The Art History Browser
Prehistoric to Early Medieval


Prehistoric Art

Think about this. First we were forest animals, then we were cave animals, and then - we became conscious! That's what you can see developing over time in Prehistoric art but it can be difficult to keep track of the mind bendingly ancient dates, so forgive the interpolations. Just scroll down and watch our minds developing!

Archaeology Online - a fantastic range of interesting articles with illustrations covering everything from how to build a passage grave, to bog bodies, to Egyptian tombs, to looted artefacts, to restoring Hagia Sophia. Be sure to check out the back issues

The Oldest Known Ritual Implement - short piece from the BBC about a large deep rose-coloured quartzite axe, 350,000 years old! Found in a pit with human remains, it may be the earliest evidence of human ritual behaviour - long predating homo neandertalis (c. 230,000 BC) and sapiens (c.40,000 BC). Good pic, but in case it moves, here is a back-up.

Venus of Willendorf and other things - here at last is a decent picture of her! From Prehistòria I civilitzacions urbanes. Escultura. Venus (c.25,000 BC to c.20,000 BC) is the first pic in the top row. The whole page takes you up to things Mycenean - all nice pics.

Palaeolithic figurines - macht nicht the Venus of Willendorf! Here are SEVEN more on a site by the Canadian Museum of Civilisation - the variety is tremendous. What do you think they are about?

Five Palaeolithic Figurines - would you believe it? Here are five more! This collection includes an excellent image of one from the Kostensky Settlement, which is very like the contemporary Venus of Willendorf (Austria). From the Hermitage Museum in Moscow, which is building itself a very impressive site.

Dolni Vestonice Venus - sadly the original link died with its interesting comparanda, but here is a good pic of this very classy "venus" figurine, along with four others (she's the second one down). LINK REPLACED 11th January, 2005

Four Ice Age Venus Figures - OK, so I have a thing about these, but here are four more! Said to date c.21,8000 BC. Click on the expandable pic at the bottom for clearer details. Look how many we have listed now!

Venus Figures - seems a pity to miss out on these too. Expandable pics with less famous ones further down. Must stop with this venus thing...

Prehistoric Art in the Pyrenees - slow loading because it is so incredibly rich. Excellent images of many objects, c.17,000 BC to c.13,000 BC. Well worth a visit.

The Cave of Lascaux - this you just HAVE to see! Glorious site with introductory page by torchlight, and every cave illustrated. Wonderful site! For orientation, Lascaux is generally (and very loosely) dated c.15,000-c.10,000 BC.

The Chauvet Cave - yet another painted cave in Southern France - wonderful images here too. The French Ministry of Culture is excelling itself. Hope their site has stabilized at last.

Radio-carbon date questioned - New Scientist article questioning the previously accepted c.30,000 BC date for the Chauvet paintings (above), suggesting instead something around c.13,000-c.10,000 BC.

Altamira - a single-page Spanish site with some good pics of Spanish cave paintings - so a nice complement to approximately contemporary Lascaux, and Chauvet, above. Worth a look. LINK FIXED 11th January, 2005

Old Writing, Old Flutes - a discovery of symbols that may be the earliest known human writing buried c.6,200 BC at Jiahu, China, along with the earliest known musical instruments. For info, the Shang dynasty mentioned in this article dated 1766-1050 BC.

Satellite photos show 5,000-year-old road system - now this is important! Cold War surveillance photos have recently become declassified, and they show a dense network of broad highways throughout the Middle East! Be sure to expand the photo. (For reference, Stone Henge is about 4,000 years old.)

5,000-year-old dagger - German newspaper article (now removed, but poke around the back articles for interest) but I presciently saved the photo as a back-up. Very recent discovery in April 2003. This is not only the oldest surviving dagger, but the only one with part of its wooden handle still attached. Anaerobic conditions underwater prevented it rotting. Does the handle look to you as if it had been cleanly cut before going into the water?

The Cave Paintings of Baja, California - rather interesting site with enlargeable images of cave paintings which are clearly difficult to date. The frustratingly vague text suggests 14th to 16th century AD, or as early as 11th. Great pics, though.

Astronomical Disc from Nebra - 3,600 years old, this disc was found c.2003. Note that one of the arcs mentioned in this somewhat patronising explanation has lost its silver inlay and is hard to see. Please—prehistoric people knew perfectly well that the sun shared the sky with the stars!—NEW LINK 4th June, 2005.

Aristocratic Burial near Nebra - this 4,200 year-old burial mound clearly bears out Herodotus' description of Scythian burials in the link below. Good—people are rotten about Herodotus. He was writing 5th century BC.—NEW LINK 4th June, 2005.

A Scythian Burial - you really have to see this rather gruesome reconstruction. Well, there's no blood, but what they did! See for yourself, along with some good pics of Scythian art. Nice site but can be rather slow.

Scythian Art - a magnificent slide collection in twelve pages from John Haskins, Pittsburgh University. You really have to see these extraordinary objects - decorative metal mounts, saddle blankets, Persian carpet (the earliest known) - and great pictures.

The Golden Deer of Sarmatia - Temporary special exhibition at the Met. I've started you at the images, but view the main page for info text.

Scythian Art in the Hermitage - yet more Scythian art, including the skin of a Chieftain's arm with a horse on the shoulder that had to gallop and kick as he moved his arm! Gloriously presented by the Hermitage Museum. Use the links to explore their other collections too.

Celtic Metalwork - a different site with some nice pics of metalwork all too rarely illustrated on the web. Thanks to the World of Celtic Art. SITE UNDER MAINTENANCE as at 11th January, 2005

The Snettisham Torques - oh hooray (again)! I've found the new Current Archaeology site, and the torques are still on it. If you missed them last time round, visit them now: Celtic neckware large enough to go round your waist! And pretty nifty too. LINK FIXED (again) 14th January, 2005

Web Guide to Megalithic Europe - truly excellent site with clear pics and digestible text on standing stones from Italy and France, as well as all corners of the British Isles. You must see those Italian ones! 

Megalithic Ireland - lovely complement to the site above with atmostpheric pictures of quanitities of megaliths. Definitely visit this one. NEW LINK 14th January, 2005

Stonehenge Face Mystery - a news item from the BBC, with image to show the face noticed for the first time this year. It is indeed there, as I saw myself earlier this year - but I also saw that every one of those sarsens seems to have a caricatured face engraved or worn into it! Nice pic, though.

Avebury Circle - good page by Chris Witcombe with links to detailed info, pics and nearby prehistoric sites. Avebury is quite different from Stone Henge, in that the stones are angled and therefore look alive.

The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney - part of a wonderfully illustrated but tiresome site by Andy Burnham. Scroll down to find the links to the many stone circles in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England. Or join a megalithic discussion group.

New Grange, Ireland - a prehistoric and over-restored Stone Age something in Ireland, famous for its spiral stones, and here illustrated at sunrise on the Summer Solstice. Catch also Gavrinis in Brittany. Thanks again to The World of Celtic Art. SITE UNDER MAINTENANCE as at 11th January, 2005

Knowth, Ireland - fascinating series of prehistoric sites in Ireland. A great New Grange page, but I've started you at Knowth with its extraordinary "sundial" stone. Lots of links to other great sites too. Definitely worth a visit.


Ancient, Classical, Late-Antique, Early Christian, Coptic

Remember to check out the Vatican Museums and the Louvre in the museums section, below, as well as the general link collections.

Prehistòria I primeres civilitzacions urbanes - collected images of architecture, sculpture and painting from Prehistory to Mycenean times. I'm putting it here because there's more Egyptian and later than Prehistoric. Gorgeous pics. Spanish site but no text.

Pre-Dynastic "Venus" - just a pic, but I'm showing it to you anyway. I can get no info about this from the site owner, so heaven knows where and what it is. But compare the prehistoric "Venus" figurines, and the cycladic figurines - both of which, I'm convinced, were essential possessions for every marriageable girl. A friend who grew up in Egypt told me of their "bride dolls", but could not describe them to me.

Egyptian Statue Found in Basement - an amusing news item and pic from the BBC about a rather important and long-lost Egyptian statue-head which was discovered being used as a bicycle rack in the basement of ... a museum!

Treasures from the Tombs of Ur - exhibition from the McClung Museum. Gorgeous stuff, much more than the lyre and the ram. Very slow indeed. Maddening. But well worth the wait.

National Geographic, Pyramids of Egypt - pleasant page with timeline of individual pyramids along the top. Click on them for more info and pics on each.

Guardian's Sphinx - great images of the sphinx from a number of viewpoints.

The Pyramids of Giza - one gorgeous picture. LINK FIXED 11th January, 2005

Ancient Egypt - exhibition from the McClung Museum. Tremendous pictures - be sure to enlarge the model of the temple from Luxor! But ve-ry slow. Be patient, though, it's worth it.

The Egyptian Museum - short as we are on Egyptian materials, this site is a useful collection of commentless images - good range, though.

The Djoser Complex - funny, I thought this was already on my browser. Excellent virtual tour of Djoser's Step Pyramid, but I wish they'd do something about that dreary grey background!

Pyramid of Kufu in Virtual Reality - by Michel Guay of l'Université du Québec à Montréal - delightful rendering of the pyramid when the valley was fertile. Click on his "retour à la page principal" to find other virtual realities of Egypt.

The Temple of Ramesis, Thebes - very enjoyable page from the Society for the Preservation of the Temple, with a virtual reality tour of the temple, and a wonderful reconstruction of the statue which is now partly on site and partly in the British Museum. Visit!

Altar of Incense - fascinating site showing a physical reconstruction of the Tabernacle set up in the wilderness to contain the Ark of the Covenant. Lovely clear images of the compound, the altar, the ark - you name it. Go see.

Minos Ring Certified Authentic - a 3,500 year old gold ring, said to have belonged to King Minos before it was acquired by Theseus. Long thought a fake, it has recently been declared genuine. Here is a rare picture of the ring itself. If the link above expires, here is a back-up.

Ancient Greek Cities - rich site, pleasantly organized to show you art, architecture, sculpture, reconstructions of nine cities.

Minoan, Mycenean and Cycladic Art - truly excellent site with many decent to excellent pics of many objects. Really worth a visit. Another site from Dr. Rozmeri Basic at the University of Oklahoma, School of Art.

Cycladic figurines - extracted from the site just above. Click on "back" for a few earlier ones, and "forward" for other sculptures.

Mycenean Gold - from the site above, here is a nice set of pics of all the famous pieces and more, for fourteen fastloading pages. Pretty not bad.

Knossos and Minoan Crete - great pics of the painting and jewellery. You can't help liking this culture!

Cybermuseum: Mycenean to Greek Art - a simple but remarkably effective idea to arrange the pics in roughly chronological order against a background of the universe. Very nice, with just the right amount of pics. Mycenean architecture is restored in colour.

Art clàssic. Grècia - Classical Greek art and architecture - another part of that excellent, rich Spanish site. Check it all out! Now!

The WebAcropol - good page on the Acropolis.

The Ancient City of Athens - excellent page. The Classicists were among the first to get the web right.

A Virtual Tour of the Acropolis of Athens - Nice site with one smallish clear pic per monument. The tour section is good, but they have a slow and cumbersome navigation system to the museum, so use this simplified link to the same Acropolis Museum Site instead. Find there korai, the kritios boy, and more.

Royal Tombs at Vergina - a Hellenistic burial site. Here are some good pics of the whole site, some of the lavish grave goods, and some of their paintings - surviving Greek painting is incredibly rare, so take a look. I wish the Greeks were less fond of that dyspepsic pink!

Perseus Project - at Tufts University, an excellent searchable database with pics of Ancient art and archaeology.

Art clàssic. Roma - Roman section from the same Spanish site. Nothing better than pics without text. Now you can let your own thoughts form. Try not to be introspective. Speculate instead - go to it!

Late Roman Cameos - absolutely stunning photos of several late Roman cameos in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum. But you really must visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum for its own sake too: it's a glorious site!

Laocöon and his Sons - very nice pics from the Digital Imaging Project. I've started you at this very important and famous Hellenistic statue, and you can use the links to get to the rest of the images - which span the aeons between the Stone Age and the 20th century.

Miniature Mosaic from Rome - a tiny, colourful mosaic made (unbelievably) from natural marble. This is another piece from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which I've extracted to fill out the Roman section of this browser. You can get to the rest of the Museum site from this link.

Pompeii Forum Project - fascinating site, showing plans, more plans, and archaeological photos. If you want to know how archaeology is done, take a look.

Frescoes found at Pompeii's Five-Star Hotel - the hotel, just outside Pompeii, was found in 1959 but excavations only began in 1999 when road building threatened the site. This CNN rticle has one good pic of the best fresco, which leaves most Pompeiian frescoes in the shade!

VR Ancient Roman Bath House - really see this very interesting visualization of a complete bath complex. You'll need cosmoplayer (free download) to see it - a pain, but worth it.

Roman Art - good images of Roman art, sculpture and architecture by Kathyrn Andrus, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Maecenas - Images of Ancient Greece and Rome - quantities of photographs by Leo Curran, University at Buffalo (State University of New York), include traces left by the Romans all over Europe, so really explore this remarkably useful site.

Ancient Roman Enamelled Pan - now this is a fascinating find! An enamelled bowl with a distinctive pattern on it that is always assumed to be of Celtic origin. Except that, at 2nd Century AD, it's older than the British or Irish Celtic examples. This Telegraph story has a little pic.

The Temple Mount, Jerusalem - was Solomon's temple where the Dome of the Rock now stands? All through the Middle Ages and Renaissance we assumed so. Now, however, there are three conflicting theories about where it was. Take a look at this nicely presented site and decide between the theories - and see the Dome of the Rock too. 

The Animated Vatican Vergil - This was an early attempt of mine at simple animation - forcibly suggested by the arrangement of two images in the 5th-century Vatican Vergil. All I've done is imitate the effect you'd get by flipping two pages in the original book. Late Antique animation - how can you resist?

Paleocristià I bizantí - Early Christian and Byzantine art and architecture. Project for you: both these cultural approaches to art take the non-realistic route. Which emphasizes emotion, and which goes for symbolism and calligraphic effects? Take a look and decide.

Echmiadzin Armenian Cathedral - some nice pics, plan and text on this 4th-century and later Armenian church. Nice to see what's going on here even before the Coptic stuff below. Definitely take a look.

Coptic Network Picture Archive - scroll down to find BAWIT, superb color photos of the sculpture.LINK FIXED 11th January, 2005

Miracles Diptych - an Early Christian ivory diptych (two panels, hinged like a book cover) showing the miracles of Christ. Rather a blurry image from Faith Central, but be sure to click on it to expand the individual scenes. This is the kind of thing the Carolingian ivory carvers revived. They looked at Early Byzantine Ivories too.

Early Christian and Byzantine Art - lovely crisp images. The first link leads to six pages of Early Christian art, so check it out. From Dr. Rozmeri Basic at the University of Oklahoma. High quality site.

Baptism of Christ, Arian Baptistery, Ravenna - I'm in two minds about including this one because it is SO SLOW to load. In fact, sometimes it gives up altogether. This is a 5th-century mosaic in the dome of the Arian Baptistery in Ravenna (not to be confused with the similar one in the Orthodox Baptistery, also in Ravenna).


Early Medieval

Remember to check out the Vatican Museums and the Louvre in the museums section, below, as well as the general link collections.

Visigothic Art - the art of Spain, 6th and 7th centuries. Just a few pics and a lot of Spanish text. But explore the rest of this very rich site with Spanish art and architecture from all Medieval periods.

The Sutton Hoo Helmet - a 7th century Anglo-Saxon helmet compared with the ones from Coppergate in York and Benty Grange. This is the only page that links all three. LINK REPLACED 11th January, 2005

Athlone Crucifixion Plaque - we don't know what this was really for, but it is one of the earliest Insular crucifixion images. Note how the nose is worn through - possibly, this was a "pax", passed around to receive the kiss of peace during the Mass. The link makes two other suggestions.

The Book of Deer - another of Paul Firth's mammoth pages, but most worth it of all. This early Gospel Book from Scotland is almost never illustrated anywhere, much less in colour! These pics are gorgeous AND expandable, and well worth your patience. Zappily little interlaced beasts on pages enlivened with lemon yellow, faded red, and white: Medieval light and movement. Enjoy!

Important Insular Things - a real mix of very important objects and buildings from Early Medieval Ireland and Scotland. Sadly, the pics are a little blurred, and have not yet been sorted onto individual pages, so the site is slow loading - but go have some coffee while it loads. It's a good gallery by Paul D. Firth.

The Kinord Cross-slab - one page by Paul D. Firth, with two nice pics of the stone and Loch Kinnord. This early example from Scotland supplements those in the Dumfriesshire Museum site, below. Then use the links to get to a variety of artefacts from all periods.

Carved Stones and Crosses in Scotland - from the Dumfriesshire Museum, including a link to the Ruthwell Cross.

Irish High Crosses, 8th to 10th century - since the Irish may have invented this art form, it's very satisfactory to be able to show some early Irish crosses too. Lots of great pics. Good site!

Manx Crosses - yes, there were Celtic crosses on the Isle of Man too. Check them out - they're quite distinctive. NEW LINK 14th January, 2005

Cornwall: Genius Loci - it is very difficult to find Cornish stuff on the web, so visit this site where people post their gorgeous photos of Cornwall, its coastline, megaliths, Celtic Crosses and more. Slow loading, but nice. NEW LINK 14th January, 2005

High Cross Home - a collection of detailed images of Irish crosses, in context and close up. This site is from Megalithic Ireland. Go have a look! NEW LINK 14th January, 2005

Ogham Stones and Crosses - Ogham is a script from before we had the Latin alphabet and different from runes, and here we have fourteen good pics. This site is also from Megalithic Ireland. Check it out. NEW LINK 14th January, 2005

Celtic Incised Stones Project: Brittany - the beginnings of an illustrated corpus, here are a few stones from Brittany to complement the ones from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. As ever, lovely images. Here's a link to the main CISP page.

Wharram Percy, The Lost Medieval Village - archaeological documentation of a village which existed from early to late Medieval periods.

Images from Insular Manuscripts - very hard to find good images of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts on the web, as you'll see by chasing up the links assiduously collected by Cathy Bell for this site. But at least you'll get an idea of what these tremendous manuscripts looked like. Check out the 7th-century Book of Durrow, the early 8th-century Lindisfarne Gospels, the mid- to late-8th century Book of Kells. Then, having got the mentality, get a load of the extraordinary Codex Amiatinus - an early 8th-century Anglo-Saxon imitation of a 5th-century Italian book so authentically done that it fooled everyone until the early 20th century!

Viking Age Silver Hoards and more - in the Historiska Museet, Stockholm, huge page with masses of apparently ordinary pics that can be expanded to wonderful effect. Enjoy this rich site! NEW LINK 14th January, 2005

Knotwork Class - delightful site by Reed Mihaloew that shows how Insular knotwork was done. But don't copy his use of the term "Celtic". This usually refers to the prehistoric Celts. LINK FIXED 11th January, 2005

The Alfred Jewel - page by Ken Roberts. The actual jewel is much brighter: gorgeous blue, green, and sparkling yellow-gold, but a good clear pic nontheless.

Anglo-Saxon, Romanesque and Gothic English Midlands Churches - photos and site by David Postles of the University of Leicester, Department of Local History. Multiple views of churches inside and out. Good site!

St Philibert de Grandlieu - a useful collection of pics of a Carolingian church.

Carolingian Ivory - very difficult to find any Carolingian ivory on the web, so be glad of this one, a St John the Evangelist from the Met. From Charlemagne's Ada school, which produced mock Ravenna-Byzantine style paintings and ivories, this one is quite reminiscent of the 6th-century throne of Maximian in Ravenna - when the ivory is white, it's like whipped cream! LINK REPLACED 14th January, 2005

Carolingian Ivory - here's another from the Met, this time showing a female Empress figure. Not as nice as the St John above, but informative, nonetheless. NEW LINK 14th January, 2005

Iro-Frankish and Anglo-Frankish Art - interesting terms used to designate very early European material that hasn't yet come together to form the definitive Carolingian whole. Interesting collection of a few nice, rare pics. From Haines Brown, University of Alabama at Birmingham. Explore the rest of the site too.

The Lindau Gospel Covers - truly remarkable page from the Morgan Library. Enlarge each cover by clicking on it, or better still click on the javascript navigation and enlarge smaller sections even more. Check out Medieval gem settings with lions' claws! Lovely use of the technology. Rats - now it only works in IE. I've changed your starting page to the big pic, that works in Netscape too.

Making of French Culture - exhibition mounted by the Library of Congress using treasures of the Biblioteque Nationale, Paris. Informative and gorgeous pics from 9th to 15th century.

Ottonian material in the Romanesque section.



Mosaics at Porec - from CART (Computer Computer Aided Recording Tools), Recording the Eufrasian apse mosaics (1997). These very early Byzantine mosaics may be among the first to show Madonna in the apse, which was reserved for Christ until then. Annoying site to navigate, but the images are worth the trouble.

The Ariadne Diptych - nice pic of an early 6th-century ivory panel from Constantinople, showing the Empress Ariadne (probably) under a canopy signifying something like absolute power. This, like the Early Christian Miracles Diptych (above) was very influential on Carolingian ivory carvers in the 9th century. From the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna again. Visit.

San Lorenzo, Milan - a 5th-century Imperial palace chapel, which came down in an earthquake during the later 16th century and was restored, ostensibly authentically, at once. Thanks to Leo Curran, here we have views of the interior and dome.

St Catherine's, Mount Sinai - with that famous 5th century mosaic of The Transfiguration. Views of the monastery itself, inside and out, and some of its icons including (on page 2), the "Hunky Christ"! Nice site!

La Voile de Notre Dame de Chartres - Christopher Crocket shows some very nice images of the veil (which is causing not a little scholarly disputation on how something that used to be a tunic turned into something that now looks like a shroud) of the Virgin from Chartres. The "voile" apparently survived the fire of 1194, and is thought to be of 8th century Byzantine origin.

Gallery: Byzantine Images - incredibly rich site, including:

This site has been reorganized for speed and is now much easier to use, but some of the images are slow, so be prepared to take your time with this one. It's worth it.

Byzantine and Medieval weblinks - if you have a small monitor, you might want to open this link in a new window, because it works with frames. Here is a non-frames version. This is an overwhelmingly rich site. Give yourself lots of time to explore.

EmbARK Web Kiosk - somewhat random but wide ranging collection of images of Byzantine art and architecture. Each page loads four thumbnails only with no indication of what will come next - but they're quickish loading and expandable to excellence!

Ravenna - a page of enlargeable thumbnails of the main Byzantine monuments in Ravenna. Photos by Leo C. Curran. Useful.

Byzantine Tapestry, Ivory, Silver, Metalwork, Manuscripts - Middle Byzantine art in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. I've started you at the tapestries. Check out the ivories on the next page too. Lovely images.>

Early Christian and Byzantine Art - lovely crisp images of mostly Byzantine art and architecture from Dr. Rozemeri Basic at the University of Oklahoma. High quality site.


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