Category: vocabulary

Vocabulary List—Critical and Prehistoric terms

This post describes and explains the most common words and phrases used in discussions and descriptions of Prehistoric art and Critical Examination terms.

absolute dating: a method of assigning a precise historical date to periods and objects based on known and recorded events in the region as well as technically extracted physical evidence.
abstract, abstraction: any art that does not represent observable aspects of nature or transforms visible forms into a pattern resembling the original model; also the formal qualities of this process.
additive sculpture: the artist builds up the forms by adding more material as s/he works; for example, sculptures made of clay or bronze.
henge: a circular area enclosed by stones or wood posts set up by Neolithic peoples, usually bounded by a ditch and raised embankment.
medium: the material from which an artwork is made.
memory image: an image that relies on the generic shapes and relationships that readily spring to mind at the mention of an object.
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Vocabulary List—Egypt and Mesopotamia

This page is containing a listing and explanation of words, terms, and phrases that are used in descriptions of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia life and art.

basalt: a hard, durable, dark-colored stone used for sculpture in ancient Egypt and the Near East.
bronze: an alloy of copper (95-99%) and tin, sometimes with small quantities of lead and/or other metals than can be formed by casting. First produced by the second millennium BCE (Bronze Age) in Mesopotamia and China; the metal most often used for sculpture until the 20th century.
cuneiform: a script composed of nail-shaped wedges pressed into wet clay, the earliest known form of writing; developed in Sumerian Mesopotamia.
cylinder seal: a small, cylindrical stone decorated with incised patterns. When rolled across clay or wax, a raised relief pattern is made, which served in Mesopotamian cultures as an identifying signature.
diorite: a hard, compact, black or gray stone used for sculpture, notably in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.
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Vocabulary List—Etruscans and Ancient Rome

This article contains explanations and indications of phrases and terms that are applied for describing and discussing Etruscan and Ancient Roman life and art.

aisle: passage or open corridor of a building that parallels the main space, usually on both sides, and is delineated by a row or arcade of columns or piers. Called side aisles when they flank the nave of a church.
amphitheatre: an oval arena for athletic events and spectacles developed by ancient Roman architects from the idea of two theatres placed facing each other, with ascending tiers of seats for the audience.
apotheosis: deification of an individual.
aquaduct: irrigation or water-transport system characterized by a trough, usually supported by arches, which carries water through gravity.
arcade: a series of arches, carried by columns or piers and supporting a common wall or lintel.
arch: a curved structural element that spans an open space. Built from wedge-shaped stone blocks called voussoirs which form a space-spanning and weight-bearing unit.
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Vocabulary List—Byzantine and Early Christian Art

This page includes explanations of terms and phrases used in discussing and describing Byzantine and Early Christian Art.

ambulatory: the passage or walkway around the apse in a church.
appropriation: the practice of taking ideas or objects from another source for a new work of art.
apse: a large, semicircular and usually vaulted niche. In a Christian church, it usually contains the altar.
baptismal font: a large, open vessel or tank, usually of stone, containing water for the Christian rite of baptism.
baptistry: a building used for the Christian ritual of baptism, traditionally having a central plan.
catacomb: an underground burial ground consisting of tunnels on different levels, having niches for urns or sarcophagi.
central-plan building: any structure designed with a primary central space.
clerestory: the topmost zone of a wall with windows in a basilica extending above the roof of the side aisles. Provides direct light into the nave.
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