The Birth of Art – The New Stone (Neolithic) Age

Neolithic Age or the New Stone Age embarked upon a technologically and socially, much more advanced era for humankind than the yesteryears. This period marked the dawn of civilization when people began choosing settlement over wandering. The dwellings of this time included huts made of mud, straw, or brick, which collectively formed permanent villages. The Neolithic Age also witnessed the domestication of animals, the appearance of complex tools for fishing & hunting, and advancements in agriculture & pottery. Religious, architectural, and artistic pursuits became integral to the lifestyle.

Diverse art forms, such as weaving, architecture, Megaliths, and stylized pictographs, emerged during the New Stone Age only. Statuary, painting, and pottery carried down from the Mesolithic period, underwent significant transformations. In Western Europe, the Menhirs (large stone blocks) started being used to demarcate the boundaries between two tribal establishments, sacrificial arena, or places of worship. The artistic inclination of the people in the Neolithic Age, is evidenced by the way these Menhirs were decorated using myriad geometrical figures, like squares, rhombuses, and circles, along with zigzag ray forms carved onto the sides.

Statuettes of the New Stone Age mainly featured ‘Mother Goddess,’ as can be seen from the earliest traces of human figurines, discovered during archaeological excavations. The pottery used during this period also demonstrates the artistic skills of people. These artifacts were decorated with bright colors, including red, brown, and yellow. Paintings were now visible on the walls of domestic establishments, which were mainly used for ornamental purposes. The world’s earliest landscape paintings too came out of the New Stone Age.

The artistic expressions developed in tandem with the people’s requirements. For instance, architecture developed with the increase in demand for permanent dwellings and the places of worship. Similarly, woodcrafts and pottery developed to fulfill the need for furniture and utensils. One of the architectural wonders of the Neolithic period was the use of the Megaliths, the most famous example being the Stonehenge in England. The oldest known Megalithic temple is Gqantija on the Gozo Island. Neolithic paintings and the other art forms have been great aids in the study of human evolution, as they form the crucial link between early man and his environment, the level of development in that era, the cultural practices, and the religious beliefs. Art of this period in fact, laid the foundation for all further artistic forms.

Another interesting characteristic of the Neolithic Age artistry is the depiction of powerful animals, like Bison and Aurochs that men dreaded to hunt because of the sheer threat they posed. The vertical arrangements of animals on pillars and other art works symbolize the sedentary lifestyle of this era. The importance of a hierarchical relationship between human beings and the spirits is portrayed along the vertical axes in these artifacts. This is also significant in proving that long before man started cultivation, he had begun the mental subjugation of animals and established his superiority over them. Therefore, the Neolithic Age Art serves as a guiding post for the understanding of the years of human history and evolution.

Natural Stone – It’s Classification and How to Care Them

Natural stones has been used for centuries to create beautiful roofs, floors, and walls. A property with natural stones which is properly installed and maintained can lasts for hundreds of years. What are the types or classifications of natural stones? How to take care of them so that they can lasts for several years? Listed below are the answers from the questions previously stated.

Limestone. A sedimentary rock composed largely of mineral calcite. Limestone is important for masonry, and architecture, vying with only granite and sandstone to be the most commonly used architectural stone. Limestone was most popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Train stations, banks and other structures from that era are normally made of limestone. Limestone is used as a facade on some skyscrapers, but only in thin plates for covering rather than solid blocks.

Sandstone. These sedimentary rocks originated as loosed grains or rock materials, predominantly quarts but occasionally feldspar or some other minerals. Sandstones are very resistant to weathering yet are easy to work. Thus, this makes sandstone a common building and paving material. Some types of sandstone are excellent materials from which to make grindstones, for sharpening blades, and other implements. The cement of sandstone may be rich in various materials; Silica, Iron, Calcium Carbonate, all of which contribute to the final color and characteristics of the sandstone. Sandstone beds also posses natural jointing systems.

Granite. A common and widely occurring type of igneous rock. The minerals which make up a granite are generally quartz, feldspars and various mafic minerals. Granite is nearly always massive, hard and tough, and therefore it has gained widespread use as a construction stone. Granite can be worked to achieve every type of finish from traditional hand tooled, flame textured, shot blasted, acid washed, or honed to highly polished mirror finishes.

Natural stone which are properly maintained and cleaned can last a lifetime. There are several tips on how to care them. First, as much as possible dust mop floors frequently and clean surfaces with mild detergent or stone soap. After washing, thoroughly rinse and dry the surface with soft clean cloth. Spills on natural stone surfaces should be wipe out as soon as possible. To protect floor surfaces, do cover it with non-slip mats while place trivets or placements on countertop surfaces. Do not use cleaners that contains acid on marble and limestone surfaces.

There are several natural stones and the above listed are the most common. Limestone, sandstone, and granite are commonly used natural stone in the stone industry. The brief tips are listed above which provide essential guide on how to take care natural stone especially the limestone, sandstone, and granite. Hopefully, this guides could help every home owners in many ways.

Natural Stone Types and Granite Countertops

There are many different types of natural stones in the world and each has their own unique beauty, characteristics and applications for use. We have been able to identify some of the more popular stone types along with their properties, advantages and disadvantages and the most suitable usage in your home.

There are three different types of stones; Igneous, Metamorphic and Sedimentary. The Igneous stone is formed by cooling, or solid-state transformation of molten or semi-molten material in the Earth’s upper mantle or crust. Because it is formed under extreme pressure and high heat, this type of stone or rock tends to be very strong and dense. The Metamorphic stone is formed from any preexisting rock type in the Earth’s crust under variable conditions of high pressures, high temperatures, chemistry, and time. This process produces mechanically deformed stone and chemically altered the mineral assemblages of the parent stone. Metamorphic stones tend to be some of the most beautiful, colorful, and highly figured of any of the dimensional stones. Note that many of the metamorphic stones are up to 3.8 billion years old.

The last being the sedimentary stone which falls into one of two categories: Detrital sedimentary stone and chemical sedimentary stone. Detrital stone is the naturally cemented accumulation of solid granular particles or materials derived from both mechanical and chemical weathering of any existing rock. Examples include limestone and sandstone.

Limestone and Sandstone can both be used for fireplaces, vanities, flooring and furniture. They are very soft, porous, scratch and require maintenance. Sandstone has a very rustic look with fossils while Limestone has a very unique look & feel, and is also available in multiple finishes. Limestone has actually become quite popular for kitchens.

Chemical sedimentary stone is formed from the precipitates of chemicals like salt that are the dissolved weathering products of any existing stone. Chemical weathering yields soluble salts that in turn are deposited into pools and springs. This process yields stone such as onyx and certain Travertine. Onyx has a translucent and stunning appearance, scratches very easily and is quite soft. Onyx can be used for furniture, architectural & design elements, fireplaces and for powder rooms. Travertine has a cloudy formation when cross cut it gives it a more unique look, it is softer than marble and limestone, and it has many larger voids and stains. Travertine is suitable for vanities, floors, fireplaces and dryer locations.

Granite is an example of an igneous rock; it has a very high concentration of quartz, making it very hard and difficult to scratch. It is heat resistant (under 1,500 Fahrenheit), stain resistant and impervious to acids. There are extraordinary selections and finishes of granites available. It can be used anywhere; kitchens, floors, wet/dry, and for indoor and outdoor applications.

Quartzite is another example of an extremely hard stone yet classified as a metamorphic stone; it is one of the hardest stones used in commercial applications.It was originally formed from sandstone, quartzite generally is found in muted earth tones: grays, whites, browns, and yellows. It is very hard, dense and acid resistant. It is harder than granite and has exceptionally low moisture absorption; it is suitable in any application, though cost may be a consideration.

Another example of a metamorphic stone is Soapstone. It is one of the most unusual stones used in the commercial market today. Soapstone is soft and carveable and is resistant to acid. It is also one of the most popular stones used in kitchens today. Soapstone is an excellent choice for fireplaces surrounds as it absorbs and releases heat evenly. In order to keep it looking dark and vibrant, it is recommended that countertops be treated with mineral oil every six months.

Marble is also a metamorphic stone, it is classic with an “old world” look, it develops character with age. It is porous, scratches, stains, etches and requires care and maintenance. Marble can be used for vanities, fireplaces, furniture tops and kitchen countertops as well if honed. Serpentine although most closely related to marble, is technically not a “true marble,” it is by definition a metamorphic limestone. Often called a “green marble,” serpentine is usually dark green with white veining. This look is sought in luxury bathrooms and grand entrances alike. It is a relatively hard stone and does not scratch as easily as a “true marble.” It is acid and scratch-resistant making it a great choice for kitchen countertops. Other applications are floors, vanities and any dry locations; it is not good for showers or for any other wet applications as it could tend to warp over time.

Slate is another metamorphic stone that has been used as a durable roofing material for years. It generally comes in dark gray shades with hues of blue, purple, green and brown. Slates hardness varies significantly. Softer slates are best used for flooring and non-stressed architectural elements, like fireplaces. It can also be used for counters and vanities. It is rustic, stain resistant except for oils and does requires maintenance.

It is very important when considering a project, to ensure that the right material is used for the application. Every stone has specific characteristics. Using the wrong stone in an application can lead to material failure, damage, or other conditions. Knowing which stone to use in an application only comes from years of experience and you should always consult with an experienced stone professional.

Stone Craft In India – A Preview

Different kinds of rock originated on earth after numerous geological activities. These rocks with their different compositions came to be called stones like Redstone, Soapstone, Sandstone, Limestone, Marble, Granite and many others. Indian landmass is also made up of several kinds of rocks and the stone obtained here has been used in making forts, palaces, temples, sculptures, household items and for other miscellaneous purposes. In India, stone crafting traditions have their roots in pre-historic times, as at that time the weapons and other tools were made of stone. More professional approach in stone craft came in 7th century BC. During this time, several guilds of stone carvers and masons existed in India. During Maurya rule stone craft reached to its perfection. A number of rock stupas, rock cut caves and Buddhist chaityas were raised during this period. In India, all kind of stone sculptures and structures used to be made according to Shilpshastra, an ancient Hindu treatise on sculpture and architecture.

Region Wise Study of Stone Craft in India

In India, there are some regions that are specifically rich in stone culture. A classical culture prevails there of stone crafts. Depending upon the type of stone found and the tools used, the style and the finishing has been different and unique.

Stone Carving Practices of Orissa:

Stone carving is one of the major handicrafts of Orissa. Several archaeological monuments, rock-cut sculpture, carves and magnificent temples testify the claim.
All these have undergone intricate and very fine stone carving by the deft hands of the artisans. The temples of Puri, Konark, Lingaraj, Parasurameshwar and Mukteshwar are just the wonders crafted in stone. Whereas the stupas erected at Lalitagiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri are just par-excellence. The art of stone crafting reached pinnacle in the ancient and the early medieval period in Orissa with detailed exploration of each and every nuance of the stone craft. This art has automatically passed on to the present generation from their earlier generations. The present breed is not far behind its predecessors in creating the exact replica of the old masterpieces. Similarly, small sculptures are also made in big quantity catering to the huge demands of the visitors and the locals.

Stone Carving Practices of Rajasthan

Rajasthan has, though scarcity in wood and forest but it has abundant stone mineral.The landmass of Rajasthan is rich in different rocks like Granite, marble, Quartzite, Slate and other metamorphic rocks. The forts and palaces of Bharatpur, Baroli, Ramgarh, Nagda, Ajmer, Chittor, Mandsore, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Udaipur have been made using these stones. The jaaliwork or the latticework of Ajmer, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Bikaner is of fine quality and intricate finish. Rajasthan has most significant quarries of marble at Makrana. The marble mined here is used profoundly in the world famous stone sculpture of Taj Mahal as well as the stone wonder, Dilwara Jain Temple at Mt. Abu. The artistry in Dilwara Jain temple is exquisite, fine, intricate and just fascinating. Different places of Rajasthan are famous for different kind of stones found. Kota is the center of production of grey stone which is used in floor making. Similarly Barmer and Ajmer are famous for Yellowstone and granite respectively. Beautiful statues of deities are made using the soft stone mined from the quarries of Dungarpur. Jaipur is the place where sculptures of all kinds are made by white marble. The statues of deities carved in Rajasthan are sent to all areas of the country.

Stone Art Practices of Uttar Pradesh

Mathura, Varanasi and Agra are the famous centers for stone craft in Uttar Pradesh. Some pieces of stone sculptures have been found from the excavations at Mathura and other adjacent areas belonging to Maurya period. The interesting fact is that lavishly used stone in these sculptures is the red sandstone mined from the Chunar. It indicates that this land once used to be the center of stone carving art some thousands of years back. During medieval period under the Mughal rule, several beautiful palaces and forts were constructed chiefly with the help of stone. Some fascinating examples of the stone sculptures if Uttar Pradesh are: Red fort of Agra, The Taj Mahal, the palace of Fatehpur Sikri, The tomb of Akbar at Sikandara and many more.

In the present times the focus of the stone craftsmen is changing towards exploring new kinds of stones as well as new article to be made. Nowadays they make the stone sculptures that beautify the home or the gift articles like candle stands, ashtrays, jewelry boxes, and Taj replicas. Carved pillars, railings and fireplaces are the architectural objects that the craft persons are making.
Rupbas near Agra and Karauli are the quarries which have produced the red stone used in the forts and palaces Agra, Delhi and Fatehpur Sikri.

At Varanasi the stone used is not hard marble but soft stone called Gorara. This is the stone that is brought from the Hamirpur and Mahoba areas. This stone has a unique quality to change its colors on polishing. Bowls and the servicing dishes are the popular products made of gorara stones. Sonia and Kalimohal areas of Varanasi and Gokulpura area of Agra are the centers of the main activities of stone craft in U.P.

Stone Art Practices of Southern India

In southern India, the temple architecture of Hoyasalas at Halebid and Belur are most exquisite and splendid example of stone craft. 57 Feet tall stone statue of Jain saint Gomateshwara at Shrabanbelgola is another example of marvelous stone art. Similarly, the ruins of Vijayanagara Empire at Hampi in Bellary are also the samples of glorious Indian tradition of Stone craft.

Other classic stone examples of stone craft in the southern part of India are: Meenakshi Temple Madurai and its 1000 pillared mandaps, Chidambaram Temple with beautiful panels depicting 108 karanas of the Natya Shastra, Kanchipuram accommodating a number of temples from he era of Pallawas to Nayaks and Granite carvings at Mamallapuram and Chingalpet. The Kailash temple at the Ellora caves is the monolithic structure whose craft is just unique and astonishingly beautiful.