Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Western and Central Europe, 8000–2000 B.C.

Mesolithic cultures, ca. 8000–5000 b.c. (4500 b.c. in British Isles)
Neolithic cultures, ca. 5000–2500 b.c.
Bronze Age, ca. 2500–800 b.c.
Linear Pottery culture, ca. 4500–3500 b.c.
Corded Ware culture, ca. 3000–2500 b.c.
Beaker culture, ca. 2800–1800 b.c.
Unitice culture, ca. 2300–1500 b.c.
Megalithic Building cultures (Brittany and British Isles), ca. 4200–2000 b.c.


Encompasses present-day Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Poland, the Republic of Ireland, Romania, Scotland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and Wales

Supplemental Maps

The period from 8000 to 2000 B.C. witnessed the introduction and effects of settled agriculture in western and central Europe. As people established themselves in one location for longer durations, they experienced a change in attitude toward their surroundings, reflected in types of burials, grave goods, and monuments.

  • • ca. 5500 B.C. Groups of farmers begin to settle in Europe. The cultivation of wheat and barley—crops from the Near East—becomes established in eastern Europe and moves gradually westward.

  • • ca. 5000–900 B.C. Rock faces in the Alps, such as Val Carmonica in northern Italy, Monte Bego in France, and Totes Gebirge in Austria, are carved with animals, buildings, and warriors, perhaps engaged in martial rituals.

  • • ca. 4500–3500 B.C. Early farmers make and use unpainted pottery incised with linear ornament. Early on, close similarities link pieces made at great distances from each other; later, there is more variation from region to region.

  • • ca. 4200–2000 B.C. Organized groups erect monumental stone burials in northwestern Europe, as in the Morbihan region in southern Brittany. The one at Île Longue, for example, built ca. 4100 B.C., incorporates a chamber with a corbeled dome and a passage faced with huge slabs.

  • • ca. 3000 B.C. The ox-drawn plow, made of wood and known some thousand years before, begins to change the face of agriculture in Europe. Farmers clear forests to make way for larger fields and honor cattle with ritual burial.

  • • ca. 3000–2500 B.C. The mound-topped graves of certain men contain stone axes and characteristic corded-ware "beakers." The burials seem to belong to an emerging elite characterized by drinking rituals and warrior values.

  • • ca. 2800–1800 B.C. Potters of Atlantic Europe and Great Britain and Ireland make vessels of a distinctive shape, nicknamed "beakers" by early archaeologists. The beakers are buried in tombs that seem to belong to warriors with greater mobility and a stronger acquisitive impulse than their ancestors.

  • • ca. 2300–1500 B.C. The Unitice culture, named after a cemetery near Prague, emerges across central Europe. Flat burials with no mounds are the rule. Bodies are frequently arranged according to gender and oriented with respect to the points of the compass.