Cultural Precedents (Prehistoric)

Posted: April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized
Prehistoric- of or pertaining to the time or a period prior to recorded history
  • Historical & Social

Human Life has existed on earth for approx. 3 million years, but we only have records that document some 7,000 years. The earliest findings prove that the earliest people began as food gatherers who traveled in small bands and gathered fruit, tubers, and wild grains; who then learned to hunt small animals such as birds and snakes. These people’s tools were rudimentary and their shelters unknown.

About 50,000 years ago hunters appeared who followed wild migrating animal herds. These people viewed animals as equals or superior to themselves. Cave paintings documented their beliefs and some even told stories. Magic also played a major role in a hunters life.

Around 8000 B.C.E  a switch from hunting for survival, to organized food production. This all changed again about 2000 B.C.E when farmers appeared in europe. Some of these villages still exist is some parts of Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia.

Some early settlements such as Stonehenge in England, and Teotihuacan in Mexico which were developed as religious centers around deities and their temples still exist today.



  • Architecture

Some of the first buildings were built with an emphasis on materials and construction methods, and not on architectural form. Some materials used for the permanent structures were Rocks or Brick, the more movable ones used tree branches, grasses, and hides. The particular selection evolves  from: Building site, physical environment, and functional needs. People, location, climate, culture, and economy usually define the environmental considerations. In some societies, housing and shelter are more important. In others, storing and protecting foodstuffs is more important.

Mammoth tusk and bone home. 16,000-10,000 B.C.E Ukraine, Russia

Eskimo or Inuit igloo Arctic region, Canada

Native American Cliff Dwellers

Zulu Beehive hut ; South Africa. (Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History)

Bongo houses and granary; Africa

  • Interiors

interiors are simple and basic in early civilizations with almost all activities occurring in a common space.

  • Symbols and Motifs

Nature provides the backdrop and the inspiration for all design considerations in early cultures. Design image is one of simplicity, informality, irregularity and comfort. Geographic and cultural differences are apparent in architecture, Interiors, furnishings and decorative arts. Spaces are small and defined by human proportions and available building materials.

  1. Motifs

seen as part of an object and reflect the forming process of the object. Geometric motifs often begin as weaves of varying materials or as color changes in Basketry. the overall design incorporates a variety of symbols, most of which have universal meaning:

Circle ( Sun, Moon, Energy, Eternity, Magic)

Spiral ( Rain, Prosperity, Fertility)

Swastika ( Change of Season, Life giving or destroying)

Animal Forms ( the spirit of those killed)

Human Figures ( Outstanding ancestors or important tribal members)

Body Parts ( hand Prints, Etc…)

  • Furnishing and Decorative Arts

Almost all furniture forms are variations of two simple forms, the platform and the box. Common Materials used are; stone, mud, wood, grasses, bone, ivory, animal hides, and textiles.


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