Prehistoric art

Humans make art. We do this for many reasons and with whatever technologies are available to us. Prehistoric art refers artifacts made before there was a written record. Long before the oldest written languages were developed, people had become expert at creating forms that were both practical and beautiful. The earliest art comes from the Paleolithic era (the Old Stone Age), but it was in the Neolithic era that we see the most important developments in human history. The way we live today—settled in cities, protected by laws, eating food from farms—all this dates back approximately 10,000 years ago to the Neolithic era.


Stonehenge
In the most important development in human history, Neolithic people took the first step toward civilization.

The Neolithic revolution




Apollo 11 caves stones
All evidence points to Africa as the origin of our species … is Africa also the birthplace of art?

Apollo 11 Cave Stones



Jericho Skull
Is the plaster face on this skull modeled after a real person? Is it one of the world’s oldest portraits?

The Jericho Skull


Lion Man
The cave lion was the fiercest animal of the ice age, and this mammoth ivory carving combines human with lion.

Lion Man





Working Jade
Jade is a stone that is too hard to carve—to work it, artisans slowly rub away stone with grit.

Working jade



Anthropomorphic Stele
This stone marker depicts an abstracted human. How should we interpret one of the Arabia’s earliest artifacts?

Anthropomorphic stele




Bushel with ibex motifs
This beautiful pot was created over 5,000 years ago, and its decoration echoes its shape.

Bushel with ibex motifs


Jade Cong
Found in large numbers in burials, these Chinese carvings constitutes an enormous effort by skilled craftsman.

Jade Cong


Venus of Willendorf
The name of this prehistoric sculpture refers to a Roman goddess—but what did she originally represent?

Venus of Willendorf


Lascaux, Hall of Bulls
Mysteries surround the cave paintings at Lascaux, but it’s clear our use of images has a long history.

Hall of Bulls, Lascaux



Stonehenge
Recognized worldwide, Stonehenge seems an impossible task: how, and why, did prehistoric people build it?

Stonehenge


Catalhoyuk
The city of Çatalhöyük points to one of man's most important transformations, from nomad to settled farmer.

Çatalhöyük


Jericho
Mentioned in the Bible, Jericho is one of the oldest continuously-occupied sites in the world.

Jericho