Neolithic Art

Hi! This is a brief review of Neolithic Art, so make sure that you’ve watched the Paleolithic review because we’ll be referring to some the works of art from that
period in this discussion. So, Neolithic art — we’re
moving into a later period going from about 9,000 BCE to 4000 BCE and what’s important is that
the world is changing in terms of its
climate. It’s getting warmer around the Mediterranean, and so the area — being the area that we’re focusing on — is getting warmer, the sea levels are rising, and animals are
becoming domesticated, and they’re raising stock (livestock), rather than going out on extended hunts, as was probably the
case in the Paleolithic period. [In the Neolithic period,] people are actually raising their own food — both in the case of animals and also
agriculture, so agriculture is developing at this point.
This means that these cultures are less nomadic, that they are actually
settling down, that they’re developing cities and settlements, and so there
are a lot of archaeological discoveries that
accompany these cities and also artworks that we can analyze, so not only do we see small
portable objects, but also things that are built into
architecture because we have more permanent
settlements, so very interesting changes happening in the Neolithic period. So we’re starting off looking at Catal Hoyuk, which is
a site in modern-day Turkey We’re looking at a period in terms of the excavation from about 6000 BCE to 5900 BCE. This city became wealthy and was able to
develop into relatively strong civilization through a trade of obsidian, so obsidian was very valuable because it provided a material for tools so you don’t have bronze or iron at this
point, not a lot of metal casting so without that you need other types of tools so obsidian is a kind of volcanic glass and
this volcanic glass could be used, it could be sharpened, and it could be used as a tool so that made it very important. Here is a reconstruction of Catal Hoyuk, so the
previous image was the actual excavation and this is a reconstruction. You can
see the structure was pretty much one large
structure where you could add a room here, a room there; you could move from place to place within the structure through latters on top of the roof; move from place to place, but this provided a sense of security for those that lived there the fact that everyone was
essentially living together in one structure it provided more security in case there
were people that came and tried to take their valuable obsidian or other valuable resources for the city. The key work that I want to focus in on is the “So-called mother goddess” figure. This is a figure that was discovered in the 1960s and its raised a lot of questions because of its similarity to some of the works that we
saw in the Paleolithic period, so very exaggerated figure, very corpulent figure, exaggerated breasts, stomach, legs, and and this woman is definitely emphasizing her maternal nature, being a mother. She’s actually giving
birth probably here. You can see there is probably a head coming here, but
there’s also markers of status, right? You have almost like a
throne that she is seated on with animal heads on
either side. One in the heads was actually replaced, and even more important than that, her head is a modern restoration, so the head itself is not original.
It’s not a Neolithic part of this sculpture. That’s important
because if you recall in examples like the “Woman of Willendorf” her face is obscured, so we’re really not sure what the face
looked like here; whether there were these types of features? What the headdress looked like? So remember this is a modern restoration, and, therefore, not
entirely accurate, but this does lend greater support
to the idea of mother goddesses during the Neolithic and Paleolithic periods; great reverence for mothers; for the
act of giving birth, for the act of providing life, so it’s important to keep that in mind and
keep in mind that this type a imagery continues on into the Neolithic period, so we see a
similar body type, a similar emphasis on women. We do see representations of hunting
scenes as well with men, but there’s a striking similarity
between the two cultures, so it’s important to keep that in mind
and you can see that, for example, the animals on either
side of her seat — these are types of animals
that we see on thrones later on for example, when we get to ancient Egypt, we’ll see a pharaoh that had images of lions, or sculptures of lions, on either side of his throne, so just keep that in mind as
we move on into the later period of art. Ok, and the other Neolithic structure that I’d like to
talk — or the other Neolithic work of art that I want to focus in on is Stonehenge, which is a very famous
structure — very famous work, and we have a lot of preconceived
notions about this structure I’m guessing all of us have seen it at some
point in our lives. it’s a very impressive structure just in
the fact that the stones are extremely heavy, that they needed to be. lifted, that you have those Trilithons — so those three stone things, where you have two posts and then a lintel on top so just getting the lintel on top would have been a big job — lifting the stones so that they became vertical would have been a big job. The fact that Stonehenge changed quite a
bit over time is also of great interest — that the circle changed and there weren’t always these huge post-and-lintel constructions. It was modified over time, and it is very tall. The trilithons themselves are 24 feet high, so is a massive structure and has always
been very impressive and has led to a lot of questions. What
was it built for? What was the purpose? How could people have been motivated to build such a structure? And
then just in terms of engineering, how was the structure able to be built?
So all those important questions, and there have been many ideas put forth in terms of rolling the
stones and then lifting them through a series
pulleys bringing people together — working together in order to do it Were people motivated by spirituality? Or were they motivated by a powerful
leader? There does seem to the evidence that
this was a burial site for certain rulers — so those who were in control — those that were in power, so that could have been a way of motivating people by the fact that they could have been
punished if they did not [help out], so that’s a possibility, but something that we do know for sure
is it seems to have been built in direct connection to the sun, so if we go to the next slide, you can see
that on the morning of the summer solstice the sun would rise directly over the
heel stone, so the heel stone is here in the modern-day photograph, and then it would be directed into this horseshoe shape of trilithons, and you can see that you would have had a full circle of stones all along here. So you can see these are the trilithons — the very tall ones right in the center — in this horseshoe shape and then slightly shorter ones along the
outside. So you can see the sun is rising up and shining directly on what’s called the altar stone; again these
are terms, of course, that are imposed on the structure [because] we don’t have any writing from this
period, but we do have evidence of burials at this site. They are still doing
archaeological or still finding archaeological discoveries as time goes on and as
archaeological digs carry on. They are making discoveries. There
are indications that this was a place where people in power were buried and that maybe this site was a place
for healing — that people maybe came from far away and sought healing.
So there’s evidence that people who weren’t from this area came to Stonehenge and actually died there and were buried there, so the healing may not have worked for them, and so anyways it may have been a
destination for people to come to and to seek some type of healing in that
way, but it’s definitely built in response to
solar activities, which is not unusual. We have other megalithic examples architecture that were built in response to various
solar phenomena. Here’s just another reconstruction
over on this side you can see that the stones are
different colors, and so scientists, archaeologists have spent a lot of time
trying to source the stones. How far away did the stones come from?
What parts England? What parts of this area were these stones coming from?
Just to determine how far the stone were being being carried or being rolled, and so people have guessed or people have hypothesized anywhere from a couple miles all the
way to 100 miles, so there have been a lot of different
hypotheses in terms of how far away these stones were taken. And just to further the point that there are multiple megalithic
architectural structures or architectural designs from this period, so multiple
that use these very large stones and again, there’s no writing, so we have no concrete evidence. All we have are later
interpretations, later ideas that what they meant or there are myths that develop about these various alignments of stones, so most of
what we know or most of what we think about the
structures people can up with them later, so it’s
important to keep that in mind when you look at these. Alright and then just a review of some of the terms. Megalithic architecture are just structures
employing large stones, so mega=large; lithos=stone, so large stone and then that “post-and-lintel” system
that we see it Stonehenge you have a lintel on top and two posts on the side and remember that you can have your
posts too far apart or the lintel itself break. They’ll
be too much downward pressure in the center the lintel. It also would become unstable, so once he moved to you Roman architecture, you’ll have that nice arch — the pure arch — that will create a better distribution of weight and that
will allow for larger spaces to the spanned, but the post and lintel is an
early, rudimentary form of the arch — not a true arch, but an early form of spanning space

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Reader Comments

  1. N smith

    thank you, i have an exam tomorrow and in the twenty minutes of video i have watched of yours Ive learned more than the five weeks of lecture i have endured.

  2. Adriana Marie

    Your paleolithic era art and neolithic art videos were so helpful for my paper, thank you! You really help learners who don't do well grabbing information from giant blocks of black and white text. You stay to the point, with factual information, and speak in a very listenable tone. A++++

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