I choose to write on the topic of why do animals play such an important role in ancient art? My first paragraph will discuss animals in history. Mainly discussing Paleolithic art. My second paragraph will discuss art in the Neolithic period. The third paragraph discusses my own feelings about what I have read from books about the topic of animals in art.
Animals in art history make animal history visible and accessible to people. It is a record of how people in the past lived, felt, and acted in different parts of the world toward animals. We are being told a story without using words. About 40,000 years ago, the first carvings and paintings of animals on cave walls that were deep in the earth were found. Hunter-gatherers followed animals that they hunted for food and carved/ painted images of what they saw. Which gives us an insight as to how they must have lived and what they did from day to day. It also gives us an insight into how they hunt and gathered what they ate. In central France the oldest known cave paintings were found. There were dozens of them. Among all of the paintings there were paintings done with charcoals and earthen pigments of animals. The paintings showed animals such as horses, rhinoceroses, tigers, and other large animals. The Cave paintings also showed animals that are now extinct. In southern France there are images of large and small animals. The depictions of animals were done so by careful observation of the animals as well as human contact with the animals. It has been believed by scholars “that the purpose of naturalistic Paleolithic art was to bring the spirits of animals into rituals related to the hunt.” It is now to be believed that the purpose was for sanctuaries where the children were initiated in ceremonies that were based on symbolic and metaphysical associations while the animals that are in the images/paintings. There are many paintings of animals that were found all over the world.
In the Neolithic period the motifs/dominant themes used were used on clay pots and were usually inspired from plant and animal forms. Unlike Paleolithic art Neolithic art was abstract. Paleolithic art was more naturalistic. For example Wall painting of animals is naturalistic and Earthenware beaker is more of an abstract art piece. Animals have also been portrayed in early medieval art. Like the bronze 5th century art piece Scythian Animal made by the Scythians. This is an abstract animal form that influenced (according to books on the topic of animals in art) groups in the British Isles, Scandinavia, and China. This style has been seen later in woodcarvings, stone carvings, and metal work. I think that animals play such an important role in ancient art because it gives us a look at what kind of animals were around at the time that the art works were made. It also shows us which animals are now extinct and also what animals have survived. Animals in art also give us an insight as to how people interact with animals. It brings up questions like did they hunt them, eat them, worship them, or sacrifice them for spiritual rituals? Sometimes art shows you without words what happened in the past. Lastly I think that animals play such an important role in ancient art is the fact that they gave people inspiration for something to draw, paint, carve, or use as any other art depiction. Just the beauty of all the different kinds of animals makes some people want to depict them in art work.
Gutter Chic Inc. 2010