Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Western North Africa, 8000–2000 B.C.

Capsian culture, ca. 8000–4500 b.c.
Beaker culture, ca. 2500–1800 b.c.


Encompasses present-day Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia

Between 8000 and 2000 B.C., western North Africa moved from isolation to connection with the peoples of the Mediterranean and western Europe. As in those regions, agriculture and pottery were important new technologies.

  • •ca. 6500 B.C. The peoples of the Capsian culture live in caves or rock shelters, moving from place to place in search of food. They make stone tools to aid them in the work of hunting animals and gathering plants for subsistence. They also make bone tools and engrave the shells of ostrich eggs to serve as decorated water containers.

  • •ca. 5500 B.C. Impressive images of animals and human hunters are engraved and later painted on rock surfaces. Scholars have not developed a method for determining when this rock art was made, but they have outlined categories for classifying it. The Large Wild Fauna style features hunting scenes with big game, including the giant buffalo. The Bovidian Pastoral style refers to images of domestic herds thought to have been drawn by early farmers.

  • •ca. 5000 B.C. The people of western North Africa are part of trade networks and the cultural community of the western Mediterranean. Locally made pottery displays the same type of ornamentation found in the regions of modern-day Spain and southern France. Examples are cardial ware, a ceramic decorated with impressed seashells, and impressed ware, decorated with designs made by pressing string into the wet clay. Among the materials that come to western North Africa from abroad are obsidian blades from the Lipari Islands near Sicily.

  • •ca. 2500 B.C. The international phenomenon known as the Beaker culture begins to affect western North Africa. Named for the distinctively shaped ceramics found in graves, the Beaker culture is associated with the emergence of a warrior mentality and the growth of individualism. North African rock art of this period continues to depict animals but also places a new emphasis on the human figure, equipped with weapons and adornments.