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World Art: The Origins of Art




Admission Requirements



The origins of art constitutes one of the three main topics of investigation within the field of World Art Studies. It concerns how researchers from various disciplines try to make sense of the first artistic manifestations in human existence. This course will give students an overall view of early prehistoric art by examining the evidence for the emergence of different art forms including personal ornamentation, painting, sculpture, music, and architecture. Students will also learn and discuss the most influential and recent theories that attempt to account for art as a universal human phenomenon. Some of the topical issues we will review are: When did humans start behaving artistically? Which conditions allowed the development of art? And, how and why has art survived? Students will be encouraged to come up with relevant questions of their own and reflect on possible answers according to what they read and discuss in class.

Course Objectives

Participants will familiarize themselves with the earliest art forms and learn to think critically about the most relevant theories on the origins of art. Students will discuss the importance of prehistoric art and culture for contemporary art theory.

Mode of Instruction

Students will be assigned a text to read before each session. To prepare for class, they should write a short summary (250-300 words) highlighting the most relevant points and issues of the text. Each meeting, we will start with a literature discussion in which all students are expected to participate actively, using their own text summaries. The discussion will be followed by a thematic presentation by the instructor, where a new subject will be introduced. We will conclude the meeting with a Q & A segment.


Assessment: In-class participation
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Weekly web-postings (250-300 words)
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Final presentation (10-15 min.)
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Week 7 (11 & 14 December)

Assessment: Final research essay (2500-3000 words)
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Week 8 (21 December)


A reader that will be made available to students via e-mail.

Contact Information


Weekly Overview

Week 1: The earliest art: where and when
Week 2: Personal ornaments and decoration
Week 3: Sculpture
Week 4: Painting
Week 5: Music
Week 6: Architecture
Week 7: Student presentations
Week 8: Wrap-up

Preparation for first session