Guided Tour to Palaeolithic and Neolithic Art
An art exploration on the Palaeolithic and Neolithic in Europe starting from the cave paintings in France to cave paintings in Spain to the Neolithic Art in England and ending it in Ireland, this art field trip seeks to demonstrate the richness of the culture and arts of the people living in that era.
Palaeolithic art’s famous landmarks include places in Western Europe, Spain where cave paintings from the era are produced as well as in France which showcases the Dordogne Valley (Columbia Encyclopedia, 2006). The Dordogne Valley in France highlights the era of cave painting, castles and Cro-Magnon’s way of life. Located in the Grotte de Font-de-Gaume is the “Gallery” known for the preserved walls and ceilings of 15,000-year old polychrome paintings of animals and the famous five bisons that were preserved by the government (Furnanz, 2007). The 50-meter cave essentially captured their way of life in that era using the cave paintings. The Font de Gaume in Dordogne Valley features over 200 polychrome paintings and is considered as one of the finest examples of Palaeolithic polychrome- the area features over 80 bisons, 40 horses and more than 20 mammoth depictions (Wikipedia, 2007).
Description: Cave painting of a male bison
From Dordogne Valley in France, a tour in a neighbour country Spain would also show the rich art of the Palaeolithic Era. Basque Country features several cave paintings, the most famous of which are caves in North Spain, Asturias and in Cantabria. The caves that are featured in Basque Country are products of different times in the Upper Palaeolithic era; compared to the caves in the Dordogne Valley, caves in Basque Country represents a Magdalenian convention of representation which represents the lifestyle of the earlier inhabitants on the Western Pyrenees and the east of the Cantabrian Region (Sainz and Toca, 2007).
One of the bisons on the ceiling of Altamira in Spain, representing the final stage of polychrome art in which four shades of colour are used. Photo: M. Burkitt ‘The Old Stone Age’ (1955), after Breuil.
The Neolithic era of art is best characterized by their architecture, furniture and utensils and their temples and place of worship including their placement of tombs and urns (Art of the Neolithic Era in Europe, 2007). The Stone Henge in Salisbury plain in Wiltshire England showcases the art in the Neolithic period estimated to be in 2,500 BC. As shown below, the horizontal stone plinths stand 4 metres above the ground they are 10 feet long and 3 feet thick, how did they raise them 4 metres. Other sites for Neolithic art can be found near the area and can be explored if the class is willing to go.
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England. Dated at approximately 2,000 bce.
The last stop for the trip would be in Donegal, Ireland- famous for its Neolithic Art landmark of tombs. Donegal, Ireland represents the most famous tombs constructed during the Neolithic Era including the Dromberg Stone circle (Travel Ireland, 2007). The tombs represent how the Neolithic people have preserved and honoured their deaths by building elaborate tombs.
Tomb in megalithic Donegal, Ireland
Art of the Neolithic Era in Europe. (2007) Retrieved 11 july 2007 at http://www.accd.edu/sac/vat/arthistory/arts1303/Neolith1.htm.
Furnanz, R. (2007) France’s Dordogne River Valley Land of “Clan of the Cave Bear,” Richard the Lion-Hearted, Christian Pilgrims, and Bastide Villages. Retrieved 11 July 2007 at
Sainz, C. and Toca, R. (2007) Paleolithic Cave Arts in Basque Country. Muse Digital Archiving Frontiers. Retrieved 11 July 2007 at http://www.muse.or.jp/spain/eng/basco/basco_top.html.
The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001–04.
Travel Ireland. (2007) The History of Ireland. 11 July 2007 at http://www.travelsinireland.com/history.htm.
Wikipedia. (2007) Cave paintings. Retrieved 11 July 2007 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_painting