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Prehistoric & Mesopotamian
24,009 - 12,000 BC
6000 - 323 BC

Click here to Download Reading Packet with Activities
Each activity is worth points & will be graded.

Significance/Theme: Survival through Animals

Art & Culture:

Prehistoric Art 24,000 BC - 12,000 BC

  • Caves found in France, Spain, & throughout Europe gave insight to into the first people who populated the earth
  • Caves found by children
  • Altamira (First Cave Found) hailed “Sistine Chapel of Ice Age”
  • Spanish nobleman’s 12yr. old daughter was the first human to see the paintings in 20 thousand years- Altamira first Stone Age painting found
  • Art was far from primitive- artist knew animals well- knew their moves size shape, hunted for survival
  • Signed work with handprints
  • After discovery of Altamira, other caves found in France, Italy, & Russia
  • Lascaux, France discovered 1940 by 4 boys after storm up rooted tree
  • Trios Freres (Cave of Three Brothers), in France discovered 1912
  • Two clay sculptures of bison- made over 15 thousand yrs earlier
  • Same three brothers also found chambers painted with animals & the later named painting Lord of the Beasts- one of the only paintings that include a human
  • Caves of Spain, france, Italy & Russia are filled with paintings of animals such as wild cows/steer, horses, bison, & deer
  • Sometimes the animals were carved into the walls, the outline was always the first thing, next color added inside outline
  • Few colors used- reds, browns, ochre (kind of yellow) & black
  • Colors were all natural, mineral, or earth colors, dirt or clay mixed with animal fat, fish glue, or water
  • Painted with brushes- animal hairs attached to a stick handle
  • “Airbrushed” style by blowing color through through reed/hollow bone
  • Mesopotamian Art 6000 BC - 323 BC
  • First Civilized Societies
  • Ziggurats - First formal Temples
  • Decorated City
  • Mesopotamian Monsters/Religion


Prehistoric- Wore skins for protection & warmth, Loin Cloth
  • Survival through Animals
  • Followed Herds

Mesopotamian- Both men & women wore Skirts
  • Probably made of sheepskin with fleece still attached
  • Servants & Soldiers wore shorter length skirts
  • Royalty & Deities wore longer length skirts
  • Wrap Skirts, when long enough, passed up under belt & over shoulder
  • Belts & Cloaks
  • Helmets worn by Soldiers for protection
  • Hair- Both men & women pulled long hair into bun or Chignon (Sheen’yon) held in place by Fillet or headband or
  • Straight to shoulders & held by Fillet
  • Some bald- vermin, comfort in hot, humid climate
  • Usually clean shaven, few beards
  • Jewelry- Royalty

Watch the video on Prehistoric... Insert DVD Video here

How the Caves were found... and

Go on a tour of the cave...

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Project Sheet PDF

Identify & describe major works in Art History & Illustrate using Conte Crayons/Chalk Pastels

Understand the artistic trends of the Prehistoric era and illustrate using the visual themes of that time.

Using 'earth tones' of conte, pastels and charcoal create your own cave painting in the style of the time period as well as depicting the prehistoric themes on the appropriate paper to the criteria as detailed in PDF above.

Key Points:
From Class Lecture, Reading Packet with Activities, Movie & Web Sources

  • Ritual Art & Magic
  • Ziggurats
  • First Sculpture 30,000
  • Cave Life & Hunting
  • Farming/Domestication = Permanent Communities
  • Ice Age 40-10,000 BC
  • Paleolithic 15-10,000 BC
  • Neolithic 10-4,000

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The earliest pictorial records of dress are found in prehistoric cave paintings from the Old Stone Age, or early Paleolithic period some 30,000 years ago.

Looking back through eons of time we find that man living in caves and under rocky cliffs were mainly concerned with the securing of food and the preservation of his life. Dress did not exist.

There were several reasons why primitive men chose to clothe their nakedness, but modesty was not one of them. The notion that nudity was shameful is a fairly recent development in the long history of clothing and it is one that had no influence on prehistoric Adam and Eve who were the true inventors of costume. It seems likely that men and women alike first covered their private parts to emphasize rather than to hide them. Man's first clothing served as weapons in a fight against fear. The use of body paint was the first step in the development of clothing.

Next came the use of ornament. Necklaces of lions' claws or bears' teeth, horns, ivory or bone from various animals, capes of leopard helped early man capture the strength of virility both of the animals he preyed upon and those that preyed upon him. These gave man an increase of confidence. The lion-skin cloak still retained the animistic power of its owner, and it also served as a constant reminder of how its owner had come to obtain it.

Costume was also used to enhance man's earliest religious rituals. A painting from the cave of Lestrois Freres in southern France, dating to about 20,000 B.C., shows a mysterious figure wearing the antlers and mask of a deer and the skin of some other animal with a long, bushy tail, perhaps a horse or a wolf. The figure, popularly called "The Sorcerer", seems to be dancing. He is heavily bearded and displays his private parts.

Preoccupation with sex, with female fertility and male virility no doubt led to the development of the official fig leaf. Private parts were first covered as a form of sexual display rather than from shame. Leaves, ferns, animal hair, and feathers, selected on the basis of presumed magical natural powers.

No doubt these ornaments also called a man's attention to the sexual availability of a lady. One of the earliest preserved records of female costume supports this theory. A little Paleolithic fertility figure, the Venus of Lespugue, is entirely naked except for a curious apron at the rear, worn under rather than over her buttocks. It is believed that women were probably the first to cover their sexual organs.

Magic began the idea of wearing forms of costume and from this emerged other reasons for wearing costume. Then, as now, men and women were preoccupied with protection, comfort, sexual attraction, and social status.

It used to be assumed that clothing originated as protection against weather yet a period of one thousand years must have passed before man migrated to a climate where it was necessary.

Man spread out throughout the land searching for food and experienced colder weather especially during the ice age. From observing animals they noticed fur bearing ones survived better during bad weather. People began to wear skins to protect themselves from eliminates.

At first they draped the skins around their body. The hide became stiff and uncomfortable. Eventually they discovered by putting holes in the skins and using needles made from bones they could sew skins into better fitting garments.

In warmer weather they used leaves, bark and grasses. They were used more for protection from insects. Some were worn only in religious ceremonies.

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