Speculations exist that only Homo sapiens are capable of artistic expression, however, a recent find, the Mask of La Roche-Cotard—a Mousterian or Neanderthal artifact, found in 2002 in a cave near the banks of the Loire River, dating back to about 33,000 B.
C.—now suggests that Neanderthal humans may have developed a sophisticated and complex artistic tradition.
In the Neolithic period (see Neolithic Europe), megalithic (large stone) monuments, such as the dolmens and menhirs at Carnac, Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens and elsewhere in France begin to appear; this appearance is thought to start in the fifth millennium BC, although some authors speculate about Mesolithic roots.
In France there are some 5,000 megalithics monuments, mainly in Brittany, where there is the largest concentration of these monuments.
Unfortunately, these timber structures have not survived because of destruction by fire, whether accidental or caused by the Normans at the time of their incursions.
Carolingian art is the approximate 120-year period from 750 to 900—during the reign of Charles Martel, Pippin the Younger, Charlemagne, and his immediate heirs—popularly known as the Carolingian Renaissance.
Lugdunum, modern Lyon, was at the time of the Roman Empire the largest city outside Italy and gave birth to two Roman Emperors.
The city still boasts some Roman remains including a Theater.
The Carolingians also undertook major architectural building campaigns at numerous churches in France.
This art includes cave paintings, such as the famous paintings at Pech Merle in the Lot in Languedoc which date back to 16,000 BC, Lascaux, located near the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne, dating back to between 13,000 and 15,000 BC, or perhaps, as far back as 25,000 BC, the Cosquer Cave, the Chauvet Cave dating back to 29,000 BC, and the Trois-Frères cave; and portable art, such as animal carvings and great goddess statuettes called Venus figurines, such as the "Venus of Brassempouy" of 21,000 BC, discovered in the Landes, now in the museum at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye or the Venus of Lespugue at the Musée de l'Homme.