ARTH 114, spring 2015

Students in ARTH 114, please respond to the following question:

Why would prehistoric humans decorate an  object? In your response, refer to at least one specific object from Janson, chapter 1.

13 thoughts on “ARTH 114, spring 2015

  1. Claire D

    There are many reasons why prehistoric humans made art. They may have wanted to make their homes a little less boring and add some of their style and creativity so they would have something nice to look at. Cave art sometimes tell stories also. Since their caves would last for a long time they may have wanted their stories kept so their family could remember it for generations in the future. They could have also gotten bored and wanted something to do, so they turned to art. One more possibility is because they might want to give something to their family members as presents or reminders of them, so they may have made small sculptures or other small pieces of art that they could keep with them. The Woman of Willendorf is one example. She could have been created as a charm for fertility.

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  2. Megan Murphy

    Prehistoric humans could have decorated objects for a variety of reasons including the following: spiritual reasons, to bring good luck while hunting and gathering, for fertility reasons, and to tell stories. An example of this from the Janson text is Woman of Willendorf found in Austria in 28,000-25,000 (pg. 11). It was made of limestone and emphasized women’s body parts that had to do with fertility and having children; such as the breasts, genitalia, and stomach. This object was small and could have possibly been a charm that was carried to bring good luck with giving birth to children.

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  3. Paige Kemp

    Prehistoric art has many meanings depending on the piece. The reasons for making art are to show history, spiritual/religious, charms for fertility or fortune, tell an epic story, or ritualistic purposes. My favorite prehistoric art piece was on page 15 (the man and woman from Cernavoda in Romania). It was found at a burial site, so it could have been sculptures of the deceased.

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  4. Carrie Maggio

    Prehistoric people may have decorated to show gratitude to the spirits, to prepare for a hunt, or simply to pass the time, but I find it interesting that the art that is left behind is fully finished, meaning these people valued the art they made and it couldn’t have just been for fun because they cared enough to finish what they started, and with great skill. One example in Jenson I find to be fascinating is the “Spotted Horses and Human Hands.” The markings that show spears thrown at them may have been a ritual they did before a hunt to prepare them and get them ready mentally. They may also have put emphasis on the animals stomachs for luck in fertility.

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  5. Kira Tucker

    Prehistoric humans may decorate an object because they believe the object has good fortune or positive energy. And these decorated objects could tell others where that person is from, what region they live in. The female and male figures, from Cernavoda, Romania, (ca. 3500 BCE), could have been something to wear as a necklace or around the waist for good luck or to represent ones social rank or simply to tell others what region they are from. When these humans decorate an object, it could be to show respect to where it comes from or for a sacrifice to a higher power/being. Painting animals could show how much they respect animals because that is what they live and survive from and possibly to tell a story. For example, the cave painting of the Rhinoceros, Wounded Man, and Bison, Lascaux Cave, Dordogne, France (ca. 15,000-13,000 BCE). Prehistoric humans create realistic art but they can also add some imaginative pieces to their artwork.

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  6. Sarah Mandell

    There could be many possibilities of why prehistoric people decorated different objects. It is possible that some of the objects could be used in different ceremonies. Some objects could be created to use in religious or spiritual ceremonies. Other objects could have been created for entertainment purposes, such as a toy for a child. Some objects may have been used for jewelry. The prehistoric people might have also decorated objects for fertility reasons and to tell stories to other people.

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  7. Sonia Foley

    Although we may speculate the reasons behind prehistoric art, it is difficult to say with any certainty what the artist’s purpose was. Perhaps as in the cave paintings in Altamira and Lascaux or even the the Woman of Willendorf, the artwork was depicting the natural world. The pieces are a reflection of the most important aspects of life; the bison and animals which provide sustenance and a woman’s fertility that provides life. I would imagine that in these times of great hardship, a people with no technology or advanced living and where survival was the primary goal, to take the time and energy to create these pieces there must have been great reverence for the chosen subject matter.

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  8. Sarah Goodnough

    There are several reasons why prehistoric humans made art. They could have decorated caves to symbolize what was important to them or what they were familiar with. There are many paintings that feature animals like bears, horses, and bison. Some of these even have human handprints and drawings of spears included. These such paintings could have been to symbolize the hunt (as in the picture of the Chinese Horse on page 4 and Spotted Horses and Human Hands on page 6). Another reason could have been to encourage fertility or reproduction through statues like the Woman of Willendorf (page 11). Lastly, prehistoric humans could have created things like the human-feline hybrid figure on page 8 to represent an idol that they worshipped.

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  9. Cody Nester

    Prehistoric peoples may have decorated objects for a variety of reason, most likely they did it to appease nature or their gods. Using the Woman of Willendorf for example, this statue could have been used as something of a fertility charm or maybe even a sign of motherhood. The many varieties of these figures (shown in the female gaze video) implies a variety of different things however. Perhaps they were made to celebrate coming of age and to wish good luck in that stage of life, or perhaps it was as simple as alleviating boredom during down time. Sadly without more evidence the possibilities seem endless and this could very well be a mystery for the rest of time.

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  10. Danielle

    There’s no definite answer as to why prehistoric humans created the paintings and artifacts that they did, but I think it’s reasonable to believe that they created their artwork for some of the same reasons that people today create art. I believe that much of the art created was scenes from their life and beliefs they had. It is even possible that some of the art could symbolize religious meanings; this is especially possible because religious beliefs have gone back as far as we can research. While tragic, I believe that the Rhinoceros, Wounded Man, and Bison could have been something the artist had seen. It may represent how a relative or friend had passed. It may have haunted them to the point where creating art from their pain could help them. That is something many people, including myself do to cope with problems. Much of the art from the paleolithic era was images of animals. I think this is probably because animals are much simpler than humans. Humans range in different shapes and sizes while animals pretty much all grow the same. As mentioned in class, and referring back to what I had mentioned about the religious meanings, I believe it is possible that animals were often depicted as a sign of respect and thanksgiving to the “god(s)” that the prehistoric humans might have believed in.

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  11. Danielle Issing

    There’s no definite answer as to why prehistoric humans created the paintings and artifacts that they did, but I think it’s reasonable to believe that they created their artwork for some of the same reasons that people today create art. I believe that much of the art created was scenes from their life and beliefs they had. It is even possible that some of the art could symbolize religious meanings; this is especially possible because religious beliefs have gone back as far as we can research. While tragic, I believe that the Rhinoceros, Wounded Man, and Bison could have been something the artist had seen. It may represent how a relative or friend had passed. It may have haunted them to the point where creating art from their pain could help them. That is something many people, including myself do to cope with problems. Much of the art from the paleolithic era was images of animals. I think this is probably because animals are much simpler than humans. Humans range in different shapes and sizes while animals pretty much all grow the same. As mentioned in class, and referring back to what I had mentioned about the religious meanings, I believe it is possible that animals were often depicted as a sign of respect and thanksgiving to the “god(s)” that the prehistoric humans might have believed in.

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  12. Hannah Bratton

    I think that prehistoric humans often decorated objects as a way of understanding the world they live in and trying to communicate their perception of it. For example, Two Bison, in the Le Tuc d’ Audoubert Cave in France, depicts an animal that was a main source of sustenance for life, as the people living there at the time most likely utilized Bison on a variety of levels, and since they were an influential part of their life, they served as creative inspiration, which can be said for any relevant part of life since for any artist. Likewise, with the hybrid figure with a human body and feline head, the prehistoric artist was most likely trying to try out his imagination of a conglomerate of a human and an animal, I think the variety of prehistoric art shows a desire to represent reality but also an intense need to express one’s imagination.

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  13. Michael Timpson

    Although art historians are uncertain as to just why prehistoric humans would decorate an object, we can make some good assumptions. In the piece of art we looked at ‘The Women of Willendorf’ it seems as if these objects were a lot like good luck charms we would see today. One may decorate these objects to make it more of their own while also adding to the charming affects. These objects may have also just looked pretty in the cave just like people put in objects in their home today to make it feel more like a home.

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