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  • Writer's pictureAccessible Art History

AP Art History: What is Global Prehistory?

Welcome back to the Accessible Art History blog! This week, I'm starting a new series for students and teachers of AP Art History! (Or really anyone that loves the subject!) My goal is to cover all the units and images from the course to serve as a one stop shop for learning about art history! To kick things off, I’m going to answer the question: What is global prehistory? So, to find out more, keep on reading!


What is Global Prehistory?

Global Prehistory is the first unit of AP Art History. Although we have evidence of artistic creation from about 75,000 years ago, this section focuses on objects created between c. 30,000 BCE - 500 BCE. This is a lot of time to cover!

The “global” part comes from the fact that archaeologists have found artistic objects, including rock art, pottery, small sculptures, etc in dig sites across the world!

The “prehistory” part of this unit comes from the fact that artistic objects predate the invention of writing across the world. As mentioned early, we have evidence of art from around 75,000 years ago, but writing wasn’t invented until around 3200 BCE. Most historians mark the beginning of recorded history with the advent of writing because it allows us a more concrete view into the past.

Global prehistory was marked by a time of great change, both environmentally and socially. This means that archaeologists and historians have divided prehistory into three, distinct periods. They are: Paleolithic (“old stone age”), Mesolithic (“middle stone age”), and Neolithic (“new stone age”).

The Neolithic period was one of the most significant, if not the most significant, in this time. We call it the “Neolithic Revolution” because it’s when humans transitioned away from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and towards farming and domestication of plants and animals. As we know, this represents a huge shift in humanity that would continue to shape our society for years to come. This “settlement” type lifestyle allowed more time for artistic endeavors, spurring art history forward as well!


The global prehistoric period is one of amazing growth and change for humanity as a whole. By studying it, we combine the disciplines of art history, history, archaeology, and science to understand where we come from! Keep an eye out for the next post in this series where I cover works of art from this unit!


Gardner’s Art through the Ages

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