Art in the Neolithic Era: Innovations, Characteristics & Examples

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  • 0:04 The Neolithic Era
  • 0:30 Innovations and…
  • 2:05 Characteristics of…
  • 4:27 Examples of Neolithic Art
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, discover some of the oldest forms of human creativity and expression: art in the Neolithic Era. Learn about the innovations of the Neolithic Era that influenced art, and explore characteristics and examples of art from this time.

The Neolithic Era

The Neolithic Era, also known as the New Stone Age, was a period of human development that started about 15,000 BC and ended when the crafting of metal tools became popular, although the time frame of this era varies between different regions of the world. The Neolithic Era was one of the last parts of the Stone Age and it was defined by humans settling and living a more sedentary life, which derived into the first forms of farming.

Innovations and Influence on Art

The Neolithic Era was a time of innovation and development for humanity. The new sedentary life brought new challenges but also opportunities to survive with more ease. The need of carrying around every item was gone, so many elements of daily life could now be bigger and more functional. This fact allowed for practical arts, like weaving and pottery, to be explored and developed.

Let's take a look at some of the most important innovations of the Neolithic Era.

How a Neolithic village could have been
How a Neolithic village could have seen

Human Settlements and Sedentary Life

The shift from a nomadic lifestyle to settled communities brought the opportunity for creating permanent shelter. Therefore, the earliest forms of architecture appeared, and with them, the first examples of exterior and interior decoration. Structures weren't built only for housing, but also to protect food and to create places for performing rituals. Furthermore, constructions were also created to leave a legacy.

Items for decoration weren't mere aesthetic objects. Decorative items and art were believed to have supernatural powers - for example, a warrior figurine for protection or a female figurine to increase fertility.

Farming and Food Storage

Communities had more food available because farming and crop harvesting provided an increasing amount of food. However, harvests only happened at specific times of the year, so storing food became important. Although pottery had already been used in previous eras, farming and the sedentary life transformed and boosted the use of pottery. It allowed the creation of objects to store crops, seeds, and even liquids.

Characteristics of Neolithic Art

Most of the art from the Neolithic period was inspired by daily events, and it used materials that were easily found in the surroundings. Therefore, we find that art during this period consisted mostly of functional objects.

Without the need of constantly moving, shelters could now be more durable and permanent. People experimented with new techniques and materials. Mud bricks, wood, stones, and other elements were used to create structures that could withstand weather conditions and also provide protection from possible predators. The floors of these dwellings were often covered with mats or animal pelts. People slept on these surfaces, and they helped to create warmer environments, thus providing better protection from extreme temperatures.

Fixed Locations and Lasting Legacies

Staying in the same location allowed people to invest more time in creating larger objects that were in fixed locations. Many megaliths were created. They were structures made of large stones and boulders. The constructors used a technique known as post and beam, on which vertical stones were placed and used to support horizontal stones.

Although these structures were common during the Neolithic Era, they weren't for housing. They were used mostly as tombs, a place for the individual to leave a lasting legacy and be remembered. Other megalithic structures may have served ceremonial purposes, but the exact use of many of them is still unknown.

The Megalith of Poulnabrone
The Megalith of Paulnabrone

More Realistic Representations

Pottery was a type of practical art that was largely explored during this period. Artisans made bigger items with more complex decorations. The people found a place for painting as well. On pottery they painted representations of daily life scenes, supernatural beliefs, or geometric figures.

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