Ancient art refers to art produced in an era before the widespread adoption of a written language. This generally includes all art created prior to about 3000 BC, although cave art as old as 40,000 BC has been found. Ancient art is typically divided into three periods: The Stone Age, The Bronze Age and The Iron Age.
- The Stone Age is further divided into two periods: the Paleolithic and the Neolithic. The Paleolithic period is the earliest, stretching from about 40,000 BC to 10,000 BC. This is the time of the hunter-gatherers, when tools and weapons were made from stone.
- The Neolithic period began around 10,000 BC and lasted until 3,000 BC. This is the time when humans began to domesticate plants and animals, and when pottery and other fired objects were first made.
- The Bronze Age began around 3,000 BC and lasted until 1,200 BC. This is the time when bronze was first used for making tools and weapons.
- The Iron Age began around 1,200 BC and lasted until the end of the ancient world. This is the time when iron was first used for making tools and weapons.
Art from the Stone Age is characterized by its use of simple shapes and forms. Tools and weapons were often made by carving into stone or using stone to strike other rocks. This type of art is sometimes called petroglyphs.
Art from the Bronze Age is characterized by its use of more complex shapes and forms. Tools and weapons were often made by casting bronze in molds. This type of art is sometimes called bronzes.
Art from the Iron Age is characterized by its use of even more complex shapes and forms. Tools and weapons were often made by forging iron. This type of art is sometimes called ironwork.
Ancient art was created for a variety of reasons. Some art was created for religious or spiritual purposes. Other art was created for political or ceremonial purposes. And still other art was simply created for the sake of beauty.
Today, ancient art is appreciated for its beauty, its historical value, and its insights into the cultures of the past. It is also studied for the light it can shed on the development of human civilization.