Dating prehistoric objects

Dating and Chronology of Prehistoric Art A number of highly sophisticated techniques - such as radiometric testing, Uranium/Thorium dating and thermoluminescence - are now available to help establish the date of ancient artifacts from the Paleolithic era and later.However, dating of ancient art is not an exact science, and results are often dependent on tests performed on the 'layer' of earth and debris in which the artifact was lying, or - in the case of rock engraving - an analysis of the content and style of the markings.Nearly 340 caves have now been discovered in France and Spain that contain art from prehistoric times.Initially, the age of the paintings had been a contentious issue, since methods like radiocarbon dating can produce misleading results if contaminated by samples of older or newer material, and caves and rocky overhangs (where parietal art is found) are typically littered with debris from many time periods.A polychrome cave painting consists of two or more colours, as exemplified by the glorious multi-coloured images of bison on the ceiling at Altamira, or the magnificent aurochs in the Chamber of the Bulls at Lascaux.

It is possible that earlier peoples might have decorated their bodies and clothes or marked trees or features in the landscape but, if they did, evidence of that art has not survived.One might expect that the first examples of art would be simple and crude.However the oldest cave paintings are the evidence that modern humans were astonishingly quick in developing their artistic skills.• Introduction • Types • Characteristics • Dating & Chronology • Prehistoric Culture • Human Evolution: From Axes to Art • Paleolithic Period • Lower Paleolithic (c.2.5 million - 200,000 BCE) • Middle Paleolithic (c.200,000 - 40,000 BCE) • Upper Paleolithic (c.40,000-10,000 BCE) • Mesolithic Culture - 10,000 - 4,000 BCE - Northern and Western Europe - 10,000 - 7,000 BCE - Southeast Europe - 10,000 - 8,000 BCE - Middle East and Rest of World • Neolithic Culture - 4,000 - 2,000 BCE: Northern and Western Europe - 7,000 - 2,000 BCE: Southeast Europe - 8,000 - 2,000 BCE: Middle East & Rest of World • Bronze Age Art (In Europe, 3000-1200 BCE) • Iron Age Art (In Europe, 1500-200 BCE)Types Archeologists have identified 4 basic types of Stone Age art, as follows: petroglyphs (cupules, rock carvings and engravings); pictographs (pictorial imagery, ideomorphs, ideograms or symbols), a category that includes cave painting and drawing; and prehistoric sculpture (including small totemic statuettes known as Venus Figurines, various forms of zoomorphic and therianthropic ivory carving, and relief sculptures); and megalithic art (petroforms or any other works associated with arrangements of stones).Artworks that are applied to an immoveable rock surface are classified as parietal art; works that are portable are classified as mobiliary art.It is also not a hot topic for art historians, but always of interest to historical anthropologists.Anthropology is the study of mankind's behaviour and origins, and asides from studying bones and fossils, it also studies the ancient architecture, tools and artwork mankind left behind.The exact purpose of the paleolithic cave paintings is not known.Evidence suggests that they were not merely decorations of living areas, since the caves in which they have been found do not have signs of ongoing habitation.Characteristics The earliest forms of prehistoric art are extremely primitive.The cupule, for instance - a mysterious type of Paleolithic cultural marking - amounts to no more than a hemispherical or cup-like scouring of the rock surface.

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