Mesolithic Age Art & Pottery

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

The Mesolithic Age was a time of transition in many ways, which included a change in art for record keeping or religious purposes to art for creative purposes. Learn more about what kind of art and pottery the Mesolithic people made in this lesson.

Mesolithic Age Society

When we think about Stone Age art, we usually think about cave paintings that depict animals and hunters. While it is true that much art of the Stone Age focuses on hunting scenes through cave paintings, the middle period of the Stone Age saw a transition from the focus just on hunting to art for the sake of art. This middle period is called the Mesolithic Age, literally the ''middle stone age.'' Like most middle things, the Mesolithic Age acts as a transition from the oldest period of human history (the Paleolithic Age) to the rise of civilizations in the last period of the Stone Age (the Neolithic Age).

Mesolithic people were still, of course, concerned about survival, but they were semi-nomadic during this age, being a bit more settled than the prior nomadic lifestyle of moving from place to place. Since they were more settled, they depended not just on hunting and gathering for food, but also started dabbling in agriculture and growing their own crops. Not only is this reflected in their art, but it also gave them an opportunity to make art since they did not have to forage for all of their food. Let's take a look at Mesolithic art forms and what they depict.

Mesolithic rock painting
Mesolithic rock painting

Mesolithic Rock Paintings

Rock paintings, or rock art, are one of the most common types of art in the Mesolithic Age. But unlike the cave paintings of the Paleolithic Age, Mesolithic rock paintings depicted a wide variety of events from hunting to farming to dancing. Since Mesolithic people no longer had to live in caves to keep warm since the Ice Age ended, they painted on outdoor rocks instead.

Most Mesolithic paintings are red and black since the artists used charcoal and ochre, a reddish clay-like substance, mixed with spit or animal fat to paint with. Some paintings seem to depict ritualistic dances like the scene in the Spanish rock shelter Roca dels Moros. Another painting found in Spain in the Cuevas de la Araña shows a man climbing vines to get honey while bees are swarming around him. If you are thinking about Winnie the Pooh, the image does not look that much different! Unlike the Paleolithic Age, humans in rock paintings look a bit more like humans than they do stick figures.

Illustration of the Man of Bicorp in the Cuevas de la Arana
Illustration of the Man of Bicorp

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