Lecture 2 - outline
Paleolithic - continued

continued from Sexual and Magical Pendants:

small fertility 'totems' from Moravia, Czech Republic

Venus of Willendorf
c. 24,000-22,000 B.C.


"Venus" or fertility figures discussed -

Two of the most famous are pictured here.
They were discovered in 1908 and 1911.
Note the anonymous nature of the figure to the left, with decorative facial covering, and the diminutive size of the skull (and therefore face) of the figure on the right, emphasizing their sexuality and ignoring any modern concept of individuality. Of particular interest is the horn, likely a male fertility symbol, strangely reminiscent of the more contemporary 'horn of plenty'. This figure holds what may be her pregnant belly.

Venus of Dordogne, limestone
("Venus of Laussel ")
c.23,000 B.C.
Venus of Willendorf - Natural History Museum, Vienna
"Venus with Horn" - Musee Aquitaine

image: VCU Slide Library

Natural formations suggesting other forms -

Here we see Nature providing an impetus to the imagination of the prehistoric artist; the eye was merely drawn into the depression of the 'eye socket' to the left, while the muzzle of the horse on the right suggested an entire painting. It can be theorized that the presence of such elements within the earth, seen as symbols, reinforced a notion of 'magic' in art.


Pech-Merle, France, c. 23,000-22,000 B.C.

Nov., 2011: Prehistoric Cave Paintings of Horses -
Popular Archaeology

Depictions of people were rare -
Here is an especially rare 'wounded man' image.
The meaning of the bird has confounded analysts,
while the phallus may indicate life force in
the face of death or danger.

Wounded Bison attacking man
Lascaux, France 15,000 B.C.


Animal sculptures, very small,
perhaps hand held talismans:

Animals Vogelherd Caves
Baden, Wurttenberg, Germany

'Magic' of the art - 'spearing' the representation.
Many animal depictions have been found with many
arrowheads at their base, chipped on their surfaces,
indicating a ritualistic pre-hunt ceremony.

Bison struck by arrows (and an Ibex)
at Niaux, France

Overall Views of some of the caves, including exterior:

Lascaux Cave - French Ministry of Culture (video) | Archaeopark Vogelherd - Ice Age Europe
Niaux prehistoric art caves
- Don's Maps

Late Paleolithic
'Abstract' Painting style

"Ladder Pictures"
-also 'Signs'
the first purposeful 'abstract' symbols -
concepts of higher organization

examples of paired signs

Neolithic c. 7,000 - 2,000 B.C.
(Mesolithic - an intermediary period between paleolithic & neolithic)

Spain as a bridge between Africa and Europe -
introduction of the bow & arrow to the 'stone' culture, perhaps from the 'wood' culture of Africa


"mesolithic" Spanish Levant painting style

"Execution Group", Castellon, Spain, East Spanish Style

"Rock Paintings" on cliffs

Second Hunter Style (mesolithic)
Los Caballas, Castellon Spain


Rise of villages / beginning of property ownership / concept of ruling class eventually develops around religion
gardening/agriculture/animal domestication - role of women & 'separation of labor' between the sexes
Separation of art from exclusive magical context - decoration of pottery, etc.
Rise of Mother Goddess Cult - Worship of the Dead/Ancestor Worship

Stone Monuments and Menhirs arose at end of the Neolithic period;
They began in the Mediterranean, and culminated in England:

| Menhir | Megalith

Megaliths - Crystal Links

The Monumentalisation of the Neolithic European Landscapes -
Enclosures in Neolithic Europe
(Image, Right)

Menhirs at Carnac

Menhirs, Obelisks and Standing Stones - Ancient Wisdom
The Carnac Stones, Brittany - Wikipedia
Menhirs and Stones - Ancient Penwith

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