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Unit 1

1.0 Unit 1: Global Prehistory, 30,000โ€“500 BCE

9 min readโ€ขoctober 29, 2020

charly511115

Charly Castillo


AP Art Historyย ๐Ÿ–ผ

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Unit 1: Global Prehistory (30,000โ€“500 BCE)

You may look at the years for this unit and think wow, these works must be really primitive and simple ๐Ÿง, but this is anything but the case. The works that we'll be describing in this guide are advanced for their time (and even now in the modern age) and required lots of time โฐ and artistry ๐ŸŽจ to create.
The artists of the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods didn't have access to the same materials that we do nowadays, and instead used media, or materials ๐Ÿ–Œ๏ธ, that were readily available, like natural pigments, stone, and bone. Also, people had very little time to create art before the specialization of labor, which is when people were assigned specific jobs and responsibilities. This makes the artistic works of this unit all the more impressive (cue the round of applause ๐Ÿ‘).

Contextualization (AKA the Historical Background) ๐ŸŒ

As briefly mentioned before, Unit 1 is split into two periodsโ€”Paleolithic (30,000 BCE-8,000 BCE) and Neolithic (8,000 BCE-3,000 BCE). These ranges can be even longer depending on geographical location ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ, but these are the generally accepted years by most art historians.
During the Paleolithic period, people were hunter-gathers, meaning that they did not grow food, and instead hunted ๐Ÿ— and foraged ๐Ÿ‡ for their daily meals. This lifestyle is reflected in the art of the time, since many of the works have to do with animals and their relationship with humans. Because people during this time were always on the move either finding food or protecting themselves from being eaten ๐Ÿฆ, many of their works are small and easily portable, which we call art mobilier. These two details support the idea that prehistoric art was influenced by human's active lifestyles.
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-sYNAxWKxQmGi.jpg?alt=media&token=9b9d34b0-d764-457a-97f0-700a41e36a82

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia. Above is a 19th century depiction of hunter-gatherers.

Then came the Neolithic period and everything began to change. People began settling into organized settlements (usually near rivers) ๐Ÿ˜๏ธ, and this proximity allowed people to depend on one another for different services instead of doing everything themselves, which we call the specialization of labor. Living a sedentary life also allowed for the beginning of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent ๐ŸŒพ and the domestication of animals ๐Ÿท, which was a lot safer and reliable than being a hunter-gatherer.
Religion also greatly influenced the art created in this unit. Most prehistoric people practiced shamanism, a religion where followers believe that people called shamans can interact with the spirit world. These spirits were called for many reasons, including to heal those who were sick, ensure a successful harvest (especially since agriculture was becoming more widely practiced), or give advice. Works in this unit, such as the Ambum Stone and Jade Cong, are believed to possibly had a religious or ritualistic purpose because of the worldwide practice of shamanism and their location. And speaking of works, here comes . . .

The FFCCs of Unit 1 ๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ

Unit 1 has 11 works, and you need to know all of their FFCCs (forms, functions, contents, and contexts) for the exam. This may sound like a daunting task, but luckily, Unit 1 is one of the shortest ones in the whole course ๐ŸŽ‰ So, without further ado, the works of Unit 1.

Apollo 11 Stones

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-PCIahM1STUBQ.jpg?alt=media&token=cd1e38f6-52fa-4d6c-955a-d93349606dc2

Image Courtesy of the State Museum of Namibia.

Form:
  • Charcoal on stone
Function:
  • The function is unknown, but being portable may have something to do with how it was once used.
Content:
  • The two most supported theories is that this work depicts either an animal or therianthrope (a mythical being that is part human and part animal) in profile.
  • Art historians that believe that the work depicts a therianthrope say that the body is that of a feline ๐Ÿฑ and the legs are human ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ, possibly those of a shaman.
Context:
  • The stones were discovered the same year as the Apollo 11 moon landings (1969), so they were named after the historical event.

Great Hall of Bulls

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-7ROBO6AqJJ1E.jpg?alt=media&token=2b3c9150-78d4-4061-a585-3740793b738f

Image Courtesy of Smarthistory.

Form:
  • Pigment (charcoal, ochre) on rock
Function:
  • The purpose of this work is to represent the importance of animals to prehistoric hunter-gatherers as a source of food ๐Ÿ—
  • Another theory is that the painting was used in religious rituals or during storytelling.
Content:
  • Women are depicted gathering ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐ŸŒพ, while men are shown hunting ๐Ÿน, showing the stratification of labor by sex in the Paleolithic period.
  • The animals are drawn quite large, showing prehistoric people's respect for them.
Context:
  • Because the cave is nearly 250 meters long and difficult to access, we can assume that it was meant to be entered by a specific group of people, most likely those who were well-respected. This supports the theory of the Great Hall of Bulls being a site for shaman's religious rituals.

Camelid Sacrum in the Shape of a Canine

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Image Courtesy of Obelisk Art History.

Form:
  • Bone, specifically from the sacrum of an extinct camelid ๐Ÿช
Function:
  • The function is unknown ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ, but some art historians believe that it was made to represent what they saw in their everyday lives like a canine.
  • It may have represented fertility, since the sacrum is located near the sexual organs.
Content:
  • A camelid bone is carved using tools to mimic the face of a canine ๐Ÿถ.
Context:
  • The sacrum was seen as sacred by Mesoamerican cultures that came after this unit, such as the Aztecs and Mayans.

Running Horned Woman

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-G5uXOT2SiRFb.jpg?alt=media&token=c34076a8-131a-4046-9c06-9b3d3baaf297

Image Courtesy of Khan Academy.

Form:
  • Pigment (minerals mixed with a liquid) on rock
Function:
  • Because it shows the main figure running ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธand the humans in the background in movement ๐Ÿƒ, art historians believe that this work was made to symbolize survival.
  • It may have also been made to represent the relationship between humans and animals, as evidenced by the animalistic horns on the woman.
Content:
  • The pictograph (rock painting) pictures a woman in profile perspective running away from something unknown ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ
  • She is covered in white dots, which some believe to be body paint, while others think it is ritual scarification.
Context:
  • The work is in an elevated, secluded area โ›ฐ๏ธ, which makes art historians believe that it may be located in what was a religious sanctuary.
  • Hunter-gatherers did not dress like the woman depicted in the work. This means that her clothing and accessories may be symbolic of something.

Bushel with Ibex Motifs

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-0csUQjiLa8na.jpg?alt=media&token=e7ee53ff-725d-427d-9fbb-731b7855540c

Image Courtesy of the Louvre Museum.

Form:
  • Painted terra-cotta
Function:
  • Bushel with Ibex Motifs was buried in the graves โšฐ๏ธ of deceased people, suggesting that it was a funerary item.
Content:
  • The work is a funerary bushel decorated with animal motifs, including a mountain goat ๐Ÿ, dogs ๐Ÿ•, and birds ๐Ÿฆ, showing the prehistoric belief that a human's relationship with animals exists even in death.
  • The curved horns of the ibex ๐Ÿ contrast with the surrounding geometric designs and linear necks of the birds near the mouth of the bushel.
Context:
  • This work was found in Susa, Iran, which is near a fertile river valley. Because of this location, we can assume that Susa was a Neolithic settlement.

Anthropomorphic Stele

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-6uPORdw7TBhN.jpg?alt=media&token=bfd43dd1-38c2-44a0-82e6-c80cb5c412ab

Image Courtesy of the National Museum, Riyadh.

Form:
  • Sandstone
Function:
  • Many works like the Anthropomorphic Stele have been found around the Arabian Peninsula, showing that they were valuable and important to prehistoric humans.
Content:
  • The stele is of an anthropomorphic (something that has characteristics of a human, but is not actually one) figure.
Context:
  • This work was found along what used to be a trade route and is easily portable, suggesting that people would carry these while traveling. They may have possibly been used as good luck during travel, but art historians aren't completely sure.

Jade Cong

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-WPvCvBobaEcD.jpg_w%3D1200?alt=media&token=dab74bd1-343a-485c-844e-6d79e23da9a2

Image Courtesy of OHS APAH.

Form:
  • Carved jade, which is extremely time-consuming and difficult to do.
Function:
  • These congs were found in graves, which suggests that they were purposely placed there to protect the deceased in the afterlife.
  • Human and animal faces are carved into the cong, which may have been to represent prehistoric humans' connection to nature.
Content:
  • Some believe that faces carved into the cong are of ancestors ๐Ÿ‘ต (possibly making this work some type of ancestor veneration) or religious deities.
Context:
  • This work was found in the Yangzi delta of China, where Neolithic inhabitants had already began the transition to agriculture by planting rice ๐Ÿš. This explains why they had so much time to create art.

Stonehenge

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-BCMBHtEsSHBU.jpg?alt=media&token=f9a66de6-abce-46ce-91a4-ac553317e1b9

Image Courtesy of Visit Wiltshire.

Form:
  • Sandstone
Function:
  • Some art historians believe that Stonehenge was a burial site for well-respected, powerful members of society.
  • However, most believe that it was a calendar of sorts that could mark when it was midsummer's solstice or midwinter's sunset based on the position of the sun โ˜€๏ธ
Content:
  • It is constructed of vertical rocks (posts), which are supporting horizontal ones (lintel) above. This method of construction is known as post-and-lintel, which we'll see even more of in unit 2 ๐Ÿค—
Context:
  • Stonehenge was built over a period of 500 years, starting in 3100 BCE. Because so much time was dedicated to its construction, we can assume that it had an important purpose in Bronze Age England.

Ambum Stone

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-2VLo4wYVPXLg.jpg?alt=media&token=8b9ce34d-acd8-48ee-840e-7c96168c7c03

Image Courtesy of Khan Academy.

Form:
  • Greywacke
Function:
  • The function is unknown ๐Ÿค”, but there are a few theories about how it was used. One of the more popular ones is that the Ambum Stone had a religious purpose, since the early people of Papua New Guinea saw anteaters as sacred animals.
  • Some art historians believe that it was used as a pestle because of its smooth bottom.
Content:
  • The work depicts either an anteater or an echidna.
Context:
  • The prehistoric people of Papua New Guinea had settled communities going into the Neolithic period, which allowed them to spend more time on art ๐ŸŽจ

Tlatilco Female Figurines

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-u6m4yJYsrljo.jpg?alt=media&token=69c3c874-b259-4b42-a40d-1a821b60f664

Image Courtesy of Khan Academy.

Form:
  • Ceramic
Function:
  • This work was most likely made to represent fertility and the importance of females in prehistoric society as both birth givers ๐Ÿคฐand mothers ๐Ÿคฑ.
  • It also may have been used in religious shamanistic rituals.
Content:
  • Art historians have debated about why this female figurine has two faces. Some believe that the artist was depicting a woman with a congenital defect, but many also think that it was made to reflect the pre-Columbian artistic ideal of dualism ๐Ÿ‘ฉ ๐Ÿ‘ฉ
  • The woman has exaggerated thighs and hips (hips don't lie!), which may represent fertility.
Context:
  • Tlatilco existed anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 years before the Aztecs (you may want to remember this for Unit 5!)

Terra-Cotta Fragment

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-vnO64fOAb3Yn.jpg_w%3D523?alt=media&token=a3b75441-07f4-41f3-a23e-7c25a3eb184f

Image Courtesy of OHS APAH.

Form:
  • Incised terra-cotta
Function:
  • The fragment once belonged to a much larger cooking pot that was either used for storing or cooking food
  • It may have also played a role in ritualistic, religious ceremonies.
Content:
  • The fragment is decorated with anthropomorphic images that were created using a technique known as dentate stamping. Artists would carve designs into natural materials like shells or wood and use them to stamp a design into the terra-cotta before it dried.
  • The human face pictured on the work has linear features like the nose bridge ๐Ÿ‘ƒ, which contrast with the circular patterns on the rest of it.
Context:
  • The prehistoric Lapita people who created this work are well-known for their pottery.

Summary of the Works

ArtLocationFormDate
Apollo 11 StonesKeetmanshoop, NamibiaCharcoal on stone25,500โ€“25,300 BCE
Great Halls of Bulls, Lascaux CavesLascaux, FrancePigment on rock15,000โ€“13,000 BCE
Camelid Sacrum in the Shape of a CanineTequixquiac, MexicoBone14,000โ€“7,000 BCE
Running Horned WomanTassili n'Ajjer, AlgeriaPigment on rock6,000โ€“4,000 BCE
Bushel With Ibex MotifsSusa, IranPainted terra-cotta4,200โ€“3,500 BCE
Anthropomorphic SteleArabian PeninsulaSandstone4000 BCE
Jade CongLiangzhu, ChinaCarved jade3,300โ€“2,200 BCE
StonehengeWiltshire, United KingdomSandstone2500-1600 BCE
The Ambum StoneAmbum Valley, Papua New GuineaGreywacke1500 BCE
Tlatilco Female FigurinesTlatilco, MexicoCeramic1200-900 BCE
Terra-Cotta FragmentReef Islands, Solomon IslandsIncised terra-cotta1000 BCE
And that's a wrap for Unit 1! Hope this guide helped you. Good luck art historians.

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๐ŸขUnit 10: Global Contemporary, 1980 ce to Present
๐Ÿ—ฟUnit 1: Global Prehistory, 30,000โ€“500 bce
๐Ÿ›Unit 2: Ancient Mediterranean, 3500 bceโ€“300 ce
โ›ช๏ธUnit 3: Early Europe and Colonial Americas, 200โ€“1750 ce
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๐Ÿ›•Unit 8: South, East, and Southeast Asia, 300 bceโ€“1980 ce
๐ŸšUnit 9: The Pacific, 700โ€“1980 ce
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