Early history

13 January 2009
Tablette en écriture pictographique Musée du Louvre © Photo RMN - Gérard Blot

In around 3000 BC, with the invention of writing, Mesopotamia and Egypt were the first civilizations to leave Prehistory and enter History, thus marking the beginnings of Antiquity.

Community life was organized into city-states (towns). These were run by important people: war lords, priests and aristocrats. Art was a way of showing the power of this elite.

There was significant progress in metallurgy (the working of metal) in this period. This skill would enable human societies who mastered it to hold centre stage.

After copper and gold, humans succeeded in creating alloys (mixtures of metals), such as bronze (the Bronze Age period) and then to extract the ore from iron and forge it (the Iron Age period). Craftsmen produced numerous objects with these new materials: weapons, jewellery, crockery, sculptures and solid and more highly developed tools.

These innovations appeared in the Middle East and a little later in Europe and the Far East (China). In the 2nd millennium BC, under the Shang Dynasty, Chinese bronze-workers invented and used the lost-wax casting technique. They manufactured massive ritual vases, discovered by archaeologists in tombs.

In the 1st millennium BC, in Europe, the Celts were the champions of metallurgy. The decor of their object became sophisticated, constructed according to the mathematical rules of the Pythagorean School.

Eléments de mosaïque, étendard de Mari Musée du Louvre © Photo Rmn

Bracelet fermé dit « du Tarn » Musée d’archéologie nationale, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © Photo RMN - René-Gabriel Ojéda

Read also

Exhibition postponed

Article - 28 October 2020
Due to the Coronavirus, the Grand Palais is temporarily closed, and our upcoming exhibition have been postponed (Noir & Blanc a photographic aesthetic).
Browse magazine