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A sculptor from the stone age carving tiny figuresA sculptor from the stone age carving tiny figures Sculpture is a three-dimensional form of art, in contrast to the flat, two-dimensional style of painting. You can sometimes walk all around a sculpture to see it from different angles. Statues and carvings are types of sculpture. The first sculptures were for worship and ceremony, and were of animals and gods. Early Europeans made small sculpted figures, called figurines, from bone, antler, stone or ivory around 25,000 years ago. The creation of very large sculptures, perhaps to impress people with the power of a ruler, dates back to the Great Sphinx of Giza, ancient Egypt, about 4500 years ago. There are several ways of making a sculpture: carving, casting, modelling from clay, joining items together, or simply arranging them in groups in interesting ways.

A figure starts to emerge from this block of stoneA figure starts to emerge from this block of stone


When carving a statue, the artist starts with a block of solid material, such as wood or stone, and chips away pieces using a hammer or chisel to leave the required shape. It is as if the sculpture is hidden inside, and requires only the skill of the sculptor to reveal it. Very often the sculptor uses a small model, called a "maquette", of the finished work first. Marble is a commonly used type of stone, because it is easy to work and produces a beautiful, smooth surface after a final polish.

The carver begins by removing, or "pitching", large chunks of unwanted stone with a pitching tool, a chisel with a broad, flat edge, together with a mallet, a hammer with a large, barrel-shaped head.

Once the general shape is achieved, the sculptor uses other tools to refine the sculpture. A rasp, a flat tool with a rough surface, is used to remove stone as small chips or dust. Finally, emery stone, harder and rougher than the stone used in the sculpture itself, is used, along with sandpaper or sand cloth, are used to polish the work.

Modelling and casting

Probably the oldest sculpture of a human figure yet discovered is the Venus of Hohle Fels, found in southern Germany in 2008. It is dated to between 35,000 and 40,000 years ago. Carved from a mammoth tusk, it is one of a number of ancient carvings now known as Venus figurines.

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