Europe Prehistoric


The site of Stonehenge and it’s surrounding area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The area around Stonehenge was already considered ancient by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.

Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC.  Stories about Stonehenge mainly center upon the stones themselves.  How it was built and why.  The first project around Stonehenge involved digging a circular ditch about 330 feet across around 3000 BCE.  The term “henge” itself is from an ancient Saxon word meaning “hanging”.  Perhaps this was for the lintels sitting atop the upright stones or the ditch enclosures.

The first configuration of Stonehenge lasted nearly 500 years.  Between 2600-2400 BCE it assumed its present form, or one that would be recognizable today with the erection of the major upright stones and lintels.  The sparseness lintels were brought from Marlborough Downs, about 20 miles away.

Over many centuries the bluestones were rearranged several times.  Ritual activity stopped for several millennia from around 1600 BCE.

The question of the purpose of Stonehenge has baffled archaeologists for centuries.  In the 1960s a new theory was advanced, that it was some kind of calendar or observatory, which are now considered off the mark.  Prehistoric people often aligned their monuments with annual celestial events.

Stonehenge is a world famous attraction with more than 800,000 tourists visit it a year. This led to its inclusion in the South West England universal stamp issue for international postage. Universal stamps are produced for tourists and feature iconic buildings and landmarks from around the country.

Art Europe Prehistoric


The Rock Carvings in Tanum are located in an area on the west coast of Sweden, in an area known as Bohuslan, which contains the densest concentration of Bronze Age rock art in Scandinavia.  Several hundred engravings are known around Tanum, and more are believed to be buried under the soil and moss.  Though many of the engravings are now filled with red or white paint to be more visible, originally, they had no color to set them off from the surrounding rock.

The Bronze Age artists used stone hammers and points to grind and peck the rock surfaces to make these carvings. Thousands of ship engravings have been found, with upward curving bows and sterns.  Engravings of humans are male, they carry weapons, ride chariots, pull plows.  Animals such as cattle, horses, deer, canines and birds also appear, along with abstract designs such as wheels and spirals which may symbolize the sun.  Many of the engravings depict scenes for everyday life such as farming or hunting while others show rituals and processions and battle axes show the status of warriors in Bronze Age society.

Various interpretations have been advanced; did they tell stories for future generations?  Did they express relations between the worlds of the living and deities or myths?

The Rock Carvings of Tanum were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994.

Prehistoric South America UNESCO

Prehispanic Caral

Discovered by Paul Kosok in 1948, Caral is known for its early complexity.  According to radiocarbon dating Caral was constructed during the third millennium BCE, making it one of the oldest civilizations in the Andean region.  

In 1975 Peruvian architect Carlos Williams made a detailed record of several of the archaeological sites in the area, among them Caral, which encompassed 168 acres.

The Templo Mayor, constructed in different phases until it reached a height of 98 feet is the largest, consisting of overlapping platforms and a sunken circular court in front of the building.  The temple’s top is accessed by stairs located at the front of the building.  Other buildings include the Amphitheater Temple.

There are thirty two public structures along we an area of domestic occupation. Shicras, bags made from vegetable fiber cords, usually reeds, were used in construction of the buildings. Shicras were used to  transport stones for building, and occasionally used as fill in the construction work.

Hundreds of human figurines made from unnamed clay were found which are thought to be fertility figures. Caral appears to be the model for the urban design adopted by Andean civilizations that rose and fell over a span of four millennia. It is believed that research conducted in Caral may answer questions about the origins of the various Andean civilizations and the development of its first cities. 

Caral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009.

Europe Prehistoric


Preserved by rising waters inundating the site, Iron Age Biskupin was exposed when the water level dropped.  A local teacher notified archaeologists who began excavating the following year.  Outlines of structures were gradually emerging and photos from an observation balloon revealed the plan of the settlement.

Biskupin settlement

Dwellings, workshops, stables and storerooms ran in parallel rows with common walls, each unit about 26’x30′ with a central hearth of stone.

Several hundred people may have lived very close together with eleven log streets separating the houses and another road surrounding the inhabited area.  A rampart of wooden cribs filled with earth and stone encircled the area which may have been about 525’x660′.  

Biskupin art and pottery

Through dendrochronology we know Biskupin dates from around 747-722BCE as more than half the wood was cut in the winter of 738-737 BCE.  First the streets and houses were laid out, then the houses were built and the timber cribs for the ramparts were constructed.

Biskupin weapons and jewelry

A single gate gave access to fields and pastures where the inhabitants cultivated wheat, millet and tended herds of livestock.  They made iron and bronze tools, pottery and they wove woolen cloth.  

Art Europe Prehistoric

Prehistoric Goddess Figures

They had large hips, pendulous breasts and by today’s standards would be considered – obese?  They are still being discovered today.  Some date as far back as 40,000 BCE, some as young as 6,000 BCE.  

Found throughout Eurasia with most from Europe, the original meaning of these female figurines is not known, though it is frequently suggested they may have served a ritual or symbolic function.  The statues are among the earliest examples of figurative art.

Archaeologists call them goddess figures, fertility talisman, revered mothers.  Better known examples are depicted on stamps.  From the Goddess of Willendorf; dated to 24,000 years old, this well-endowed upper paleolithic statue was found in Austria and depicted on a 3D stamp in 2008.

Another well-known figure is from Catal Huyuk, a Neolithic archaeological site in Turkey.  Seated, she is believed to date from 7,500 BCE and was found in the late 1950s- early 1960s.  Another was found in 2016 but has not been depicted on a stamp . . . yet.

The Lady of the Waters is from Malta and is also seated.  Though not as well know as the others mentioned here, there has been a book written about her in 1992, The Goddess of Malta.  Dating from 5,800-2,500 BCE, the figure was found in Skorba Temple Complex.

These female figurines dating from the Upper Paleolithic are called “Venus Figurines” in reference to Venue, the Roman goddess of beauty.  This came abut because early 20th century prehistorians assumed the figures represented the ancient ideal of beauty and/or fertility.

Art Prehistoric South America

The Nazca Lines, Peru

Located on the dry Peruvian plain the geoglyphs of the Nazca civilization are a mystery.

They represent coastal and jungle birds as well as a monkey, spider, snail, whale, llamas, iguanas, lizards and a recently discovered cat.  Some of the birds depicted are hummingbird, condor, pelican, crane, parrots and seagulls.  More than 800 figures have been found.

It is unknown how or why these images were etched into rock more than 1300 feet above sea level.  Some archaeologists think the lines may be sacred roads and others an astronomical map or some type of calendar.

The Nazca society thrived between 500 BCE and 500 CE and it is believed the images were created from 1 to 650 CE. The  Nazca Lines became a UNESCO world Heritage Site in 1994.

Peru issued stamps depicting Maria Reiche, an archaeologist known for her research of the Nazca Lines.

Europe Prehistoric

Carnac, France

The standing stones of Carnac can be seen from the road travelled by Tour de France bicyclists as they pass.  Dozens of ancient sites are in the area and the menhirs (standing stones) of Carnac are estimated to be more than 5000 years old.

Carnac Stone

Similar standing stone arrangements are found throughout Europe dating from the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods.  Although archaeologists believe they were used for some ritualistic purpose it is not known what their use actually was.  It is doubtful they had anything to do with astronomical events.

Carnac Stone Alignment

There are about a dozen alignments of standing stones in the Carnac area, the longest has ten rows of stones with more than 1100 stretching for a distance of more than one mile.

Europe Prehistoric

Petroglyphs of Coa Valley

It was only in the early 1990s that the petroglyphs of the Coa Valley obtained Portuguese and international attention.  In 1992 the government planned to flood the area as part of a dam project.  After the river level was lowered and an archaeological survey was made many previously unknown sites were exposed.  This brought about cessation of the project and the sites are preserved for posterity as the Coa Valley archaeological Park.  The site, dating to the Paleolithic, was declared a UNESCO world Heritage Site in 1998.

Horse, Deer and Ibex

The earliest petroglyphs are believed to have been done between 8,000-20,000 years ago, though the Upper Paleolithic dating has been challenged.  The dating has been based on three things:

1- Finding an animal figure depicting a species existing In a restricted period of time, such as a horse, deer or ibex.

2- Finding petroglyphs below ground level and dating them through stratigraphy to associated sites of the same period.

3- Finding evidence of occupation; until radiocarbon dates from Coa Valley sites are provided the actual dating remains controversial.

Souvenir Sheet issued 10/23/98

Another characteristic feature of the landscape are the rocky formations outcropping through the predominantly low and open vegetation: granites upstream from Santa Comba, schist downstream to the Douro. Erosion acts upon these different bedrocks in different ways. The granitic plateaus, cut by deep ravines, feature spaced accumulations of large round boulders. 

Africa Prehistoric

Tchadanthropus (uxoris)

Tchadanthropus (uxoris) is the subject of debate as to where the fossil remains belong in the scientific classification system. There are arguments for it being an archaic Homo sapien (heidelbergensis), a synonym of Homo erectus and some favor a Homo sapiens classification. Still others indicate it should be considered an unidentified specimen as its condition doesn’t allow for accurate measurement even though it’s estimated between 700,000 to 900,000 years old.

Many countries have both surface mail and airmail services available for international destinations. The postage fee of course differs, airmail being more expensive as it arrives quicker than surface mail. Examples of the stamp used to pay these rates follow.

Chad surface letter

Surface rate cover dated November 7, 1967 from Baibokoum, Chad to Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Chad stamp

Airmail rate cover dated April 5, 1968 from Moundou, Chad to Ottawa, Canada.