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The University of Southampton
Lifelong Learning

Art of Darkness, Art of Light: Art beyond the Cave Art

Cave Art

Creativity is a unique characteristic of human behaviour. When the cave paintings of Altamira (Spain) were first discovered in the 19th century, no one believed that they were prehistoric, due to their freshness and anatomic precision. Today we know that our ancestors were capable of such wonders and more.

Cave Art

New discoveries reveal more and more sites with amazing prehistoric art, whilst new technologies keep refining our dating methods, pushing back the chronology of the first artistic manifestations, and our ability to record the images (many pigments and lines have faded over time).

This module explores artistic creation and creativity during the Upper Palaeolithic period (c.40-12 thousand years ago), focusing not just on paintings found in caves and rock shelters, but also on the lesser-known carvings in open-air contexts. A general overview of prehistoric art will be given, highlighting the idea that cave paintings were just one form of art. The module begins with the introduction of concepts such as style, chronology and a general contextualization of the period regarding its climatic and natural conditions. It will then explore the main themes, techniques and interpretations of the depictions, demonstrating the richness of Palaeolithic art, but also how mysterious it still is for researchers.

Throughout the sessions you will have the opportunity to engage in a journey over some of the most emblematic sites of Palaeolithic Art in Europe, and present your interpretations and ideas for a specific archaeological site, if you so wish.

By the end of the module you will be able to characterise the different types of art that were used during the Upper Palaeolithic, know the main themes, techniques and preferential locations.

This module will typically comprise the following:

Introduction to the module

Introduction to the Pleistocene: general overview

History of discoveries

Art in the caves

Important discoveries of the 1990s

Understand the contrasts:

Open-air Pleistocene rock art:

Foz Coa Vale: a paradigm

Further considerations:


Course Start Date: Monday 18th April 2016
Time: 19.00-21.00
Length: 5 weeks
Fee: £85.00 (£80 for University Staff & Students)

Please note that your course will only run if it receives a sufficient number of bookings . This will be confirmed closer to the start date of the course. If your course is cancelled due to insufficient booking numbers, you will receive a full refund. Please note that the booking/payment confirmation that you receive should not be taken as a guarantee that the course will run. This confirmation will be sent to you separately once it has been established that the course will go ahead.

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