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3.20 - Upper Palaeolithic Imagery

from VIII. - Europe and the Mediterranean

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2014

Paul G. Bahn
Affiliation:
Universitat de Barcelona
Colin Renfrew
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

Introduction

Over the past few decades it has become clear that towards the end of the Pleistocene artistic activity was underway on all inhabited continents – mostly in the form of portable art, or parietal art in shallow rock shelters, or even in the open air (Bahn 2007). A range of new and varied evidence has come to light in many parts of the world (see, e.g., Chapters 1.8, 1.10 and 1.35). The technical, naturalistic and aesthetic qualities of European Palaeolithic images remain almost unique for the moment, but it is nevertheless true that, at this period (and sometimes earlier), in other parts of the world, one can see traces of the same phenomenon. In Europe tens of thousands of images were produced, both as portable objects and on open-air rocks as well as on the walls of shelters and caves during the Upper Palaeolithic, between c. 40,000 and 10,000 bce (Map 3.20.1). Particularly rich and abundant in the final phases (Solutrean, Magdalenian), Ice Age art in Europe is one of the best- and longest-studied of all art corpora (Zervos 1959; Graziosi 1960; Ucko & Rosenfeld 1967; Bahn & Vertut 1997; Bahn 2014).

The Palaeolithic images of Europe are generally treated as two distinct entities, the portable and the parietal, whereas in reality these are merely the two ends of a continuous range; in other words, there is an overlap between the two categories, comprising cases in which it is impossible to decide whether detached fragments of wall were decorated before or after falling, and stone blocks which could be moved but which were too large to be carried around.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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