• Shalini Guha

Prehistoric Art- Mesolithic Era: Brief History of Art and Culture

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Are you back? I am glad you decided to stick around.

Last time we explored the Paleolithic Era. Now, it’s time to dig something on Mesolithic. So, let’s find out more.

Prehistoric Art- Mesolithic Era

Mesolithic also called Middle Stone Age, ancient cultural stage that existed between the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) and the Neolithic (New Stone Age). It covers a time span of about 2000 years. The length of this interim "Mesolithic" period varied region by region, according to how long it took for agriculture to become established and for the Ice Age to be over.

Most often used to describe archaeological assemblages from the East, the Mesolithic is broadly analogous to the Archaic Culture of the Western Hemisphere. It is an important bridge between the Paleolithic and Neolithic age but the representation art of this period does not have any artistic connotations in comparison to its predecessor.

Given that human beings do not have to live in caves or follow herds anymore, the era saw the beginning of the settled and agricultural communities in different timelines for different regions.

With the arrival of a warmer climate, cave art starts to disappear as rock art takes to the open air. Also, the need for mobiliary art is gradually reduced and domestic crafts become more important. The invention of Bow and Arrow helped in providing food from hunting animals and the discovery of ceramics helped with the storage of food.

Mesolithic Art :-

Mesolithic painters and engravers tended to focus on humans - usually groups of humans engaged in hunting, dancing and various other rituals, as well as everyday activities. The painting technique varied - both in the painting tools and the color pigments used.

Mesolithic rock art moves from caves to outdoor sites such as vertical cliffs or sheer faces of natural rock, often protected from the elements by outcroppings or overhangs. Though, not all Mesolithic rock paintings and petroglyphs were executed at open air sites. One of the most famous Mesolithic cave paintings is the Argentinean Cueva de las Manos (Caves of the Hands) in the valley of the Pinturas River, Patagonia Argentina.

Mesolithic Sculpture: This era also featured Plastic Art. Artists mainly focus on creating Relief Sculptures in this particular era, moving away from Venus figurines of the predecessor. After the Ice Age, wood carving was also practiced widely.

One of the most important archaeological discoveries of the Mesolithic age is the monumental temple of Gobekli Tepe in South-eastern Turkey, witnessing its diverse range of megalithic art, as well as the large number of megaliths used in the construction of its shrines.

The presence of monuments like these dated back to 9,000 or 8,000 BCE demonstrates that the construction of a structure like that was within the capability of a hunter-gatherer society.

Mesolithic Art Characteristics:-

  • The paintings of this era change in regards to where the humans are participating, in hunts or rituals.

  • The structures in the cave painting are highly stylized, as glorified stick figures. The depiction of humans looked more like pictographs and some archaeologists pose representing the primitive beginning of writings. Hieroglyph, an Egyptian form of writing system is a good example for this theory.

  • Often, groups of figures are painted in repetitive pattern, resulting in a good sense of rhythm but may or may not fully convey the activity they are involved in.

Famous observed sites from Mesolithic Art:-

It is seriously a mystery to me that how the people back then built huge figures and constructed buildings like Gobekli Tepe, without any easing devices that we use today?

How did they even manage to mobilize and feed a force large enough to complete these huge structures? We cannot know the brains behind that; all we can do is guess.

So, what are the questions constructing in your mind?

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