The Art of the Stone Age: Forty Thousand Years of Rock Art

The Art of the Stone Age: Forty Thousand Years of Rock Art

The Art of the Stone Age: Forty Thousand Years of Rock Art

The Art of the Stone Age: Forty Thousand Years of Rock Art

Excerpt

World art does not start with the works of the advanced cultures of Mesopotamia and the Nile valley. Its roots lie much further back, in the earliest origins of human history. Works of art were already produced by prehistoric man, as they are by the primitive peoples that still exist in the world today. Fortunately for us many of these early works have been preserved up to modern times. In the majority of cases they are rock pictures executed by Stone Age hunters who were highly-specialized artists.

It may at first sight seem surprising that the publishers have decided to include the Stone Age in the series of volumes on the non-European cultures, when the description of the sites given here begins with those situated on our own continent. In coming to this decision they were guided by the consideration that for two reasons it would have been still less fitting to have treated this subject in connection with Western civilization: firstly because a great number of finds from other continents are also treated in these pages; secondly because the legacy of the European Stone Age peoples does not easily fit into the concept of Western culture.

Furthermore, this volume by no means covers the whole of Stone Age art. Only the rock art of this period is dealt with, and a comparatively limited section of it at that. The aim here has been to afford readers of the 'ART OF THE WORLD' series at least a glimpse of the artistic achievements of prehistoric peoples in different parts of the world and to open up a fascinating field of study which is generally bypassed or treated cursorily in other histories of art.

The study of prehistoric rock pictures is not only a fascinating subject but also a dangerous one: fascinating because it gives us an unexpectedly rich, realistic and colourful insight into cultures of which otherwise we have only the 'skeleton' (mostly stone implements), since everything else has vanished long ago; and dangerous because Stone Age rock pictures were never 'art for art's sake' but always an expression of certain attitudes of mind, and this readily leads to an excessively speculative interpretation. The prehistoric art to be discussed in these pages is the product of the so-called 'advanced hunter peoples'. Out of the primitive basic type of hunter culture, which survived for many millennia and spread over extensive areas of the globe, three paths of development gradually evolved:

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