Ancient Cave Art—Chauvet, France

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Prehistoric Archaeology
Prehistoric archaeology allows us to glimpse the earliest times in hominid and human history. Learn about seminal 20th-century finds of hominids in Africa, which provided clues to the origins of our ancestors from millions of years ago. Then discover the astounding figural cave paintings of Lascaux, Altamira, and Chauvet.
How Ancient Art Reverberates
Revisit some of the masterpieces you have seen in this course, compare them to contemporary works that draw from ancient sources, and review some of the universal themes you have explored--especially animals, fertility, death, and rulership. These themes bind humans in nearly every civilization, and the themes are reflected in…
What Can We Learn from Ancient Art?
What can ancient art teach us about our place in the cosmos? What do we find so beautiful about ancient art? And how does it compare to contemporary art? Does art need to have a function? Ponder these questions and more as you reflect on your journey through the world…
Ancient Andean Textiles
Shift your attention to Andean textiles. These masterpieces combined amazing technical virtuosity with supreme aesthetic taste. You'll be amazed by the labor that went into these luxurious pieces, yet what's most striking here is that abstract art--a modern innovation in Western art--was developed in the Andes more than 1,000 years…
Ancient Andean Ceramics
Many societies in this course have used art to communicate ideas, especially state propaganda. But Andean elites took a different approach. Rather than creating massive stone sculptures, artists made usable, practical objects. This episodes hows you some of the beautiful pots created in a culture isolated from the Western tradition.
Moche Earspools—Miniature Masterpieces
Go inside the Moche society in ancient Peru and marvel at the beautiful metal jewelry discovered in the Sipan tombs. Beyond the beauty and the sophisticated metalwork of the Moche earspools, the tomb of Sipan gives us a window into Moche society--including sacrificial ceremonies once believed to be purely mythical.
Aztec Calendar Stone
Many people are familiar with the iconic Aztec calendar stone, but few understand what it means. Discover the story of one of the most famous excavated objects from the ancient world. Why is it a masterpiece? What does it tell us about the Aztecs? What cataclysms does it portray?
Colossal Stone Statue of Coatlicue
Aztec art has some of the most skilled, complex stone carvings in the world, yet it is difficult to understand. Professor McDonald explains the significance of the colossal sculpture of Coatlicue, the goddess known as Serpent Skirt. Find out what art historians think this terrifying sculpture means and how it…
Teotihuacán—Temple of the Feathered Serpent
Venture north to the city of Teotihuacan, the "place of the gods." Here, the Temple of the Feathered Serpent is a mysterious pyramid that may contain a royal grave. You'll analyze the pyramid's repeating carved serpents and investigate one of the most enigmatic cultures in the Americas.
Carved Stone Lintels of Yaxchilán
Blood sacrifices. Sacred visions. Poisonous animals. Artwork from the Maya kingdom of Yaxchilan may shock us, but the visceral and expressive detail carved into these stones is unlike anything in Western art. This riveting episode takes you into a truly different world of self-sacrifice and hallucinogenic trances, but a world…
Sarcophagus Cover of Pakal at Palenque
Nestled in the foothills of southern Mexico is one of the most magical and hauntingly beautiful archaeological sites in the world. Here, one of the richest tombs in the New World was discovered, and its marvelous artifacts--particularly King Pakal's sarcophagus cover--provide insights into the myths and religion of the ancient…
Colossal Olmec Heads
Next, your journey takes you halfway around the world to Mesoamerica to explore the unusual Olmec culture. Here in the low-lying Gulf Coast of Mexico, 17 colossal heads offer a startling look at a fascinating and intricate culture--what anthropologists call a "pristine civilization" for its emergence in isolation from the…