Obelisk Art History
Prehistory

Upper Paleolithic
The mysterious line between pre human and post human

Upper Paleolithic, Prehistory

Welcome to the Obelisk Timeline of Art. If you're looking to begin at the beginning, you've come to the right place: the Upper Paleolithic. In the long timeline of geologic history, the Paleolithic era began when hominids developed their first stone tools, about 3.3 million years ago. It took millions of years for these early tool-users to evolve into anatomically modern humans, so we begin our timeline at about 40,000 BCE.

40,000 BCE marks the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic—a time of truly radical change in the ancient world. The homo sapien had emerged as the dominant hominid, displacing Neanderthals and Denisovans either by competition or violence. Early humans were still hunter-gatherers, but they began to create settlements, their tools became more varied and sophisticated, and their social structures became more complex. It’s around this time that we are first able to identify our ancestors displaying behavioral modernity, the cognitive traits that drive human culture to this day: abstract thinking, planning, symbolic behavior, music and dance. And while there’s an archeological battleground over the sculptural validity of artifacts like Venus of Berekhat Ram, or the Venus of Tan-Tan that date back to 300,000 BCE, there is no doubt that by the Upper Paleolithic human creative expression was in full swing.

Reed Enger, "Upper Paleolithic, The mysterious line between pre human and post human," in Obelisk Art History, Published August 01, 2018; last modified October 22, 2022, http://arthistoryproject.com/timeline/prehistory/paleolithic/.

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Venus of the Hollow Rock, Upper Paleolithic

Venus of the Hollow Rock 40000BCE

Vogelherd Ivory Lion Figurine, Upper Paleolithic

Vogelherd Ivory Lion Figurine 40000BCE

Keilmesser Stone Tool, Upper Paleolithic

Keilmesser Stone Tool 30000BCE

Venus of Dolní Věstonice, Upper Paleolithic

Venus of Dolní Věstonice 29000BCE

Apollo 11 Cave Stones, Upper Paleolithic

Apollo 11 Cave Stones 25500 – 25300BCE

Venus of Willendorf, Upper Paleolithic

Venus of Willendorf 28000 – 25000BCE

Cave of Hands, Patagonia, Upper Paleolithic

Cave of Hands, Patagonia 13000 – 9000BCE

Camelid Sacrum in the Shape of a Canine, Upper Paleolithic

Camelid Sacrum in the Shape of a Canine 14000 – 7000BCE

Running horned woman, Tassili n’Ajjer, Neolithic

Running horned woman, Tassili n’Ajjer 6000 – 4000BCE

Next Movement
Neolithic, Prehistory

Neolithic

Beautifying the functional and moving big rocks

12000 – 2000BCE

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