Art & Music around 16,000 BC



Southwest Asia




Indus Valley





Cast of Venus fingurine from Willendorf, Austria. Late Pleistocene peoples appear to have celebrated human fertility in much of their art. (Patterns in Prehistory)

One of the most amply documented Upper Paleolithic cultures in eastern Europe is the Kostenski-Bershevo culture centered in the Don River Valley, about 470 kilometers southeast of Moscow. About 25,000 to 11,000 years ago, the Kostenski-Bershevo area was an open grassland environment, with no rock shelters, caves, or other natural habitations, and with very little wood available for fires. Like their Upper Paleolithic counterparts elsewhere, the Kostenski people manufactured a variety of decorative items, including "Venus" figurines (representations of women, usually with exaggerated secondary sexual characteristics). (Patterns in Prehistory)

For six to eight thousand years, from approximately 17/15,000 to 9,000 BC, southwest Europe was dominated by Magdalenian culture and art. (The eponymous site is La Madeleine in the Dordogne valley.) Although Magdalenian influence was to spread across central Europe and into Russia during this period, the decorated caves for which these people are famed apparently were confined to a region bounded on the west by the Atlantic ocean, on the east by the Rhone. The majority of these caves are on or near large rivers, most of which empty into the Atlantic. At the beginning of the Magdalenian era, which approximately coincided with the maximum lowering of sea level, the Medoc littoral through which many of these waters ultimately flow (via the Garonne river) extended more than thirty miles into what is now Atlantic ocean. What part of the Magdalenian culture may since have been lost to the rising seas is incalculable; what remains cannot be described, in any meaningful sense, as primitive. (Plato Prehistorian)

With the emergence of the Magdalenians, the painting and engraving that had been largely restricted to the daylight zone of cave entrances began spreading deep into the interior chambers. Animals once represented primarily by forepart and dorsal line became superlative creatures of more than lifelike grace and proportion. But with the proliferation of detail, the animals grew more and more realistic until, at the end of the eleventh millennium, they are comparable to photographic images. At around this time the deep interiors of the caves gradually began to be abandoned, with the art shifting to stone plaques. Less than a thousand years later, toward the end of the tenth millennium, a steep decline marked the end of Magdalenian art as a whole. The few remaining examples show a dissolution into "crudity and schematism."(Plato Prehistorian)

One final contradiction to conventional thought may be found in the remarkable unity of Magdalenian art, which unlike the tools (and the signs), shows virtually no regional differentiation. Sieveking has noted that while primitive peoples in our own and recent times use art forms that are tribally (and thus in most cases territorially) distinct, a similar regional distinction seldom applies in the Paleolithic period--"and most particularly does it not apply in the Magdalenian." Throughout southwest Europe a uniform style is recognizable in the art, and whenever the style changed, it changed everywhere. (Plato Prehistorian)

South America




North America