Paleolithic Age Art & Clothing

Instructor: Aida Vega Felgueroso

Aida has taught Spanish at the University in Italy. Spanish is her mother tongue and she has a master's degree in Spanish Language and Literature.

In this lesson we will see two very interesting aspects of the life of the Paleolithic man: art and clothing. Their art expressed their idea of beauty and their religious beliefs. Their clothes provide us more information on the technology they used.

The Ancient Stone Age

The Paleolithic (meaning 'ancient stone') is the first of three parts in which the Stone Age is divided. It is a very long period, extending from 2.6 million years ago to around 10,000 B.P. It is divided into the Lower Paleolithic, Middle Paleolithic, and Upper Paleolithic eras.

The Paleolithic era remains mysterious, and what we do know we know only thanks to the remains that have come to us and the hypotheses of archaeologists. In this lesson we will see the art and clothing of Paleolithic people.

Cane decorated, cave of the Valley (Spain)

Paleolithic Art

Artistic production occurred in the Upper Paleolithic (between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago). Art at this time can be divided into two large groups: portable art and stationary art.

Head of a horse, cave of Mas Azil (France)

Portable Art

Paleolithic man was a hunter and gatherer. For this reason, he was nomadic, moving continuously and following herds of animals. When he moved, he carried with him numerous objects, some of them useful for hunting or defense. Others were artistic objects which these men carried with them for their beauty or religious significance. This is the portable art of the Paleolithic era.

This type of art consisted of numerous and varied objects: decorated bowls, handles of arms carved with geometrical symbols, etc. The best examples of portable art are statues depicting female figures. These little statues are known by the generic name of Venus for the Roman goddess of love and beauty. All of them follow the same pattern: women with very large breasts and bulging bellies. These statues help us understand the great importance given to fertility at this time.

Venus of Lespugue, made of ivory (France)

Stationary Art

Stationary art is the one that cannot be moved. Within this group are cave paintings that are, perhaps, the most famous form of Paleolithic art.

Paleolithic Clothing

The first men went naked. As times changed, and the glaciations approached, they began to use the skins of the animals they hunted to dress and protect themselves from the cold. Thus, it is now believed that man began to dress about 180,000 years ago.

The first clothes were very rough, simple loincloths. At that time, Paleolithic men used to chew the skins of animals to make them more flexible. Later, they began to smoke the skins to make them more flexible and longer lasting. Eventually, they evolved the design of the clothes, making tunics held with belts, skirts, and all type of hats and boots.

Handaxe in quartzite

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