10 January—24 January 2022

Archaeology study sessions: art on the move

Explore prehistoric portable art in three online lectures and discover ‘art on the move’ with Dr George Nash.

Archaeologists have been able to piece together the mindsets of prehistoric people through the art they produced, consumed and disregarded.

Although limited to a few items, portable art from the Upper Palaeolithic (40,000 to 12,000 BC), the Mesolithic (12,000 to 4000 BC), and the Neolithic (4000 BC to 2500 BC) reveals the different attitudes and thoughts of hunters, advanced hunters and pastoralists.

This lecture series will talk about the contexts in which different forms of art have been found, what they mean and who used them.  Be prepared for a little bit of anthropology!

About this course

This course is led by Dr George Nash. Sessions will take place via Zoom on Mondays on the following dates at 7.30pm (GMT):

  • 10 January – Art on the move: Bone, Ivory and Ice (Art in the Palaeolithic)
  • 17 January – Art on the move: Adornment, Status and the wild (Art in the Mesolithic)
  • 24 January- Art on the move: Art as a device for death, and the tamed landscape (Art of the Neolithic)

Numbers are limited to allow participants to ask questions and discuss the topics covered. Lectures will be recorded and made available for those not able to attend every session. A reading list and further information will also be provided as part of the course.

Session breakdown

Art on the move: Bone, Ivory and Ice (Art in the Palaeolithic)

This opening lecture will look at the portable art of the hunter-fisher-gatherer, who was exploring the resources along the northern ice margins of Europe.  The artistic endeavor is limited but altogether unique, comprising just a handful of antler, bone and ivory pieces.  The art is usually found within a cave context and more often than not associated with death, burial and ritual.

Art on the move: Adornment, Status and the wild (Art in the Mesolithic)

From around 12,000 BP onwards, the British landscape changed significantly, from ice to greenery!   With this rapid change came a new set of animals.  Following closely behind was a new type of hunter-fisher-gatherer who introduced distinct art styles on bone, antler, amber and caves walls. Gone were the figurative images engraved and painted on bone, in were meaningful abstract motifs; these motifs were also found in other areas of northern Europe.

Art on the move: Art as a device for death, and the tamed landscape (Art of the Neolithic)

From around 4,000 BC, great social change occurs which is synchronous with a changing British landscape; gone are the dense deciduous Boreal forests, in are the broad-leaf woodlands and cleared open landscapes of the allotment and the enclosed field system.  As part of the farming package, Neolithic pastoralists buried their dead in stone chambered monuments.  As part of the garnish of death, communities introduced portable items into their burial rituals, including pottery and stone objects.

Speaker: Speaker: Dr George Nash is an archaeologist and specialist in prehistoric and contemporary art. He is an Erasmus Mundus Professor of the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, convener of the Welsh Rock Art Organisation and a former Research Fellow with the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Bristol.

Image: George Nash / The Trustees of the British Museum

Additional information

How to take part

This year’s study days will be run online via Zoom.

Details of how to join each session will be sent to you along with a reminder about your booking in the week leading up to the course. You will also receive a confirmation email once you have registered.

Please visit the Zoom website for guidance on joining meetings. Please allow extra time before the talk begins to make sure everything is working correctly.

Archaeological study sessions

Bristol Museums has run a programme of study days since 2013 and an archaeological field school since 2019. Due to COVID-19, this year’s study days will be run online and broken down into several linked sessions. Profits from study days and the field school help support the work of Bristol Museums.

Sessions are open to everyone aged 16 and over and suitable for complete beginners to those who have studied archaeology before.

The study day programme and field schools are directed by Kate Iles, curator of archaeology. For more information or to join our mailing list, please contact [email protected].