons and this aspect drive the development of the culture; since they prove to resolves more accurately daily life chalanges, like manufacturing wapons and tools. This factor provides them with a better uses of their time which they don’t have to spend on tasks, obtaining better result in the quality of products as well, allowing the development for instance of the artistic part.



    The use of metal provide a better result also in the rockwork, the Nordic petro glyphs are an example of the importance that the culture is gathering and these continue been developing in the next  historical periods. Therefore the architecture used in the walls that protect the city already has watchtowers large necropolis and burial.  In central Europe for example from the thirteenth century BC began to spread the burial custom of the incineration, with the subsequent deposit of ashes in ceramic urns. This custom had been generalized and used for many others culture along the history to this days.

  • Prehistoric Art. Mesolithic.

    Mesolithic pottery


    Mesolithic (Middle Stone age) art 

    10.000-8000 a.C


    Also known as “Middle Stone age”, the Mesolithic period covers a brief time span of about 2,000 years. It served as an important bridge between the upper Paleolithic and the Neolithic age, the art of this period had no relevant artistic connotations in the form of representation in comparison with predecessor times.

    The art of the later Neolithic period varies exponentially, as well as being better preserved and offer us thousands of art examples rather than a “handful” as in the case of the Mesolithic. Let’s briefly cover the artistic Mesolithic events because, after all, it is different from any other time period in the prehistoric man history. Geography and climate had changed and people gradually  had adapted, assisted by a more temperate climate and various edible plants were there on hand to aid in survival.


    Mesolitic cave paint


    Given that human beings do not have to live in caves or follow herds any more, this era saw the beginning of settled and agricultural communities. The invention of the bow and the arrow helped to provide more food from the hunting of animals and the development of ceramics for food storage; It was definitely a step forward.

    The domestication of animals – for food in the development of a more pastoral lifestyle, or in the case of dogs, for help in the hunt for food was another element of prosperity in their live that allowed better conditions for the settlement.


    rock mesolithic art with domestic scenes


    The pottery, although it was largely produced  was intended  to be utilitarian only to contain water or grain, not necessarily for embellishment or visual pleasure. The portable statuary of the Upper Paleolithic was largely absent during the Mesolithic era. This is probably the reason why people settled and did not require an art with small objects or portable with which to travel. The Highlights at this time is the carvings of obsidian and other objects with jagged edges.

    The elaboration of tools and weapons count with the Flint knapping technique for arrow and spear points used in large spear like sticks and also for hand use type, been done profusely. Other tools such as scrapers for cleaning hides and knives were also made from flint.


    Mesolithic tool elaboration.


     The most interesting Mesolithic art as we know of  consists of paintings similar to the cave paintings from the Paleolithic era, these move abroad towards cliffs or “walls” of natural vertical rock , often semi-protected by outcrops or overhangs of natural rocks. Although these cave paintings have been found in places ranging from the extreme north of Europe to South Africa, as well as in other parts of the world, the largest concentration of them exists in the East of Spain.




    Main features of the Mesolithic art

    The paintings of this time change in regards to the topics where there are human groups participating in hunts or rituals.

    Human beings shown in the cave painting are highly stylized, as glorified stick figures. These human beings look more like images pictographs, and some historians pose representing the primitive beginnings of writing (e.g.: hieroglyphs).

    Very often the groupings of figures are painted in repetitive patterns, resulting in a good sense of rhythm, even if you are not sure of the action in which they are involved.



  • Prehistoric Art. Paleolithic.


    Paleolithic  Art (old stone)

    30,000-10,000 B.C


    Human beings at this time were strictly hunter-gatherers, which mean that they were constantly on the move in search of food. They were also egalitarian, which meant that both women and men enjoyed similar freedoms. The art was portable or stationary, and both of these art forms were limited in scope. Paleolithic period observe a consirable period of times in the history of man, Artistic skills develop by those ancient people constitute the base of all the future techniques applied in the history of art later.

    Trying to characterize the art of a period covering most of human history is not an easy task since Paleolithic art intricately is subordinate to the archaeological and anthropological studies made by professionals in the attempt to compile and get to know the greater amount of information.


    Portable art:

    This type of art could be move or transport. During the period of the upper Paleolithic art was necessarily small and portable objects mainly consisted of figurines or also small decorated objects. These objects were carved (in stone, bone or horn) or modeled with clay or elaborated from wood.

    We will refer to the majority of portable art from this time as figurative, whether what was depicted was an animal or a human figure. The figurines found are often mentioned by the name of “Venus”, which are unmistakably figures suggesting pregnant females with protuberancy of sexual and reproductive organs.

    Perforate stick. Paleolithic Art.



    Stationary Art in paleolitic period

    Stationary art was precisely that: it does not move. The best examples that exist are found in the cave paintings in Western Europe created during the Paleolithic period. These paintings were made from combinations of minerals and mixing then using for the wed base the internal substance of bones and carbon, blood and fat of animals and  sap from the trees. The pigments obteined and mixed with the wed base were applied to the surface of the cave wall. 

    It has been stament (and is only an assumption) that these paintings served as some sort of ritual or magical propitiatory purpose, they are far from the entrance of the caves in which everyday life was carried out. The cave paintings not only contain figurative art, which means that many elements are more symbolic than realistic. The exception clearly, here, is the representation of animals, which are vividly realistic (human are represented, on the other hand with simple stroke of  lines like an stick or stake form) .

    There is a  curious element in the paints in these caves , you could figure that been done in the darks places of this natural rock formations should be there traces of smoke of torches, but there is no  present of this type of stains which gave rise to an investigation by specialists to know how they were able to create these paintings in the darkness and from where did they get the necessary light. Remains of kind of candles or primitive lanterns that used animals fat that do not produce toxic and burn slowly where found in those caves, that’s why smoke or grease traces of black soot on the surface of the walls or ceiling of the caves are not present.

    The Lascaux painting in France shows that they used almost exclusively black, yellow and red pigments in those caves, had not been found any blue or green pigments, as neither the use of white pigment despite being a natural substance of whitish color here in abundance.

    prehistoric paleotithic  cave painting

    In the cave painting first the man mark the outline of the figures with a rudimentary carving tool made from stone fragments; they remarked later the contours in black. Pulverized pigments obteined from plants and mixed with animal fat and marrow with organic substances properties are later applied . The application of color was done directly on the figure, using fingers, rough brushes and spatulas. The moisture of the rock would provide the necessary adhesion. This can be considered as a foretaste of what would later be the technique of fresco. The lack of light in the caves and a constant humidity helped  to the preservation for centuries. They are in a very good condition considering the time in which they were created.
    Some of those important cave painting examples are located in:

    France: Chauvet, Cosquer, Cussac, Font-de-Gaume, Lascaux, Les Combarelles, Les Trois-Freres, Niaux, and Rouffignac.

    Spain: Altamira.

    Although there are some others 300 to 400 sites that have been documented. All of them provided rich information one way or another about this painting techniques, thematics and level of skills reach by this ancient artist. 


    In summary the highlights in the the Paleolithic art period are:


    The Paleolithic Venus in stone carvings were made in small size and easy to carry.

    Predominant representation of animals in the painting.

    The only human figure were outlines with a simple stroke resembling stakes.

    The use of rituals and dances to promote favorable climatic conditions and other circumstances of welfare such as healing the sick.

    Paintings with limited color range using several methods predominantly the use of hands for the application of the paint as well as coarse brushes and rudimentary stakes.

    Use of the forms of protruding rocks to give a feeling of depth and relief.