Stone Age art or stone age art - The first known period of prehistoric human culture, during which work was done with stone tools. The period began with the earliest human development, about 2 million years ago. It is divided into three periods:

  1. The Paleolithic period, or Old Stone Age, was the longest phase of human history. Its most outstanding feature was the development of the human species-- Homo sapiens. Paleolithic peoples were generally nomadic hunters and gatherers who sheltered in caves, used fire, and fashioned stone tools. Their cultures are identified by distinctive stone-tool industries. By the Upper Paleolithic there is evidence of communal hunting, constructed shelters, and belief systems centering on magic and the supernatural. Rock carving and paintings reached their peak in the Magdalenian culture of Cro-Magnon man.
  2. The Mesolithic period, or Middle Stone Age, began at the end of the last glacial era, over 10,000 years ago. Cultures included gradual domestication of plants and animals, formation of settled communities, use of the bow, and development of delicate stone microliths and pottery.
  3. The time periods and cultural content of the Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, vary with geographic location. The earliest known Neolithic culture developed from the Natufian in Southwestern Asia between 9000 and 7000 BCE. People lived in settled villages, cultivated grains and domesticated animals, developed pottery,spinning, and weaving, and evolved into the urban civilizations of the Bronze Age. In Southeast Asia a distinct type of Neolithic culture cultivated rice before 2000 BCE. New World peoples independently domesticated plants and animals, and by 1500 BCE Neolithic cultures existed in Mesoamerica that led to the Aztec and Inca civilizations.

Making generalizations about the visual culture of any group of people is a crude endeavor, especially with a culture as diverse as that of the Stone Age. With this thought in mind, know that this survey, as any must be, is tremendously limited in its breadth and depth.


Examples of Stone Age art:


see thumbnail to leftAmong the earliest pieces of prehistoric sculpture that has been found is the Venus of Willendorf , c. 30,0000 - 25,000 BCE, limestone, height 11 cm, found in lower Austria, now in Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna. Clearly the female reproductive anatomy has been exagerrated, and therefore experts think it likely that it represented a fertility symbol, perhaps carried by a male hunter/gatherer as a reminder of his mate back home. [Short videos of this sculpture.]






see thumbnail to rightRussia, Kostenky settlement, Female Figurine, 23,000-21,000 BCE, limestone, height 10.2 cm, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.






see thumbnail to leftSiberia, Malta settlement, Bird Figurine, 22nd-21st millennium BCE, mammoth ivory, height 10.3 cm, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.




see thumbnail to rightCro-Magnon peoples, Cave at Lascaux, France, "Hall of Bulls", 15,000-13,000 BCE, "fresco" and "found relief" includes paintings of bulls, horses, deer, bison, etc.


see thumbnail to leftHere is one of the horses, and a wall painted with several animals. See found material and relief.



Spain, Caves of Altamira, 15,000-12,000 BCE, paintings on the cave's wall.




see thumbnail to rightChina, Painted twin-jar, Yangshao culture (c.5000 - 2000 BCE), pottery, height 20 cm, Henan Museum, China. Unearthed at Zhengzhou, Henan. This jar was used for drinking wine. Two people, each holding a side of the jar, would drink simultaneously. This custom is still practiced in various cultures today symbolizing love and friendship.




see thumbnail to leftRussia, Lake Onega, Carved Petroglyph (fragment), 4th-3rd millennium BCE, granite, 240 x 308 cm, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. See petroglyph.




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Also see cromlech, dolmen, megalith, and monolith.







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