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Pre-History before writing

4,500,000,000 (4 billion, 500 million) = the age of the earth 3,900,000,000 (3 billion, 900 million) = single-cell life of green algae began 600,000,000 (600 million) = birds and animals began to fill the earth 100,000,000 (100 million) = lands and oceans full 65,000,000 (65 million) = extinction of the dinosaur 4,400,000 (4 million, 400 thousand) = earliest upright human 30,000 (30 thousand) = first art created

CHRONOLOGY divided into three general phases Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) c40,000-8,000 BCE Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) c8,000-7,000 BCE Neolithic (New Stone Age) c7,000-2,300 BCE

Map of Prehistoric Europe

Paleolithic Period 40,000-8,000

During the Paleolithic Period

Section of the entrance at the end of the Palaeolithic Age.

Section of the entrance at the time of discovery in 1940

on September 12, 1940, five boys and their dog went rabbit hunting. They were hiking around when all of a sudden the dog fell in a hole. The hole was the result of a large tree being uprooted. The boys were worried because they thought that their dog was hurt or dead. The boys decided that they would go after the dog. They got a long piece of rope and tied it around a tree. Then they started to climb down the hole, which ended twenty-five feet below the surface of the earth. When the boys got to the bottom they discovered that they were in some sort of tunnel surrounded by hundreds of paintings. For a couple of days the boys kept the tunnel a secret, then they decided to mention their discovery to their old art teacher whose specialty was prehistoric art. The teacher traveled down the hole and soon realized that this was not an ordinary discovery. They explored a bit more and came to the conclusion that this was in fact a cave that had been covered by the earth for thousands and thousands of years. He told the French government what the boys had found and convinced them to close the hole to the general public (Daniel 82-84). Soon thereafter began decades of work studying and recording everything that lay in this underground cave. It was given the name Lascaux

1940 closed in 1963

The deterioration of the walls as a result of corrosion, a phenomenon which predates the discovery of the cave, has made it much more difficult to interpret the works and greatly altered their initial impact...

Cave of Lascaux, 15,300-13,000BCE, Paleolithic

Sympathetic hunting magic.

Cave of Lascaux, France

Discovered by four boys in 1940. Caves are filled with pictographs and petroglyphs of hundreds of animals.

There are almost 600 pictures of animals,

mostly horses

Other animals painted are stags

Other animals painted are bulls,

Other animals painted are bison,

Other animals painted are ibex


Les Troi Freres Cave in France Contains painting of a shaman-- Joseph Campbell named it "God of the Cave." He's two feet tall, and well out of reach, fourteen feet up. He presides over a swarm of bison, ibex, bear, deer, and mammoth incised on the stone slabs below him. The god of the cave is instinct and intellect and spirit in one. The full animal inheritance, and the human dance, some inquisitiveness and concern, with a nurturing hunch to his shoulders.

Sympathetic hunting magic

Great Hall of the Bulls

Engraving Gallery

Engraving Gallery

The work carried out at Lascaux shortly after the Second World War made access to the cave easier. At that time, the entrance was considerably enlarged and the floors lowered to enable the constant flow of tourists (almost 1,200 people per day) to circulate more easily.

In March 1980, the Dordogne Department tourism authority was given responsibility for the work. They decided to reproduce the two most representative sections of the site, the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery.

handprint, cave painting, c. 15,000-13,000 bce, Peche Merle, Dordogne, France

"Nobody paid much attention to it," said Dr Rappenglueck. "But, it is obviously a drawing of the constellation we call the Northern Crown. It is remarkable."


1879 - Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola discovers the art in Altamira Cave

Shortly afterwards, in 1879, while he was digging in Altamira Cave, his nine year old daughter Maria wandered a little further inside. There she saw what she thought were the paintings of oxen. Sautuola recognised the figures at once; they were not oxen, but bison. In his book "Brief Notes on some Prehistoric Objects in the Province of Santander", published in 1880, he did not hesitate in relating the paintings with the prehistoric finds already known. "From the above it can be deduced that the caves belong, without any doubt, to the period known by the name of Palaeolithic, that is, the Old Stone Age."

Altamira Cave

Bear pit

.bull ceiling, c. 15,000-13,000 bce, cave painting, Altamira, Spain.

Bison c. 15,000-12,000 BC bison length 77 in. (195 cm) Altamira, Spain

Bison (detail). Altamira cave

Woman of Willendorf, 22,000-21,000BCE, Paleolithic 4 inches tall

Fertility rituals

Woman of Brassempouy

Neolithic Period 8,000-2,300

Neolithic Man

People and Animals


Elements of Architecture

Skara Brae

House Interior



Menhir alignments at Mnec, Carnac, France ca. 4,250-3,750 B.C.E.

Stonehenge, 2750-2100BCE Neolithic

Stages of Stonehenge


Menhir Statue of a Woman, 2000BCE, Neolithic


Bronze Age 2300-1000

Sample of rock drawing

Horse and Sun Chariot, 1800-1600BCE, Bronze Age

Iron Age 1000

Openwork box lid

Sympathetic hunting magic. Some evidence supports the idea that the images of animals pierced by spears or arrows were used as a voodoo-like magic practice to ensure a successful hunt. Some images show signs of actually having been struck by spears or stones.

Fertility rituals. The paintings may have been used as part of rituals intended to increase the fertility either of the herds hunted by the prehistoric people or of the hunters.

Initiation rites/social ceremony. Many experts have argued that these images were used in ceremonies that strengthened the bonds between clans, or perhaps were part of the initiation rites of young clan members upon reaching maturity. The overlaying of images through subsequent generations lends credence to these theories.