01. Global Prehistory Art & Humanities Teaching

AP Art History: Cultural Influences on Prehistoric Art

July 14, 2020
*Note: The enduring “Enduring understanding,” “Learning Objective,” & “Essential Knowledge” language comes from the 2019 AP Art History Curriculum and Exam Guide.

Enduring Understanding: Cultural practices, belief systems, and physical setting constitute an important part of art and art making and are often communicated in various stylistic conventions and forms. Such cultural considerations may affect artistic decisions that include, but are not limited to, siting, subject matter, and modes of display, and may help to shape the creation of art in a given setting or within a given culture.

Learning Objective: Explain how cultural practices, belief systems, and/or physical setting affect art and art making.

Essential Knowledge: Periods before the written record are often defined in terms of geological eras or major shifts in climate and environment. The periods of global prehistory, known as lithic or stone ages, are Paleolithic (“Old Stone Age”), Mesolithic (“Middle Stone Age”), and Neolithic (“New Stone Age”). A glacial period produced European ice ages; Saharan agricultural grassland became desert; and tectonic shifts in southeast Asia created land bridges between the continent and the now-islands of the Pacific south of the equator. Human behavior and expression were influenced by the changing environments in which they lived.

*Note: Paleolithic pieces are from hunting & gathering societies while Neolithic are from early agricultural/animal domestication. Therefore the way they depict humans’ relationships with the natural world in artwork will also shift to display this change in lifestyle.

Paleolithic pieces:

Neolithic pieces:

Essential Knowledge: Globally, the earliest peoples were small groups of hunter-gatherers, whose paramount concern was sheer survival, which resulted in the creation of practical objects. From earliest times, these practical tools were accompanied by objects of unknown purpose—ritual and symbolic works perhaps intended to encourage the availability of flora and fauna food sources. Art making was associated with activities such as food production (hunting, gathering, agriculture, animal husbandry) and patterns of behavior, such as settlement, demonstration of status, and burial. For example, places of gathering or settlement and/or objects found in such places may be painted and/or incised with imagery related to their use.

Essential Knowledge: In many world regions—including those not in direct contact with one another—art shows humans’ awareness of fundamental, stable phenomena, from the macrocosmic (e.g., astronomical cycles, such as equinoxes and solstices) to the microcosmic (e.g., exploitation of permanent materials available in local environments, such as stone, hardened clay, and jade).

Suggested Works: 

JMF

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