Stone Age Art

Lith - stone
Paleo - old
Meso - middle
Neo - new
Mono - one
Mega - large
Henge - circular enclosure, usually bound by (a) ditch/es and/or embankment/s
Cairn - A memorial to the dead made of a mound of stones

BCE - Before Common Era (secular version of BC)
CE - Common Era (secular version of AD)

"C." or "ca." is an abbreviation of circa (Latin), which means about - an approximation in time. (Also where our word circle comes from.)

Paleolithic Art - c. 30,000 BCE - 10,000 BCE
Mesolithic Art - c. 10,000 BCE - 8000 BCE
Neolithic Art - c. 8000 BCE - 3000 BCE

Archaeological Institute of America (AIA)
Archaeology Magazine
Interactive Digs
Latest News (from Archaeology)
Prehistoric Art at The Met
Neolithic World Regions - MMA Map
The Cave of Lascaux - Interactive
More Lascaux Cave info from
MMA: Lascaux Cave
MMA: Chauvet Cave
American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
Extinctions, an interview with Helen F. James, Smithsonian Institution.
Hall of Human Origins: AMNH
The Amesbury Archer
BBC History: The Amesbury Archer: The King of Stonehenge?

Scroll to the end for information on the dating of stone age objects.

Woman of Willendorf, c. 25,000 BCE, Limestone, 3.75 inches.

Alternate shot of above.

Woman of Brassempouy (France), c. 22,000-20,000 BCE, Ivory, 1.5 inches.

Neolithic Figure, c. 6th Century BCE, Terracotta.

Lascaux Cave, discovered by young boys in 1940 and dating back to c. 15,000 BCE.
There are estimated to be over 1500 pictures of animals inside Lascaux.

Cave iconography is limited to three basic themes : animals, human representations and signs. Neither the landscape outside the cave nor any of the vegetation of the time is portrayed on these walls. [Source:]
A virtual revolution occurred in the creation of art during the period of the Upper Paleolithic in Europe. Beginning around 40,000 B.C., the archaeological record shows that anatomically modern humans effectively replaced Neanderthals and remained the sole hominid inhabitants across continental Europe. At about the same time, and directly linked to this development, the earliest art was created. These initial creative achievements fall into one of two broad categories. Paintings and engravings found in caves along walls and ceilings are referred to as "parietal" art. The caves where paintings have been found are not likely to have served as shelter, but rather were visited for ceremonial purposes. The second category, "mobiliary" art, includes small portable sculpted objects which are typically found buried at habitation sites. [MMA - link also above to Lascaux]

Detail of above.

Lascaux, detail.

Lascaux, detail.

Detail of above.

Lascaux, detail.

Pablo Picasso, Don Quixote, 1955.

Chauvet Cave. A pride of lions hunt bison, one of the rarest scenes ever found in Paleolithic art.
[MMA - link also above to Chauvet Cave]

The Chauvet Cave was discovered in the Ardèche valley (in southern France) in December 1994 by three cave explorers, after removing the rumble of stones that blocked a passage.

The cave is extensive, about 400 meters long, with vast chambers. The floor of the cave is littered with archaeological and palaeontological remains, including the skulls and bones of cave bears, which hibernated there, along with the skulls of an ibex and two wolves. The cave bears also left innumerable scratches on the walls and footprints on the ground.

The two major parts of the cave were used in different ways by artists. In the first part, a majority of images are red, with few black or engraved ones. In the second part, the animals are mostly black, with far fewer engravings and red figures. Obvious concentrations of images occur in certain places. The most spectacular images are the Horse Panel and the Panel of Lions and Rhinoceroses. [MMA]

Fourteen different animal species are depicted in the Chauvet Cave. [MMA]

Human Skull from Jericho, c. 8000 – 7000 BCE.
More info here.

Sumerian figures, c. 1900 BCE.

Woman I, 1950-52.
More info from MoMA.

Dating Methods:
The range of methods and tools used to date the cave art is somewhat limited, partly because the figures are not in a position favourable to stratigraphic dating most of the time and also because of the nature of the materials used. In the eventuality of a single period of Palaeolithic occupation of the site as at Fontanet (Ariège), Combarelles or Rouffingnac (Dordogne), and to some extent, at Lascaux, it is reasonable to note the contemporaneousness of the wall paintings and the material found on the floor of the cave. Whether lithic or bone, or in the form of products of combustion, these elements are more easily dated.

An identical approach applies to the which had fallen to the ground during the painting or drawing. They have been sealed in the archaeological levels, at the foot of the decorated walls and are therefore contemporary with the datable archaeological artefacts, and can be dated using radiometry (bone, carbon) or possibly typology (lithic or bone industry). During the past few decades several attempts have been made at direct dating of the paintings using the radiocarbon method (J. Clottes and M. Lorblanchet). The ever-improving performance of radioactive measuring instruments today allows analyses to be made of matter weighing only a few milligrams. Nevertheless, only the paintings and drawings which incorporate charcoal can be studied in this way; in most of the Perigord caves, as at Lascaux, typing of the shows that the basis of the material used on all the figures is metal oxides, iron or manganese, materials that are impossible to date using the suggested methods.