When Did Artwork Begin?
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It is believed that the first true artwork originated during the Old Stone Age, when human beings made the transition from their apelike ancestry into Homo sapiens (or Cro-magnons). This period started approximately two million years ago and ended between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. Humans of this era were anatomically identical to modern humans and had the same basic mental capabilities.
Evidence suggests that artwork developed simultaneously with an advance in toolmaking that led to more successful hunting and farming. Cromagnon cultures flourished all over the world, but the most remnants from this period have been discovered in caves in France and Spain, where humans settled after migrating from regions in Asia and Africa. Although study of the earliest artworks is largely confined to this region, art was also being produced in other regions. For example, in Africa (which has the oldest human history, dating back to hominids four million years ago) much art was made of wood and other decomposing materials and is thus impossible to trace back.
The works in France and Spain consist mostly of paintings depicting animals such as bison, horses, and reindeer on the walls and ceilings of caves. Known as the "Franco-cantabrian" style, the painting was done with fingers, sticks, fur, and moss and by sketching with colored material such as charcoal or spray-painting with blood and natural dyes. Distinct techniques are evident at each site, and it is also clear that the creators had respect for previous artworks left in the caves as none were defaced or overlapped by others. The most famous of these cave findings are at Lascaux (in Dordogne, France), Niaux (Ariege, France), Peche-Merle (Lot, France), Gasulla (Castellon, Spain), and Altamira (Cantabria, Spain).
Further Information: Bades, Francois. The Old Stone Age. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968; Leaky, L. S. B. Adam's Ancestors. London: Methuen, 1953; "Window on the Stone Age." Time. [Online] Available www.time.com/time/magazine/archive/1995/950130/950130.archaeology.html, October 23, 2000.
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